Panafrican News Agency

Stephanie Williams' departure deepens impasse in Libya's political process

Tripoli, Libya (PANA) - The departure of the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General, Stephanie Williams, who was leading mediation efforts in Libya to relaunch the electoral process and maintain the ceasefire, risks aggravating the impasse in the north African country.

Indeed, the political impasse has never been as deep as it is now due to the lack of prospects for a solution, marked by tension between the armed groups supporting the two rival governments.

The departure of Ms. Williams comes at a critical moment in the current phase in Libya, as her good offices between the House of Representatives (Parliament) and the High Council of State on the drafting of a constitutional text to serve as a legal framework for the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections have stalled on the issues of eligibility of dual nationals and the military.

Final mediation efforts between the two chambers should be deployed by the UN Secretary General's advisor to bring the two camps closer and allow them to overcome their disagreements to organize general election to resolve the crisis in the country.

But her hasty departure put an end to her attempts which will have to be continued by the acting Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), the Zimbabwean Raisedon Zenenga, pending the appointment of a new Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General to Libya.

This issue is likely to be further delayed due to the deep disagreements among UN Security Council members on this issue.

The impasse in the political process has heightened tension in the country, which has manifested itself in an increase in armed clashes between armed groups in Tripoli and in the western region of the country in support of the two governments, the national unity government and the government appointed by parliament.

Armed clashes between armed groups in Tripoli recently left 16 people dead, including six civilians, and more than 30 wounded, while other armed clashes near Misrata left one person dead, indicating the volatility of the security situation.

This situation is likely to tip the country into a new war, given the absence of a solution to the issue of the executive and progress in the adoption of a legal framework for elections, as well as the fragility of the ceasefire signed in 2020, which could be shattered at the slightest incursion by one of the armed groups, which may inevitably lead to a generalized conflagration.

In a statement at the end of her mission, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Libya said that the solution remained political.

"I believe that the current political stalemate and recurring executive crisis can only be overcome through the adoption of a consensual constitutional framework that sets clear milestones, establishes the contract between the governors and the governed, and puts in place controls to end the transition period through national elections.

"Libyan leaders have a clear responsibility to their citizens and future generations to make the historic compromises necessary to create the opportunity to achieve the desired outcome," Williams said.

She added that she had sought to reach out to the widest possible range of actors and representatives of the political, security and social sectors in Libya to listen to them and understand their concerns and visions for the future of their country, their ideas and proposals to help Libya end the long transition period the country has been going through since 2011.

In this regard, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed his gratitude to Ms. Williams who has just completed her assignment as Special Adviser on Libya, thanking her for her service to the organization and her dedication to finding a solution to the political crisis in Libya.

"Ms. Williams' extensive knowledge and experience in Libya and her exceptional ability to create conditions conducive to dialogue and consensus among all concerned parties have resulted in significant achievements in the areas of political, security and economic dialogue," Mr. Guterres said, as reported by his spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric.

The Secretary-General also reiterated "the commitment of the United Nations to support a Libyan-led process to address the remaining challenges and to ensure that presidential and parliamentary elections are held as soon as possible.

Attempts to continue talks between the parliament and the State Council are currently being made in Turkey, where the chairman of the Libyan legislative body, Aguila Saleh, has been visiting since Tuesday, where he met his Turkish counterpart and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with the deputy chairman of the Libyan Presidential Council, Abdallah Al-Lafi.

He is expected to be joined in Ankara by the chairman of the High State Council, Khaled Al-Mechir, for talks to finalize the consensus on the outstanding points of disagreement.

Referring to the meeting with President Erdogan, Al-Lafi said that with Aguila, the views agreed during the meeting "on the importance of preserving the unity of the Libyan territory, speeding up the electoral process through the necessary and agreed legislation, emphasizing the exclusion of a military solution, and stopping all escalations that hinder the construction of a civilian and democratic state system".

However, the chances that the meeting between the Speaker of the Parliament and the Chairman High Council of State will lead to progress that could re-launch the electoral process are very slim, given the rigidity of the positions of each of them.

Al-Mechri is attached to the principle of imposing in the criteria of candidates for the presidential election, the first in the history of the country, the non-dual nationality and the non-eligibility of the military in accordance with the law in force in Libya prohibiting such a practice, a position that some justify by his fierce opposition to the head of the Libyan national army based in the east, Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Saleh who, while defending the need not to impose criteria for the exclusion of any Libyan from the elections, in particular, the eligibility of bi-nationals and military, which he believes is exclusively targeted at removing Haftar, puts the issue of the executive with the need to allow the government of Prime Minister Fathi Bachagha to begin its activities from the capital, Tripoli.

Thus Saleh affirmed his commitment to the continuation of the government mandated by the House headed by Bachagha, stressing the need to give him the opportunity for a period of three or four months at least to prove himself.

In an interview granted to the channel "France 24", Saleh added that the Bachagha government could not be held responsible for any problem because it did not enter Tripoli and did not really take responsibility or test but denounced foreign countries for this situation.

He added that seeking to achieve elections solves the current problems in Libya, ensuring, however, that there must be a single government that organizes these elections.

This position was corroborated by the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, Youssef al-Agouri, who said that the visit of Parliament Speaker Saleh to Ankara would discuss maritime and security agreements with Turkey.

He indicated that the issue of the executive authority would be discussed and the opinion of the Turkish side would be heard on supporting a unified government that controls the entire country.

Al-Agouri said he expects a meeting between the chairman of the High State Council, a consultative body, al-Mechri and the speaker of the parliament, Saleh, with Turkish President Erdogan to discuss the electoral file and the constitutional rule for holding the elections.

He said the meeting would focus on the depth of historical relations between the two countries, strengthen economic partnerships, national sovereignty and the withdrawal of all mercenaries and foreign forces from the country.

The leaders of the formations affiliated to the national unity government led by al-Dabaiba held a meeting last Sunday in the capital Tripoli, following two separate meetings of military and field leaders from the western and central regions, who support the parliamentary appointed Prime Minister Fathi Bachagha.

Another meeting was also held in the town of Zawiya, which included leaders of armed groups and field leaders in the Western and Central regions, in the presence of dignitaries from the towns of Misrata, Zaouia and Wachafana, during which they announced their support for the Prime Minister-designate of the House of Representatives, Bachagha.

This situation demonstrates the seriousness of the current phase with an increasing polarization and rigid security positions that could tip the country into a new war for power.

This is why, in order to defuse the tension between the armed groups, the Presidential Council, in its capacity as Supreme Commander of the army, decided on Wednesday to dissolve the 15 military chambers created in recent years, according to a military source quoted by the "Al-Wasat" news portal.

In any case, the situation in Libya suggests a prolongation of the current impasse, even if long-lasting armed clashes are to be ruled out in the short term, unless the blockages persist beyond the medium term which could exacerbate the situation opening the country to the most pessimistic scenarios in the context of the persistence of disagreements within the UN Security Council.

-0- PANA BY/IS/BBA/RA 4Aug2022