Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Senior Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent.
Less than a week ago, Libyan officials appeared to have achieved a small milestone on the road to restoring civilian rule when the country held local elections. Though voting did not take place everywhere, including in much of restive southern Libya, the United Nations hoped the process would generate momentum for a national conference planned for later this month. That conference was intended to bring together the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli and the breakaway Libyan National Army, which is led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar and controls much of eastern Libya.
Events this week reveal that those hopes were misplaced, and Libya is again facing a dangerous escalation of the conflict that has rumbled on since the 2011 ouster of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. After months of expanding his forces’ presence in southern Libya and taking over oil fields, Haftar now seems to be advancing on Tripoli. On Thursday, he ordered his forces to take the capital. According to multiple reports, as of Thursday night they had seized a town about 60 miles south of the city.