Representatives from the Warshefana tribe and the town of Zawiya on Thursday agreed to a ceasefire and confidence building measures in an attempt to de-escalate a highly volatile situation in the area west and southwest of Tripoli.
The deal, which was signed by 14 dignitaries and elders from the two sides, as well as 19 observers, provides for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of forces from a 4km buffer zone between Warshefana area and Zawiya, as well as forming a joint committee to monitor the ceasefire.
A number of prisoners were released as soon as the deal was signed.
Relations between the Warshefana and neighboring communities, namely Zawiya and Janzur, have long been difficult and the area has seen much violence over the past two years. Triggered by tribal rivalries and uncontrolled crime, the conflict, which escalated into open warfare at the start of last year and has seen sporadic clashes, has been framed by some actors as a struggle between “revolutionaries” and “Gaddafi-loyalists”.
With the takeover of armed coalition Libya Dawn in the capital in the summer of 2014, and the allegiance of Warshefana forces to the Libyan army led by General Haftar, the conflict took on a national dimension.
When a military helicopter was downed last month and several leading Libya Dawn officers were killed in the event, the blame was put on Warshefana tribal forces. Libyan army spokesman Mohamed Hijazi initially claimed the attack had been ordered by the army, but the claim was later dismissed by the latter’s leadership.
Regardless the helicopter incident triggered a military build-up in the area, with hardline Libya Dawn forces in Zawiya and Tripoli threatening to retaliate and provoking a large-scale confrontation between them and western Libyan pro-army forces.
But more moderate Libya Dawn forces from Misrata, who had previously negotiated a truce with the Warshefana tribe, refused to join the planned offensive and tribal elders in Warshefana and Zawiya called for a peaceful solution.
The signatories of Thursday’s agreement called for the investigation of the helicopter crash and pledged to take responsibility based on the findings of the investigation. They also agreed to work out a solution for the coastal road, which is frequently cut due to skirmishes between rival forces, as well as to follow up on the issue of missing individuals. Abductions, both for ransom and political motives, are frequent in the area. Both parties pledged not to use their territory to attack the other side and to refrain from media propaganda.
The agreement was signed in the locality of Bir Ghanem by two dialogue teams from Zawiya and the Warshefana area consisting of 7 members each, as
well as a 19-member team of observers from Zintan, Rujban & Assabaa.
(All photos by Libya Channel)