Lifting the Libya Embargo will Fuel Further Conflict and Extremism

Says Prince Mohammed El Senussi, Crown Prince of Libya in exile

London, 30 May 2017

For six years Libya has been torn apart by conflict and violence.

Today our country is engulfed by chaos, torn apart by division, and burning as factions fight for the nation’s resources. The hopes of our nation are being dashed, and the birthrights of our future generations are being wiped out.

In February 2011 the international community, through the United Nations Security Council, imposed an arms embargo taking measures to prevent the supply, sale, or transfer of arms to Libya. This well-meant measure had limited impact – the country was already awash with arms, and the embargo was ignored by many. Regional actors are fuelling the conflict in Libya by exporting weapons and ammunition to their proxy militias in contravention of the embargo.

The ensuing chaos is fuelling an ongoing civil war and provides a breeding ground for extremists. Libya has endured this for six years, and the effects were felt in Manchester with tragic and heart-breaking consequences this week.

Various political groups, their leadership, and their international sponsors are now agitating for the arms embargo to be lifted. To do this would be premature and a disaster inside and outside Libya. There is already a proliferation of weapons in the country fuelling violence between different factions. Attacks by rival militias regularly result in civilian casualties.

It would be irresponsible madness to lift this embargo under these circumstances.

In addition to the arms embargo, the UN Security Council froze the assets of the Central Bank, the Libyan Treasury, and the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) in February 2011. In December 2011 at the request of the new Libyan authorities, the UN Security Council lifted the freeze on Central Bank and Treasury funds, estimated at $110 billion. Only the assets of the LIA estimated at about $68 billion remained frozen.

It is now clear that the decisions of December 2011 had an adverse effect on Libya’s security and economy. Last year, the World Bank stated that Libya’s economy was on the brink of collapse. These assets have been wasted without any meaningful economic impact, and moreover the funds have been used to stoke conflict and division. The lives of ordinary Libyans remain unbearably hellish.

In recent weeks there have been attempts behind closed doors by various Libyan political groups and their international sponsors to have the remaining freeze on Libyan assets and funds lifted, in particular the estimated $68 billion held by the LIA.

The LIA, established in 2006 is accountable to the Libyan people and has a specific mandate to create a diversified source of wealth for Libya’s future generations through its investments. The careful and appropriate stewardship of this national resource is of paramount importance.

Any move to lift the freeze on LIA assets, will simply serve to fuel the conflict. There are multiple factions jostling for power and the prospect of access to the billions set aside for future generations is fuelling fighting and instability. If the LIA assets are unfrozen they will undoubtedly be stolen, squandered, or at best mismanaged.

It is no secret that this conflict is a struggle by political factions and their international backers for power and control over Libya’s assets. Enthusiastic young people from all sides have been duped and mobilised to defend those hell-bent on controlling Libya’s assets. The interests of ordinary Libyan people are of no interest to these factions.

Therefore, if the continued haemorrhaging of lives and resources is to be stopped, the main cause of the conflict must be neutralised. Money and weapons are driving this conflict.

The embargo on arms and the freeze on assets must continue until the country has one stable government representing all Libyans, elected by popular vote, trusted and accepted by the people, with a settled and permanent constitution, a proper army accountable to the civilian government, a police force and robust institutions capable of safeguarding our nation’s future.  


Crown Prince Prince Mohammed el Hasan el Rida el Senussi is the Crown Prince of Libya in exile.

He is the direct descendent of the former King of Libya, Idris, who reigned from Libya’s independence in 1951 until 1969 when he was overthrown by Muammar Gaddafi in the coup d’état of September 1969.

Prince Mohammed has no involvement in the politics of Libya, but acts as a voice and source of support to his fellow countrymen.