Cautious pessimism for UN plan for Libyan stability

On the eve of the 10th anniversary of the Arab Spring, the mood in Tripoli, Libya, was completely different from the mood in Tunisia or Egypt. In the city’s Martyrs Square, young Libyans waving flags gathered to honor this historic day. The streets around the city were lit with firecrackers and cultural shows were organized in the square.

However, the celebration was limited to Tripoli in the west, while Benghazi in the east was calm and calm, illustrating the political division the country has faced over the past decade.

A brief history

The post-Moamer Kadhafi political trajectory in Libya is largely determined by the deepening of primordial tribal, regional and ethnic divisions. The division remains intact.

The National Transitional Council (CNT) formed as an interim authority in the midst of the civil war was itself a divided house where Gaddafi’s first defectors and former victims of his regime were pitted against each other.

The General National Congress (GNC) formed the first parliament in July 2012, but did not last long and a new election was held two years later.

The parliament was named the House of Representatives. GNC members refused to approve him, forcing him to flee to Tobruk in the east. As a result, Tripoli in the west fell to the GNC.

Thus, Libya was divided into two administrations: the House of Representatives based in Tobruk and the GNC based in Tripoli.

What further changed the dynamic of Libyan politics was the arrival of a new domestic actor in July 2014: the putschist General Khalifa Haftar.

Stability and peace have never succeeded in prevailing in Libya. Perhaps overthrowing Gaddafi was easier than establishing political order in the post-Gaddafi era.

It was a period of militarization in which various tribal factions and radical forces mobilized – an era that would have set Libya’s political trajectory in motion for the past decade.

New demands for federalism have emerged and the division between the east and the west of the country has deepened further.

Gradually, a military war developed between Haftar’s forces and those loyal to Abdelhakim Belhaj, a known Libyan veteran and dissident commander, turning the country into a battlefield.

The putschist General Haftar and his forces took control of the capital Tripoli in April 2019 and soon the first major initiative was taken by the UN to bring warring factions to the negotiating table.

A political agreement, also known as the Skhirat Declaration, was signed on December 17, 2015.

The agreement provided for the creation of the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Fayez Sarraj was appointed Prime Minister.

The deal fell apart, however, when Tripoli’s National Salvation Government (NSG) blocked the process, preventing Sarraj from taking over the city.

In early January 2020, a new initiative was introduced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. All the main world leaders gathered and a resolution was passed in which it was agreed that no outside forces would intervene in the country, calling for a ceasefire and an arms embargo against Libya. ; however, nothing has entered into force.

Likewise, the dialogue in the Moroccan city of Bouznika in September 2020 and the ceasefire talks in Geneva in October 2020 failed to change the political trajectory on the ground.

What is the current agreement?

It all started in October 2020 when the United Nations Special Mission in Libya invited 74 members, including 17 women, representing different backgrounds, to form the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF).

After a long discussion on the mechanism to be used to elect a new executive authority, it was decided that there would be a three-member presiding council and an interim prime minister, who would rule the country until the next elections, which are scheduled to be held on December 24, 2021.

A constitutional referendum would be organized before the elections. The whole of this proposal was put to the vote on January 19, 2021 and among the members of the LPDF, 51 voted for, 19 against and the others abstained.

Later, a vote was taken to select the executive council and Abdul-Hamid Mohammed Dbeibeh was elected interim prime minister, while Mohammed Menfi was chosen to head the three-member presidential council.

Dbeibeh vowed he would strengthen the principles of the constitution and work in consultation with other groups and the elected presidential council.

Under the UN-led deal, Dbeibeh’s interim government and the presidential council would work towards political reconciliation and bring different factions to the negotiating table.

However, it should not be forgotten that a similar plan led by the UN was approved in 2017 in which it was decided that an election would take place in 2018 to no avail.

As for the plan’s success, that seems difficult as many fundamental questions were not raised during the UN-led renegotiations, including who will control the military and hold responsibility for past crimes.

Many have already accused the LPDF of being a selective club since it has no members of the Amazigh or Tuareg minorities.

In addition, the new executive body does not represent the military or political spectrum of the country and its authority is in danger of being called into question.

Dbeibeh is a controversial figure given his past association with the Gaddafi regime and has been accused of illegally making huge profits as the head of numerous companies in the past.

The success of the plan would also depend on how much cooperation Haftar would give to the new initiative.

Likewise, the role of regional authorities would be very important in the success or failure of the plan.

While the US, Germany, UK, France and Italy all welcomed the new move, it should be remembered that the same countries also welcomed the Berlin resolution for a ceasefire. fire, but many of them continued to support opposing factions in Libya.

The new UN peace plan suffers from many deficits and perhaps neglects the fact that the election or the creation of an institution would not lead to any solution until the basic problems were solved. .

It seems hard to believe that a country, which has failed to achieve peace and stability despite the series of agreements, will manage to hold both legislative and presidential elections in less than a year.

Arguably 2021 will be a difficult year for Libyans and unfortunately the fate of the country is once again in the hands that have driven the nation to chaos and lawlessness.

It would take a miracle for Libya to return to normal in no time.

* Doctorate. Fellow in Middle Eastern Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Research Fellow at the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), a New Delhi-based foreign policy think tank

About Wesley V. Finley

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