Further violent incidents in Tripoli are expected, although the city will remain largely stable overall. As elections near there is likely to be a surge in the number of political demonstrations throughout the country, but mainly in major cities. Protests will focus on central squares, government buildings and hotels housing foreign media.
Benghazi will remain calm overall, although there is also an ongoing risk of violence involving militia groups and unknown assailants who have carried out a number of small scale attacks on the assets of international organisations and NGOs, as well as government buildings.
Political instability may increase in the run-up to the national elections. Although the major players remain unclear and a number of other major parties could come to prominence over the coming weeks, Islamists, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), are expected to perform well.
Arguments over the government’s controversial Decree 36 will continue, with many companies claiming they should not be on the list, and should be allowed to resume operations. There is a heightened risk of worker unrest at many of these companies should they be unable to pay their employees.
AKE personnel on the ground reported clashes on 24 May on the airport road in Hay al-Akwakh. Initial evidence suggests that the clashes involved ministry of interior security forces, who were attempting to detain members of a drug gang in the area, although this could not be independently verified. The incident highlights the risk of clashes related to the widespread presence of arms in the city; personnel should be mindful of this and the lack of any organised security response to any incidents. Although generally safe, the lack of an organised police force means that small incidents can escalate unchecked for longer periods of time.
Elsewhere in the capital demonstrations occurred today (25 May) involving local residents upset that they have not been given the opportunity to vote in local council elections. Both Misrata and Benghazi have elected officials to local councils, even though the remit of those councils is as yet undetermined. The demonstrations took place in the city’s Algeria Square, and there is a likelihood of similar demonstrations in the area over the coming days.
Reports from the ground indicate that the Red Cross offices in Benghazi were hit by a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) on 22 May. No casualties were reported but AKE sources on the ground continue to highlight the general threat of violence in the city. A number of small-scale attacks have been carried out against the assets of international organisations and local government buildings in the city over recent months.
On 22 May armed militiamen stormed the offices of Harouj oil company in Benghazi and attempted to reach the office of the company’s chairman. It remains unclear as to why the incident took place, although it highlights the increasing frequency of vigilante actions on behalf of a number of militia groups, whose reaction to the perceived lack of attention to their grievances has been threatening and violent behaviour. This heightens the need for these groups to be disarmed, with many fearing that armed criminal groups could emerge if they feel that the democratic project is not meeting their needs.
Meanwhile, residents of Benghazi turned out to vote in local elections on 19 May to elect a 44-member local council. It currently remains unclear what the remit of the council will be, although many in the east would like more power devolved. At present it appears that only local issues like transport and communications will come under the responsibility of the regional councils.
Alan Fraser is a Libya specialist with AKE, a British risk mitigation company working in Libya throughout the crisis. You can access AKE’s intelligence website Global Intake here