Fighting in Libya and violations of its arms embargo have made the North African country “the world’s largest uncontrolled ammunition stockpile,” a UN official said Monday.
Yacoub El Hillo, deputy special representative of the UN secretary-general in Libya, told the press that an estimated 150,000 to 200,000 tons of uncontrolled munitions exist across Libya, citing recent findings of the UN Mine Action Service.Speaking via live video from the Libyan capital of Tripoli, he particularly pointed to the large number of drones flying over Libya, saying the country is “the world’s largest theater for the use of drone technology.”
Asked which countries sent the drones, El Hillo said he believes “everybody has something flying in the Libyan sky.” Libya has been struggling to make a democratic transition amid insecurity and chaos ever since the fall of former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.The instability resulted in a divided country, with the UN-recognized administration — the Government of National Accord (GNA) — overseeing the west and a rival government in the east. Each is backed by an array of militias and armed groups fighting over resources and territory.
Since early April last year, the GNA has been engaged in a deadly armed conflict against the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Khalifa Haftar, which is trying to take over the capital Tripoli and overthrow the GNA. While Turkey has recently made military move to support the GNA, the LNA reportedly have the backing of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, France and Russia. Despite a UN arms embargo on Libya, foreign actors repeatedly send weapons into the country, which keeps fueling the fighting, as confirmed by the UN Support Mission in Libya. Due to the inflow of arms, El Hillo said, attacks on civilian population and infrastructure have doubled since the start of 2019, adding that by the end of 2019, more than 345,000 people remained displaced.
Moreover, he said almost 900,000 people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, and of these, 212,000 are women and 268,000 are children. On Sunday, the UN office in Libya launched the humanitarian response plan for the country for the year of 2020, said El Hillo, which seeks 115 million U.S. dollars to reach “the most vulnerable.” “Even if the needs are growing, we are actually asking for less money for 2020, because we also want to use the humanitarian response plan strategically as a catalyst to unlock national systems (of Libya),” he said, noting that Libya is an upper-middle income country. He maintained that most of the services that people in need will require are to be provided by the Libyan national systems, and “where there are gaps, they are complemented by efforts of the international community.”