Tripoli, Libya’s main city and capital, is located in western Libya and is home to about one million of the country’s six million inhabitants. Benghazi, located in eastern Libya, is the other major city.
Berbers have been in Libya since the late Bronze Age. The Phoenicians built commercial stations in western Libya, while Ancient Greek immigrants founded city-states in eastern Libya. Libya was governed by Carthaginians, Persians, Egyptians, and Greeks before joining the Roman Empire. Libya was an early Christian center. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Vandals dominated the territory of Libya until the 7th century, when invasions brought Islam and Arab colonization. The Spanish Empire and the Knights of St John held Tripoli in the sixteenth century, until Ottoman authority began in 1551. Libya was a participant in the 18th and 19th century Barbary Wars. The Ottoman Empire ruled Libya until the Italian conquest culminated in the brief Italian Libya colony from 1911 to 1943. During World War II, Libya played an essential role in the North African Campaign. The Italian population then declined. Libya gained independence as a monarchy in 1951.
In 1969, a military coup deposed King Idris I, ushering in a period of profound social transformation. During the Libyan Cultural Revolution, the most notable coup figure, Muammar Gaddafi, was eventually able to entirely centralize power in his own hands, remaining in power until the Libyan Civil War of 2011, in which the rebels were supported by NATO. Libya has been in an unstable state since then. The European Union is taking part in an effort to dismantle human trafficking networks that exploit migrants fleeing African violence for Europe.
At least two political parties claim to constitute Libya’s government. The Council of Deputies is globally recognized as the legal government, however it does not have territory in Tripoli and instead meets in Tobruk, Cyrenaica. Meanwhile, the 2014 General National Congress claims to be the legal continuation of the General National Congress, which was elected in the 2012 Libyan General National Congress election and disbanded after the June 2014 elections but subsequently reconvened by a minority of its members. In November 2014, the Supreme Court in Tripoli, controlled by Libya Dawn and the General National Congress, ruled the Tobruk government illegal, but the internationally recognized government rejected the judgment as issued under fear of violence.
Parts of Libya are not under the jurisdiction of either government, with different Islamist, rebel, and tribal militias running several cities and districts. The United Nations is facilitating peace negotiations between groups stationed in Tobruk and Tripoli. On December 17, 2015, an agreement to establish an united temporary government was struck. The accord calls for the formation of a nine-member Presidency Council and a seventeen-member temporary Government of National Accord, with the goal of conducting new elections within two years. On April 5, 2016, the leaders of the new administration, known as the Government of National Accord (GNA), arrived in Tripoli. The GNC, one of the two competing administrations, has since disbanded in order to support the new GNA.