Warring parties finally reached a ceasefire in Libya. But this is what will probably thwart it

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The problem with a ceasefire is that it sometimes ignores powers of influence. With massive sway over events on the ground, even well-intentioned truces can quickly lose meaning.

The same can be said about the ceasefire reached between warring parties in Libya last week, before it was quickly scoffed at by Khalifa Haftar, the self-styled commander of the Libyan National Army, as a “media marketing” stunt.

After years of fighting, the war in Libya has developed into a massive enterprise with many local, regional and international shareholders. The ceasefire announced simultaneously by the UN-recognised government in Tripoli, and Aguila Saleh, the east Libya-based speaker of the parliament, was effectively a push to liquidate the war enterprise and start a new kind of peace partnership.

But there is a catch. These two politicians have the authority to announce a halt in the fighting, but not to force it.

Many other local and foreign parties have managed to build large swamps of interest around the Libyan war.

In the west, the government of national accord (GNA) is protected by multiple armed militias maintaining security in the capital. The government guarantees permanent salaries and job security for the fighters in these armed groups, while their more senior commanders maintain huge influence over decision making in government. For the militias’ fanatic leaders, a drastic and abrupt change in the status quo will emerge, causing them to lose all privileges they currently enjoy.

Wolfram Lacher, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, believes that “many of the armed groups are not fighting for [prime minister Fayez Mustafa al-Sarraj], but they are fighting against Haftar.”

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