Clients Travelling or planning travel to Libya should be aware of the increased risk to their safety at this time as jihadist attacks in Libya have increased historically during the month of Ramadan. HNEC claimed final results from 25 June 2014 elections would take between two and three weeks to be released, meaning that the results would likely be announced “in mid-Ramadan”. In Benghazi, the Hifter-backed Benghazi Joint Security Room (BJSR) ordered the evacuation of Benghazi’s Jalaa hospital on 29 June 2014, the same day as three assassinations took place in the city, which continues to indicate the deteriorating security at present.
The Islamic Holy month of Ramadan began on the 29 June 2014. Businesses often reduce hours of operation or open only after sunset. Ramadan is expected to end around the 28 July 2014, with a three- day public holiday celebrating Eid al Fitr. On 27 June 2014 the Interior Ministry claimed that policemen who have been absent from work, moonlighting performing taxi work, but continuing to draw salaries will be sacked unless they return to their posts by the end of Ramadan. It is widely feared that many policemen are concerned for their family’s safety following a spate of assassinations of security personal country wide. The low wages are a further factor behind some cases of absenteeism.
On 29 June 2014 the Libyan High National Elections Commission (HNEC) released the final batch of preliminary results from those areas where voting was possible in election to the House of Representatives, which was carried out on 25 June 2014. During a press conference, HNEC Chief Emad al Seyah told media representatives that the results would be subjected to another two-day internal auditing process, after which they would be open to scrutiny and appeals from candidates and other interested parties for a period of fifteen days. It is only after all these steps have been taken that final results would be released, a process likely to take between two and three weeks, meaning that the results would likely be announced “in mid-Ramadan”. Less than 50% of the registered voters turned out to vote in the elections for the House of Representatives, with the election committee claiming that only 630,000 Libyans cast their votes. Many consider this paltry turnout to reflect the disillusion with the chaos that has prevailed in the country since Gaddafi’s overthrow, with the mood during the election rather glum, particularly in relation to the celebrations which marked the first elections two years ago. Given that the number of registered voters was also less than half of those eligible, the mandate of the soon-to-be-formed House of Representatives is likely to suffer. It is clear that people in Libya have become somewhat cynical about democracy, believing that the real power in the country is invested in the patchwork of militias that emerged both during and after the 2011 uprising, rather than any of the fledgling state institutions. Unconfirmed but initial snapshots of voting patterns are emerging tentatively, with some commentators claiming that Benghazi election results have produced an intriguing mix of federalists, tribal, more Islamist-leaning and more liberal-leaning candidates, with the eternal question remaining whether they can serve the city better. Elsewhere, as it stands, eleven of the 200 seats in the House of Representatives will remain unfilled, the two Amazigh seats in Jadu and Zuwara due to their boycott of the elections, and nine others as a result of security issues in Libya’s restive east. The latter includes three general list seats, three other seats from Kufra, one from Derna and one in al Jmail. Although HNEC had wanted to complete a rerun election in all of those places not able to complete the vote on 25 June 2014, it has since stated that reruns in five places would not be able to be held until “the political and security problems that had prevented them from occurring in the first place are resolved”. It is not expected that the eleven empty seats will stop the soon-to-be-formed House of Representatives from meeting. Following the release of the preliminary results, it has been suggested that the new parliament will have a “more tribal hue” than the General National Congress (GNC) it will replace, which has been so paralysed by partisan squabbling. The rerun polls, held in both Sebha and Murzuk on 28 June 2014, saw no incidents of violence.
