By William Tucker
In an attempt to stem the flow of people illegally transiting Libyan territory and the rather robust black market activities, the Parliament in Tripoli has ordered the borders with Sudan, Chad, Niger, and Algeria to be temporarily closed. Furthermore, the southern regions of Ghadames, Ghat, Obari, Al-Shati, Sebha, Murzuq and Kufra would be “considered as closed military zones to be ruled under emergency law” according to a report by the BBC. The sparsely populated south sits at a crossroads of sorts for all kinds of illicit activity in the region making the move by the Libyan Parliament notable. While the movement of arms and personnel for criminal or militant activity is occurring across North Africa, Tripoli is likely concerned over its inability to effectively persuade the various militias, whether tribal or ideologically inspired, to lay down their arms and accept the new national government. Libya’s actions going forward are meant to address these internal problems, but it is likely, whether the move successful or not, that these actions could have regional and international impact.
While militias in Libya are certainly problematic for the new government, so too is the inability to forge an effective national military, let alone a national identity. The aforementioned regions subject to this military activity are vast in size and it is not readily clear how Tripoli will manage to assert the government’s will on these far flung areas with minimal manpower and resources. It is possible that Libya wishes to regain international attention that has since faded with the death of former leader Muammar Gaddafi. By closing its southern borders and demonstrating an inability to stem the flow of illicit activity, Libya could make a strong case for further foreign assistance in the form of funds, military equipment, and training by focusing on the international concerns as a way to support local issues. As demonstrated recently by the advanced weaponry found in the stores of non-state groups in Gaza, Mali, Syria, Egypt, and Iraq, the fall of Gaddafi has created a rather large vacuum in the center of North Africa that is being readily exploited for a variety of means. The government in Tripoli may be attempting to shed further light on an area that is too vital to ignore.
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