Panafrican News Agency

The crisis in Libya: Hopes for way out of impasse amid unforeseen complications


Tripoli, Libya (PANA) - Hopes for an end to the impasse in the political process in Libya have begun to emerge with the appointment by the Parliament of a commission to join talks with the High State Council under the initiative of the UN Secretary General's Special Adviser on Libya, Stephanie Williams.

After weeks of delay in joining the initiative of Ms. Williams, Parliament has finally deigned to appoint 12 members to review the draft constitution as part of the 12th amendment to the Constitutional Declaration adopted in coordination with the High Council of State and stipulating the creation of a 24-member committee with equal representation from both Houses.

The 12-member committee appointed by the House of Representatives (Parliament) is tasked with examining the points of contention in the draft Constitution prepared in 2017 by the Constituent Assembly and making the necessary revisions.

According to the resolution of the House of Representatives, this committee must comply with what is stipulated in the 12h amendment of the Constitutional Declaration, and respect its provisions and the deadlines set to complete its work.

Although questions remain about the true intentions of the parliament due to the limitations it has imposed on the commission, this appointment amounts to an acceptance to participate with the High State Council in negotiations on a constitutional basis for the organization of the elections to get the country out of the legitimacy crisis and the endless transitional stages.

Following the stalemate that followed the postponement of the 24 December elections with the emergence of two rival governments, that of the incumbent Prime Minister Abdelhamid Al-Dbaiba, and that of the prime minister appointed by the Parliament, Fathi Bachagha, Mrs. Williams proposed the formation of a joint committee of the House of Representatives and the High Council of State to agree on a constitutional rule to be used for the holding of elections.

Mrs. Williams announced that she had received a very positive response from the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh, who welcomed the UN initiative, saying that the issue now was to bring the two chambers together and then launch negotiations.

She expressed optimism that the conditions wold allow for a genuine meeting of the two Councils.

Regarding the circumstances of this initiative, the UN official stressed that the UN proposal did not come from nowhere, but from the 12th constitutional amendment, which initially stipulated the formation of a 24-member committee, which did not happen, as it was supposed to be formed within two weeks of the approval of the amendment in the House of Representatives.

She added that there was, therefore, no need to go back to square one but to build on the consensus that was reached during January and February, through the use of another clause in the constitutional amendment, which specifically stipulates an arrangement between the two councils to establish a constitutional basis for the elections.

The acceptance by Parliament to participate in the efforts to hold the elections and the appointment of members to join the joint committee to work out a constitutional basis with the High Council, is not the effect of a chance fact but, of the pressure exerted in particular by the United States, which is very committed to pushing the Libyan parties to hold the elections as soon as possible as a solution to the crisis.

Thus, US Special Envoy and Ambassador Richard Norland urged the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Saleh, to continue to provide all the necessary support to establish a constitutional and legal basis for the holding of elections as soon as possible in conjunction with the UN-facilitated process.

Mr. Norland said in a telephone conversation with Mr. Saleh on the current political situation and prospects for re-launching the momentum towards elections that he was working with key players on all sides to maintain stability, starting with efforts to ensure that Libya's vast oil wealth was not used for partisan political purposes, but rather to meet the most important needs of the people.

There have been reports that Egypt will host a meeting on Monday for the first meeting of the joint committee of the House of Representatives and the High State Council to reach an agreement on the elections in Libya.

These developments indicate, according to Libyan observers, a real relaxation of the process aimed at organizing elections in Libya on a consensual constitutional basis between the parliament and the High Council.

The fact that the impasse has been overcome and without anticipating the results of future talks, this represents, according to the same observers, progress and opens the way to the possibility of reaching a solution in the run-up to June, the deadline for the validity of the roadmap developed by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum.

But this breakthrough in the political process risks being tarnished by the media release of the representatives of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission of the Libyan National Army based in the east led by Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who announced on Saturday evening the suspension of their work within the Commission until their demands are met.

They criticized the national unity government led by Prime Minister Al-Dbaiba, whom they accused of taking a number of measures that prevented the realization of the terms of the ceasefire agreement signed in October from 2020.

In October 2020, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission, composed equally of 10 senior officers representing the Libyan army loyal to the government of national unity based in Tripoli, and those appointed by the Libyan National Army under Haftar, signed the ceasefire agreement in October 2020 that allowed the relaunch of the political process.

It also allowed for the resumption of air flights and the opening of roads between the east and west of the country and the exchange of prisoners and remains of the dead between the two sides.

Representatives of the general command of the Haftar-led army said on Saturday that they had actively sought to respect the rest of the terms of the ceasefire agreement by expelling foreign forces, mercenaries and foreign fighters and disbanding armed formations and groups that hindered the work of state institutions.

They considered that, unfortunately, they were surprised by the measures taken by Prime Minister Al-Dbaiba, which hampered the work of the commission and posed a serious danger to the country's national security.

In early October 2021, the members of the 5+5 Joint Commission adopted an action plan for the simultaneous, sequenced and progressive departure of mercenaries, fighters and foreign forces from the whole of Libya.

Differences between the members of the committee and the attitude of countries with an armed presence in Libya have so far prevented the implementation of this plan.

They asked the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to stop the export of oil, to close the coastal road linking the East and the West, to stop all aspects of cooperation with the government of national unity and its components, and to stop operating flights between the East and the West.

The representatives of the General Command forces in the 5+5 Joint Military Commission demanded that the current government respect the decisions of the Parliament and proceed with the handover to the government of stability led by Prime Minister Bachagha.

These new developments are likely to jeopardize the fragile ceasefire that has held since June 2020 until now, allowing Libya to regain a semblance of calm and stability after a decade of armed clashes while promoting the political process.

Beyond the apparent causes, which, according to sources in the eastern camp, are related to the non-payment of salaries of some members of the army loyal to Haftar by the government of national unity, which cites the absence of national registration numbers for these soldiers, it is clear that political considerations, in particular, polarization and alignment with a political camp are behind this decision.

In response, the government of Bachagha called for "the need to exercise restraint and not be drawn into the deliberate political and military escalation of the outgoing government", accusing the national unity government led by Al-Dbaiba of "shamefully seeking to deepen the division and halt oil production, cut off roads and land and air transport between the East, West and South".

This media outburst by Haftar's supporters in the Joint Military Commission could be, according to analysts, a way of applying pressure by threatening to blockade oil production and export sites in order to win the case for the payment of salaries and funding for the Libyan National Army based in the east.

Indeed, such an unpopular measure will be massively rejected by Libyans who derive their daily bread from oil and will be opposed by the international community which denounces any action likely to disrupt oil production, especially in this period marked by the war in Ukraine. 

-0- PANA BY/IS/BBA/RA 10April2022