Tripoli - With its weak government, porous borders and
proliferation of weapons, Libya has been accused of destabilising its southern
neighbours, but analysts say it is wrong to point the finger at Tripoli alone.
Niger's President Mahamadou Issofou has said those behind
two suicide attacks in his country on May 23 came from southern Libya.
He also said the same groups had been planning another
attack on Chad.
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan hit back, saying the allegations
were "without basis". He stressed his country "could never
become a source of concern or destabilisation for its neighbours" to the
south, which have themselves long suffered from instability.
However, Western diplomats and analysts believe that
southern Libya has become a regrouping area for jihadist groups pushed out of
northern Mali by a French-led offensive launched in January.
The region is a desert no-man's land where the smuggling of
weapons, goods and people has flourished.
Faraj Najem, director of the African Centre for Studies in
Tripoli, took issue with the allegations made by Niger's president.
"Mali does not share a border with Libya, which is an
obstacle for the flow of fighters into southern Libya," Najem said.
"South-western Libya is controlled by the Toubou, who
have no ties to Islamist movements," he added.
The Toubou people, who straddle the border between northern
Chad, southern Libya and eastern Niger, share control of the south with several
ex-rebel militias who fought against Muammar Gaddafi's regime in the 2011
Najem said the presence of these militias meant it was also
unlikely that Tuareg fighters from northern Mali would be welcome in southern
"They [the Tuareg] fought alongside pro-Gaddafi troops
and because of this, the thuwar [ex-rebels who fought Gaddafi] are looking for
them," he said.
In December, Tripoli decided to close its borders with Chad,
Niger, Sudan and Algeria, saddling its fledgling army with a near-impossible
Najem said the weakness of the Libyan state meant it had
little control over much of the south, making it difficult for Tripoli to seal
"It is the revolutionaries who hold the real
power," he added.
But the country's southern neighbours are in no better state
themselves, Libyan political analyst Hassan Imdhar said.
"For several years, the Nigerien, Chadian, Sudanese and
Malian authorities have been faced with instability, armed rebellions and
attempted coups, and have not managed to control their borders either," he
told Libyan television station Al-Hurra.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Tuesday
during a visit to Niger that there could be terrorist groups in Libya, calling
for a "special effort on southern Libya, which is also what Libya wants".
Claudia Gazzini, Libya analyst for the International Crisis
Group, said it was possible that those behind the Niger attacks might have come
"Its Sahara borders are porous and the southern areas
in particular lack significant government security forces," she said.
"There are also well-founded suspicions that some
Islamist groups might have established bases in the south following their
departure from Mali."
But Gazzini said it was simplistic to say Libya was solely
responsible for the situation, as this "means disregarding the roots of
the problem, which are intertwined with Niger's and France's own role in the
Najem said the accusations by Niger's president against Libya
could be the result of a standoff over its demands for the extradition of Saadi
Gaddafi, son of the former dictator, who sought refuge in Niger during the 2011
On Wednesday, Zeidan renewed calls for Niamey to hand over
Saadi and other officials from the former regime.