When the announcement came from Misrata this Sunday about an agreement reached between its Municipal Council and the Local Council of Tawergha, it revived hopes of Libyans across the country that it will finally end the suffering of Libya’s internally-displaced people of Tawergha. Four days on from that announcement Tawerghans remain in inhumane conditions including the dozens of families fasting Ramadan in the desert camp of Qararat al-Qatf.
The problem of Tawergha has been poisoning Libya’s politics since August 2011 when militias from the western port city of Misrata attacked the neighbouring town of Tawergha and forced its entire population to evacuate their homes. A move which was justified at the time as response to Tawergha’s alleged support for Gaddafi’s military campaign on Misrata during the war of 2011. Human rights groups said it was a “form of collective punishment” and “racially motivated cleansing” against Tawergha’s black population. Two agreements were signed in 2016 and 2017 pledging financial compensation for Misrata in exchange for the return of Tawergha remain unimplemented.
Fayez Sarraj, head of Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), who yesterday met the head of Tawergha’s dialogue delegation, must dedicate the necessary time and resources to ensure the implementation of the third agreement announced on Sunday.
Many, including some Tawerghans, have criticised the agreement and called it unfair. Others have politicised the suffering of the women and children of Tawergha to score points against Misrata. This is cheap political play. All, including the United Nations and GNA’s international partners, must put an to this humanitarian crisis by focusing on two things. First, helping the Tawerghans return to their town with dignity. Second, ensuring that the returnees will have access to decent housing and basic services.
Achieving peace between the two neighbouring towns will herald a new chapter in Libya’s transition and kick off a long overdue nationwide reconciliation.