October 17, 2021


documenting the nigerian story…

Nigeria’s costly absence from Libya

Though active fighting among armed groups in Libya struggling for power and resource control has considerably subsided while an interim government is somehow managing things, for now, efforts to restore sustainable peace and stability in the country continue.

However, arms trafficking across the country’s porous borders persists with Nigeria being one of the major final destinations of such arms, which fuel terrorism, banditry, insurgency and other organized crimes in the country.

The recently concluded Second Berlin Conference on Libya in Germany was convened to supposedly address “the underlying causes of conflict, consolidate Libyan sovereignty, build on the progress made, and restore peace and prosperity for all Libyans”. I use “supposedly” to suggest that those officially stated objectives aren’t necessarily the real, or at least aren’t the only, objectives behind convening the conference. After all, the key participants are the very foreign governments that had manipulated the armed groups against one another in pursuit of their (foreign governments’) respective economic, political and other strategic interests in the country.

Though the post-Gaddafi Libya was supposed to be an exclusive Euro-American sphere of influence especially for France and the United States, which manipulated the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to overthrow Gaddafi, the ensuing chaos in the country attracted other countries in the region and beyond with each seeking to justify its involvement with different pretexts and excuses.

Also, after years of devastating chaos with no decisive victor among the armed groups, the same foreign governments behind them have now come together to create a political destiny for the country where foreign influence would be appropriately apportioned among them. The recent Berlin conference and other related events are part of the process towards that end.

While countries from the Euro-American axis want a largely pro-western political establishment in Libya to secure their collective and individual interests regardless of who or which party is in power, Russia is determined to consolidate its military presence on the Libyan Mediterranean Sea coast as part of its tactical strategies to close in on the traditional US European allies on the opposite coast.

Equally, China has been involved in the tussle for an appropriate share of influence in Libya’s political future; however, unlike the rest, its approach isn’t politically partisan at least on the surface; and its ambition is largely if not purely economic. It simply wants to establish itself as Libya’s leading economic partner to enable its corporations and businesses to secure the lion share in the construction of strategic infrastructure, manufacturing sector, and exports into the Libyan market.

Likewise, the energy-hungry Turkey was primarily attracted by Libya’s massive oil and gas resources in which it (Turkey) wants to become the biggest foreign stakeholder. However, it pursues that in the context of its political expansionist agenda, which Erdoğan has pursued by manipulating the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Egypt has also been deeply involved in Libya, which enabled it to successfully stop the inflow of arms from Libya and consequently managed to practically eliminate terrorist groups on its Sinai Peninsula who had relied on Libyan arms to perpetrate their terror activities in Egypt.

However, Turkey and Egypt’s respective interests in Libya are particularly irreconcilable, which explains the tensions between them. Because while Turkey is determinedly pushing for the emergence of an Erdoğan-backed Muslim Brotherhood government in Libya, Egypt is resolutely working to prevent that.

Since the military overthrow of the Mohammad Mursi-led Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt in 2013 and the escalation of tensions between the Brotherhood elite and the government, Egypt has considered the emergence of a Muslim Brotherhood government in the region, more so in neighbouring Libya, a serious threat to its stability. It’s actively backed in this regard by the United Arab Emirates.

Now, though Nigeria is one of the countries worst affected by the conflict in Libya being arguably the biggest source of the arms used by the Boko Haram terror group and bandits, yet it remains conspicuously and inexcusably absent from the Libyan scene.

Restoration of stability in Libya should be of particular interest to Nigeria. However, while countries from as far as the Far East, the Euro-American axis and, of course, the Middle East jostle with one another in pursuit of their respective legitimate and illegitimate interests in the country, Nigeria remains pathetically lamenting from afar and literally begging for help to stop the inflow of arms from there.

Yet, not only that the help isn’t forthcoming, for there’s no such thing as a free lunch after all, more so in politics, Nigeria isn’t even considered important enough to be specifically invited to participate in the negotiations to restore stability in Libya. While countries like Turkey, Egypt, France, China, the United Arab Emirates, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States among others are duly represented in the negotiations, Nigeria is hardly considered relevant enough hence its inclusion under the African Union (AU) slot.

Besides, other more influential international, continental and regional organisations i.e. the United Nations (UN), the European Union, (EU) and the League of Arab States are participating in the negotiations, which overshadows the AU and further eclipses Nigeria’s relevance if any.