Nearly 2 million require human aid in Libya

UN meeting
UN meeting

Nearly two million people in Libya require humanitarian aid because of conflict between armed groups, the United Nations envoy to Libya told the Security Council on Wednesday.

Bernardino Leon, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, briefed the Council members via a video link from Paris.

“At the national level, the scale of human suffering is staggering for a country with large oil reserves and strong economic potential. According to different United Nations agencies, an estimated 1.9 million people require urgent humanitarian assistance to meet their basic health care needs,” Leon told the Council.

“Armed groups from all sides continue to abduct civilians on account of their political opinions or identity. Often in the hope of exchanging them in return for a ransom or for the release of fighters or other civilians taken by rival groups,” he added.

The United Nations has been trying to persuade the country’s rival governments for months to form a unity cabinet and end fighting across the country four years after Muammar Gaddafi was ousted.

Militant groups allied to each of the two administrations have brought the country’s oil-dependent economy to its knees, and most of Libya is lawless and run by armed groups attached to neither government.

The special envoy warned the country’s leaders that they must unite to thwart attempts by Islamic State militants to gain control.

“The message to Libya’s leaders is clear – there is simply no other alternative to unified and collective action if Libyans are to successfully prevent a repeat of catastrophic advances that Daesh (refers to Islamic State) has made in countries like Syria and Iraq,” he said.

Leon is scheduled to hold a new round of talks in Morocco on Thursday to push the factions to agree on a deal, but the parliament based in Tripoli has so far refused to sign it.

The elected House of Representatives, based in the east with the official government which fled Tripoli a year ago, signed a preliminary deal last month, but the head of the Tripoli delegation quit the talks on Wednesday.

Both sides face divisions and pressure from hardliners.

The U.N. proposal calls for a one-year unity government in which a council of ministers headed by a prime minister and two deputies would have executive authority.

Libya’s security has rapidly deteriorated as Islamic State and other armed groups not linked to either government exploit the power vacuum.

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Story By Benjamin Wafula
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