Benghazi’s Tibesti Hotel will be the home for the new House of Representatives rather than as earlier reported the Tourist Village in Garyounis, according to the man appointed as head of administration for the new legislature. Speaking after a ceremony in Benghazi on Sunday to launch the new home for the legislature, which most Libyans are now calling “parliament”, Faraj Najm said that the opening would take place in the first week of August. It had initially been suggested that the date should be 1 August, he added, but as this would be a Friday it would probably happen on Sunday 3 August. Referring to the government allocation of 25 million LYD to transform the hotel into a debating chamber, offices and accommodation for the members of the new legislature, he said it would need a lot of work to the hotel the necessary makeover in time.The opening meeting is supposed to include a handover from the General National Congress to the new House. Responding to reports that Congress President Nuri Abu Sahmain had said that the handover would take place in Tripoli, Najm insisted that Benghazi would be the venue, describing Abu Sahmain’s decision as “invalid”. The handover from the NTC to Congress had taken place in Tripoli because that was where it was located, he said. Likewise the inauguration of the Constituent Assembly had been in Beida. A precedent had been established and any members of Congress who did not want to come to Benghazi could stay away, he said. Yesterday’s ceremony marking the move to Benghazi, held in the city’s Fadeel Hotel, was attended by the First Deputy President of Congress, Ezzidden Al-Awami, Justice Minister Salah Marghani, local officials and members of civil society organisations.
Given the attack on security forces on 25 June 2014, “Operation Dignity” strikes are expected to continue this week following the end of Major General Khalifa Hifter’s ceasefire , the air raids in Benghazi’s Tika suburb and those against trawlers and weapons storage depots close the Port of Derna in the Karsa area south-west of the city (20 June 2014). Given the strong rhetoric used in response to the attacks, which have been blamed on Ansar al Sharia (ASS) and its affiliate, Rafallah al Sahati, it is possible that Hifter’s forces will intensify strikes in both sites in the next few days. Since the beginning of Operation Dignity in mid-May 2014, the bulk of military operations focused on the Benghazi area. Hifter is keen on flushing armed Sunni Muslim extremist networks from eastern towns via his current air superiority.
The situation on the ground in Benghazi remains uncertain, as while Hifter’s “Libyan National Army” forces claim to have made substantial gains on Islamist groups, Ansar al Sharia (ASS) has seemingly regrouped in its traditional strongholds in the Sidi Faraj and Hawari districts. Given that these areas have seen some of the heaviest airstrikes and ground clashes, the current situation appears to suggest that a stalemate has emerged, as Hifter’s forces have remained based on the western outskirts of the city, unable to break into the city itself. The area’s most affected by violence related to “Operation Dignity” include: Hawari, Sidi Faraj, Guwarsha districts, Ganfouda, Tabalino, Garyounes, Laithi and Souq Hadiqa. The residential areas surrounding Benina International Airport, from which Hifter’s forces have launched attacks, have also suffered numerous attacks by Islamist forces. The site remains closed as of 30 June 2014.
In an update to the release of two Tunisian diplomats on 25 June 2014 (who were kidnapped in two separate incidents in March and April 2014), both arrived at dawn to Tunis Airport on 30 June 2014 and were greeted by both Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki and Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa. The pair (a Tunisian diplomat and an embassy worker) were kidnapped in two separate incidents in March and April 2014. Mohamed Ben Cheikh, the secretary to the Tunisian ambassador, was abducted on 21 March 2014 from Ain Zara, in the south-east of Tripoli, and Aroussi Gontassi, another staff member at the Tunisian Embassy, was kidnapped from the city on 17 April 2014. The pair were believed to have been taken by the same group, whose demands were never made public, although it has been widely suggested that they sought the release of two Libyans from Derna who were arrested by the Tunisian authorities in 2011.
SNE assesses that travel to Libya should be put on hold at present unless for business essential reasons only and advises that stringent security and travel management plans are in place. An itinerary specific pre-travel risk assessment including mitigation measures are recommended. In-country personnel should be confident in their evacuation procedures and crisis management plans and in light of the current situation these should be checked and updated where necessary. Crime remains one of the biggest risks to foreign personnel operating on the ground and the risk is assessed to be at its highest in outlying areas of the cities, particularly after last light when travel is not recommended. Car Jacking’s are on the rise and we advise clients to look closely at their method of travel within Tripoli using alternative routes, timings and vehicle’s where possible.
SNE can assist clients with pre entry risk assessments, on the ground physical support, safe discreet transportation, accommodation/business centre and risk management services throughout the region with villas and offices in both Tripoli & Benghazi