Libya in grip of chaos two years after unity deal

Supporters of Eastern Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar take part in a rally demanding Haftar to take over, after a UN deal for a political solution missed what they said was a self-imposed deadline on Sunday, in Benghazi, Libya, on Dec. 17, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 20 December 2017

Libya in grip of chaos two years after unity deal

TRIPOLI: Two years after a deal to form a unity government aimed at ending deep divisions between Libya’s opposing sides, the country remains mired in crisis with no solution in sight.
The UN-brokered agreement signed in Morocco in December 2015 establishing a Government of National Accord (GNA) brought hopes of an easing of chaos that followed the 2011 revolution.
But Libya has remained riven by divisions between the GNA in Tripoli led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj and a rival administration backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east.
The GNA’s position risks being further undermined by the expiry of its mandate — which under the 2015 accord was for one year and renewable only once — on Dec. 17.
Instead of healing rifts, experts say the deal actually deepened tensions in the North African country.
“I think it has never been the real solution for the country,” said Federica Saini Fasanotti, an analyst with the Washington-based Brookings Institution.
The agreement “has never been recognized by the Libyan people,” she added.
Years of political turmoil have followed the overthrow and killing of Libya’s long-time dictator Muammar Qaddafi in the 2011 revolution.
People-smugglers took advantage of the chaos to turn the country into a major gateway for migrants heading to Europe, while Daesh group jihadists also established a foothold.
Underscoring the insecurity plaguing the country, the mayor of Libya’s third-largest city Misrata was killed by unidentified assailants who abducted him on Sunday as he returned from an official trip overseas.
Since its arrival in Tripoli in March 2016, the GNA has failed to stamp its authority across large parts of the country, controlled by dozens of militias of shifting allegiances.
Its legitimacy was questioned from the very start by its rivals and it was unable to secure a confidence vote by Libya’s elected parliament based in the east of the country.
Haftar, who has never recognized the GNA’s authority, said on Sunday that the “expiry of the Libyan political accord” on December 17 marked a “historic and dangerous turning point.”
“All bodies resulting from this agreement automatically lose their legitimacy, which has been contested from the first day they took office,” he said.
Saini Fasanotti, however, does not see major repercussions from the end of the GNA’s mandate.
“The GNA in my opinion has never been a real political actor in Libya, so I do not think that the situation will change a lot at the moment in the Libya arena,” she said.
Haftar is accused by his opponents of wanting to take power and establish a military dictatorship.
Haftar wanted to take advantage of the end of the mandate of the unity government to stage “a coup,” a GNA official who did not want to be named told AFP.
“But threats that were directly addressed to him by the international community dissuaded him,” the official added.
Haftar acknowledged as much on Sunday, saying he was “threatened with firm international measures” if he dared to take initiatives outside the framework set up by the international community and the United Nations.
The UN Security Council last week insisted the 2015 deal remains the “only viable framework to end the Libyan political crisis” and prepare for elections.
According to Issandr El Amrani at the International Crisis Group (ICG) think-tank, Haftar does not have “sufficient strength or support” to take power in Libya.
“He faces particularly strong opposition from (rivals in) the west, he said, especially in Misrata,” 200 kilometers east of Tripoli and home to Libya’s most powerful armed groups.
UN envoy Ghassan Salame presented a plan to the UN Security Council in September to hold legislative and presidential elections next year.
Analysts are however skeptical the elections will be successful.
“Elections can be a double edge weapon, because they can increase the frictions among the competitors and their followers. I am not sure that in this very moment they are the best solution,” Saini Fasanotti said.
The ICG’s Amrani believes that “without an improvement in the relationship between Haftar and (groups in) the west, especially Misrata, it will be difficult to hold credible elections.”


UN says breakthrough achieved in Libya transition talks

Updated 1 min 9 sec ago

UN says breakthrough achieved in Libya transition talks

CAIRO: The top UN official for Libya said Saturday that an advisory committee for representatives of Libya’s different regions has proposed a way forward for choosing a transitional government that would lead the war-torn country to elections late this year.
The talks in Geneva, structured around the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, have been taking place amid a heavy international push to reach a peaceful settlement to Libya’s civil war. Previous diplomatic initiatives have all collapsed.
UN acting envoy for Libya Stephanie Williams told a news conference in Geneva that the advisory committee’s members “have met their responsibility with a constructive spirit, cooperative efforts, and a great deal of patriotism.”
The committee is part of a 75-member forum that represents all the three main regions of Libya. The 18-member committee has proposed that each region’s electoral college name a representative to a three-member presidential council, Williams said. A prime minister would be chosen by the 75-member forum. A successful nominee should receive 70% of votes.
Williams said that the forum would resort to lists formed from Libya’s three regions, with each list consisting of four names, nominated for the presidential council and a prime minister position.
She said a list should obtain 17 endorsements: eight from the western region, six from the eastern region and three from southern Libya. The wining list should receive 60% of the votes of the 75-member forum in the first round. A run-up is expected if no list received the required votes, she said.
Williams said the forum would vote on the proposed mechanism on Monday and the results are expected the following day.
The transitional government would be “a temporary unified executive staffed by Libyan patriots who want to share responsibility rather than to divide the cake,” the UN acting envoy said.
The US welcomed the breakthrough and urged all parties of Libya “to work with urgency and in good faith” to establish an interim government, according to a statement by the US Embassy in Libya.
“It is time to move past the conflict and corruption facilitated by the status quo,” it said.
The forum is part of the UN efforts to end the chaos that engulfed the oil-rich North African nation after the 2011 overthrow and killing of dictator Muammar Qaddafi. It has reached an agreement last year to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on Dec. 24, 2021.
The oil-rich country is now split east to west between two rival administrations, each backed by an array of militias and foreign powers.
The warring sides agreed to a UN-brokered cease-fire in October in Geneva, a deal that included the departure of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya within three months.
No progress was announced on the issue of foreign forces and mercenaries since they inked the cease-fire deal almost two months ago.