Located in North Africa’s Maghreb region, the State of Libya spans an area of about 700,000 square miles and is considered Africa’s fourth largest country and ranks 17th in the world in size. Libya’s most outstanding natural attributes are the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean coast. The nation borders six countries namely Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Niger, Sudan, and Tunisia, while also bordering the Mediterranean Sea on the northern side. The state has several highlands and a total land boundary of 2,702 miles with the coastline being 1,100 miles long.
Algeria is one of the five African countries that have a coastline with the Mediterranean Sea. The Algerian-Libyan border is 610 miles long, with two border crossings at Ghadames and Tin El Koum. The border was closed by Libya after the nation alleged that Algeria sheltered Gaddafi and his family after the 2011 uprising, and to stop illegal crossings. In 2016, Algeria planned to set up a 75-mile long wall on the Libyan border to stop Daesh militants. Although construction of the wall has not began, Algeria has closed its border with Libya citing security reasons due to the latter’s civil war. The entry-point is, however, open for refugees from Libya. With smuggling and infiltration being the primary problems, Algeria sent about 3,000 soldiers to its border with Libya in 2017. The plan also includes surveillance flights over the desert region near the border.
The Republic of Chad is a Central African landlocked country. The Chadian-Libyan border is 655 miles long. The northernmost part of Chad called the Aouzou Strip was the source of conflict between Chad and Libya. Libyan president, Gaddafi, wanted to take over the strip for its uranium deposits. The last stage in the Chadian-Libyan battle came in 1987 during the Toyota War when Chadian forces overpowered the Libyans and forced a retreat from the area. Chad closed its border with Libya in January 2017 and deployed soldiers to stop the rise in militant fighters running from Libyan conflicts that started in 2011. The Chadian government claimed that Islamist groups in Libya had converged in the southern part close to their border, a move that exposed the region to terrorist infiltration. Chad reopened a border crossing in March 2017 to allow its nationals to get back home.
The Arab Republic of Egypt is a North African state that has a part of it in the southwest region of Asia. The Egypt-Libya border is about 693 miles long and has two crossings points at Musaid and Sallum. The border experienced war in 1977 after conflicts between the two countries resulting in 400 Libyan casualties and Egypt having about 100 casualties. Egyptian border guards stopped Libyan protesters against a possible peace treaty between Egypt and Israel on July 20, 1977. The following day, Libyan forces raided Sallum leading to a response from the Egyptian army which destroyed most of Libya’s equipment and went on to capture border towns in Libya. In May 2014, the Egyptian Air Force carried out an airstrike on 15 vehicles with arms, a plan that stopped the smuggling of weapons from Libya. Another foiled smuggling attempt came in June involving a convoy of 12 cars that the Egyptian Armed Forces stopped.
The Republic of Niger is the most significant country in West Africa. The Libya-Niger border is 220 miles long with a crossing at Tumu in Libya. In 2011 after the revolution that ousted Libyan president, Gaddafi, the National Transition Council in Libya sought the help of Niger to stop Gaddafi from entering the nation. Niger, however, responded by claiming that it had no means of closing it big border with Libya. The entry-point has been used to smuggle people into Europe. In May 2017, Germany and Italy urged that an EU Mission should be created at the border to stop people-smuggling. 90% of the immigrants into Italy claimed to have come through Libya.
The Republic of Sudan is ranked third in size in Africa. The Libya-Sudan border is about 238 miles long. Sudan announced the closure of its border with Libya in 2010 in a bid to stop Darfur rebel leader, Khalil Ibrahim, from going back to Darfur. Darfur region is included in the Sudan-Libya border and has had over 300,000 deaths since 2003, resulting from fights between the government in Sudan and rebels. With the political division in Libya, the administration on the eastern side of Libya claimed that Sudan’s consulate in the nation threatened national security leading to its closure in July 2017. The consulate was the main entry-point between the two states. Sudan is in good terms with the government in Tripoli, Libya for backing its uprising in 2011.
The Republic of Tunisia is a Northwest African country that derives its name from its capital called Tunis. The Libya-Tunisia border is about 285 miles long with three crossings points at Ghamades, Ras Ajdir, and Wazzin. The border town of Wazzin experienced war from April to July 2011, between rebels and Gaddafi’s loyalists. The Battle of Wazzin spilled into Tunisia which resulted in engagement between the Libyan and Tunisian armies in combat. Tunisian forces sent back pro-Gaddafi soldiers past the border. The Ras Ajdir crossing faced closure after protests in Tunisia when the Libyan customs officials clamped down smuggled goods from Libya in September 2017. The border crossing closed again in January 2018 following clashes in Libya over control of the entry-point. The UN-backed government wants to take power from the locals who secured it after the revolution in 2011.
Libya’s Relationship With Its Neighbors
The countries bordering Libya have a total population of about 200 million with a majority seeking employment in the nation. The unstable state of Libya caused some of its members to close borders with the state. Egypt is believed to fuel the conflicts in Libya after siding with Khalifa Haftar against Libya’s Islamist groups who pose a threat to the former’s national security. Algeria and Tunisia, on the other hand, are trying diplomatic channels to help Libya by hosting dialogue meetings. Libya’s southern neighbors have a limited control of their borders making it easy for movement across.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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