Press Review CW 11/2024: Between hope and disillusionment
Press Review 8 March 2024 to 15 March 2024

Libyan conflict parties agree to form new unity government

Under the chairmanship of the Secretary General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, high-ranking representatives of Libya’s three legislative bodies, which belong to the two rival governments in the west and east of the country, met in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Sunday. Among them were the President of the Presidential Council (PC), Mohamed Yunus al-Menfi, and the President of the High State Council (HSC), Mohamed Takala, both from Tripoli, as well as the President of the Eastern Libyan House of Representatives (HoR), Aguila Saleh, from Benghazi. In their joint final declaration, the parties to the conflict agreed on the formation of a unity government to replace the current governments in the west and east and to oversee the upcoming elections. The need to guarantee the Libyan population a fair election process was emphasised. In this context, it was also decided to set up a technical committee to clarify outstanding issues and contentious points arising from the draft resolution of the 6+6 Committee, which was tasked with drafting the electoral law and promoting political dialogue in Libya. The agreement between the Libyan parties to the conflict also asserts the sovereignty, independence and unity of Libyan soil and rejects any foreign intervention that negatively influences the political process in Libya. The international community and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Libya (UNMIL) have been asked to support the process that has now been initiated.

Following the publication of the final declaration, the United Nations Special Representative for Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily, announced that he had taken note of the meeting and agreed with the conclusions. Bathily had only recently tried to organise a four-way dialogue table in which the Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity (GNU), Abdul Hamid Dbeiba, was to take part and which was therefore rejected by the eastern Libyan camp. According to some analyses, the current agreement between the PC, the HSC and the HoR is seen as an isolation of Dbeiba, who has lost much of his popularity due to the country’s economic and financial situation and is facing accusations of wasteful public spending. The new unity government envisaged by the participants in the talks in Cairo is to be significantly leaner than Dbeiba’s government in Tripoli.The meeting in Cairo was made possible after 120 members of the two chambers of parliament met in Tunis at the beginning of March. However, the formation of the new unity government is not expected before the end of Ramadan and is not an easy task overall. The country has been divided into rival governments in the west and east of the country since 2014. The failure of the elections scheduled for 24 December 2021 and Prime Minister Dbeiba’s refusal to step down before elections are held have further exacerbated the political crisis. While the consequences of last year’s flood disaster have not yet been overcome in addition to the economic situation mentioned above, the security situation in the country is also putting pressure on politicians (press review CW 38/2023).

In addition, southern Libya is increasingly being drawn into the war in neighbouring Sudan, with which Libya shares a 324km border. Here, the Libyan National Army of General Khalifa Haftar, who supports the eastern Libyan government but was not present at the talks in Cairo, is to transport weapons and equipment to the civil war country and thus support the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Haftar also maintains close contacts with Moscow, whose influence in Libya is growing. Against this backdrop, the US announced on Monday that it wanted to reopen its embassy in Tripoli after 10 years in order to better pursue its security policy interests on NATO’s southern flank.


Sudanese army recaptures headquarters of state broadcaster

On Tuesday, the Sudanese army recaptured the headquarters of the state broadcaster, which had previously been controlled by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). This is confirmed by video footage published by the army and verified by the Reuters news agency showing soldiers celebrating in front of the headquarters. According to witnesses, the advance caused enormous damage and destroyed entire neighbourhoods using Iranian combat drones. In a statement, the army spoke of a major victory; the RSF has yet to respond. The headquarters in the city of Omdurman near the capital Khartoum was occupied by the RSF shortly after the outbreak of the now 11-month civil war in April 2023. Despite the capture, the militia had not been able to broadcast from there and distribute its own content. State television, which was broadcast from other locations in the country, therefore continued to report in favour of the army. The recapture is seen as an important symbolic victory for the army, which has made significant territorial gains after months on the defensive. However, observers do not believe that this will decisively change the course of the war in favour of the army. Even in the event of a complete recapture of the capital region, large parts of the country, including most of Darfur in the west and Kordofan in the centre of the country, would remain under the control of the RSF.

The civil war in Sudan broke out in mid-April 2023 as a result of a conflict between army chief and de facto head of state Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Daglo over the integration of the RSF into the Sudanese army as part of the transition to a civilian government (press review CW 16/2023). A few months later, in July 2023, the International Criminal Court reopened investigations following increasing reports of war crimes committed by the RSF militia in the Darfur region. Since the outbreak of war, several ceasefire agreements brokered by the US and Saudi Arabia have failed. Other international and regional mediation attempts to settle the conflict, such as by the African Union or the North-East African confederation IGAD, have so far been equally unsuccessful (press review CW 28/2023).

Even after the UN Security Council called for a ceasefire during the holy month of Ramadan on 8 March, fighting continued unabated in several parts of the capital. On Wednesday, one day after the recapture of the radio station, humanitarian organisations and the Sudanese Ministry of Health published new figures indicating that around 230,000 children, young mothers and pregnant women could die of hunger in the coming months. Aid organisations are urgently warning of a humanitarian catastrophe and appealing to governments to provide financial resources to tackle the hunger crisis. On the anniversary of the outbreak of war on 15 April, France, Germany and the EU will jointly hold another international donor conference to mobilise funds for Sudan and its neighbouring countries.


In other News

The African Basketball League (BAL) kicked off the new season on Saturday at the SunBet Arena in Pretoria, South Africa, with the first group stage of the Kalahari Conference. The twelve best club teams from twelve African countries will now compete for four months in Pretoria, Cairo, Dakar and Kigali in a total of 48 matches. The teams will compete against each other in the group stage in the Kalahari Conference, the Nil Conference and the Sahara Conference in 12 matches each. The two best teams in each group and the two best third-placed teams will qualify for the final round in Kigali, which will take place from 24 May to 1 June. The exclusion of the Burundian team Dynamo Bbc caused an uproar after the team pasted over the “Visit Rwanda” logo on their jerseys during the first matches of the Kalahari Conference. According to Dynamo goalkeeper Bryton Hobbs, the instruction to do so came from the Burundian government. Bilateral relations between Burundi and its neighbour Rwanda, one of BAL’s sponsors, have long been considered tense. It was only in January that Burundi closed its borders with its neighbouring country following an attack in December by the RED Tabara rebels, who according to Burundi’s government were supported by Rwanda.

Press Overview
Press Review Archive