Each country exercises its natural right to diplomatic deployment abroad in line with its international ambitions to consolidate its relations with the countries of the world. And it exercises with its free will to serve its national interests and the interests of its citizens in the host countries.
But Libya broke this rule and maintained and even expanded in building diplomatic relations with countries that Libyans may not know that they receive the attention of their country’s foreign affairs, to spend millions on diplomatic missions that were sent without any goal, which caused exhaustion of the state budget and misuse of public money.
According to the Libyan Audit Bureau for the year 2020, Libya sends 140 active diplomatic missions representing about 8 million citizens, divided into (114 embassies, 14 consulates, and one delegation, 9 closed embassies with the recent reopening of the Libyan embassy in Damascus).
The same report examined the destinations of the Libyan diplomatic missions and concluded an important note that acknowledges the existence of a number of embassies for which sums of money are disbursed without any benefit in opening these embassies, which constitutes a financial burden on the Libyan state.
The report also stated that there is no point and no justification for the presence of diplomatic missions in five countries, namely Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Rwanda, Lesotho and Guinea Bissau, where only the total expenditures for these five missions for a period of three years starting from 2018 exceed 24 million Libyan dinars, about 18 million US Dollars.
Surprisingly, these countries do not have Libyan communities or even mutual diplomatic representation, contrary to the Vienna Convention (VC) regulating diplomatic relations. The second article of the Convention stipulates that “diplomatic relations are established between countries and permanent diplomatic missions are dispatched based on a mutual agreement between them.”
The Audit Bureau’s report for the year 2020 presented only a small sample that includes a group of embassies accused of absorbing Libyan funds in vain. The reality proves that dozens of Libyan missions abroad must be reviewed and reorganized in line with the actual need for Libyan diplomacy.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Government of National Unity adopted the idea of reducing the number of diplomatic missions, and the new team tried to move the diplomatic file by submitting a proposal to the Presidential Council supported by a memorandum of 22 embassies nominated to close or refer their tasks to a neighboring embassy.
Mr. Muhammad Khalil Issa, the political agent of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Consular Affairs and one of the leaders of the armed battalions in Libya, refused to inform us of the identities of the concerned embassies, but we learned with the agent that some of the embassies mentioned by the sample were actually included in the list of 22 embassies.
Successively, Mr. Muhammad Khalil Issa stated that the study, which was sent to the Presidential Council to discuss its issue, was based on four basic criteria that determined the efficacy of diplomatic missions, which are the political connection, the availability of Libyan investments in this country, the presence of economic and social activity, and finally, the extent of the influence of these countries. Globally, the ownership of the property in which the mission is housed is also taken into account.
Most of the countries mentioned in the report are in the African continent, which captures the bulk of the Libyan Foreign Ministry’s attention with more than 60 missions.
This matter was attributed by the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Political Affairs to the former regime’s tendency to send embassies in African countries for economic, political and intelligence purposes.
This legacy has continued until now. Because of the difficulty of building a new strategy for the Foreign Ministry without adequate security.
The regime of al-Qaddafi left this heavy legacy even after the collapse of his regime, as the previous regime was known for its generosity towards neighboring countries in Africa by pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into many African countries, even unstable ones, to invest them in various fields with the aim of preparing for the establishment of the “United States of Africa” and extending control of it.
Thus Gaddafi became the king of Africa at a time when the world turned its back on him.
The former regime built an arsenal of economic structures in the form of companies and portfolios to supervise Libyan investments in Africa, including the Libyan African Investment Portfolio, the Libyan Foreign Investment Company, and others that manage assets and investments worth billions of dollars.
For example, the Libyan African Investments Company alone manages about 23 companies in 18 African countries in various fields. However, currently all international assets of Libya are frozen under sanctions imposed on the Libyan state, which has lost the ownership of many companies to the benefit of the receiving countries.
Foreign and presidential officials promoted the idea that the presence of these missions in Africa is linked to the existence of major and important investments, but with reference to the Ministry of Economy, Mr. Abdullah Al-Jadi, the COMESA file official and the contact point for the Ministry of Economy, confirmed that most of these five countries do not contain any investments and do not have any commercial or commercial or economics relations with Libya.
(According to the website of the Libyan African Investments Company out of the total sample of the five mentioned countries, there is only one investment that is still under rehabilitation, as the company owns a 5-star hotel, built on a land area of 4.5 hectares in the center of the capital Bissau).
This was also confirmed by Mr. Aref Hassan, a member of the Libyan Businessmen Council, where he stressed that there is no interruption in communication between the Council and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, although they did not receive any notification indicating the existence of investment or economic dealings with these countries.
He added that cocoa, for example, is one of the exports of a country. Sao Tome, Libya takes it from Turkey, China, Egypt or Asia in general.
Transparent countries usually establish diplomatic relations based on scientific criteria that secure the efficacy of these relations.
The state decides to establish diplomatic relations with its counterparts after studying several specific criteria, mentioned by Mr. Ali Aoun, First Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is the need for common interests, mutual benefits and the political importance of the state.
In addition to the geographical location, the common history, social extension, the unity of religion and language, in addition to the economic factor and trade exchange.
These and other criteria are absent in the five sampled countries, although they have maintained their physical existence in contravention of these criteria.
Work on this article began by asking a central question, which is why Libya maintains diplomatic relations with these countries and spends huge amounts of money on them to no avail?
The interpretations of our interlocutors differed about the status of the Libyan diplomatic missions, but all the answers we got were directed in the same direction that distances the Libyan Foreign Ministry and the Presidential Council from responsibility by justifying their poor performance in the security and political conditions that the country has been going through since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime ten years ago.
As Ms. Najwa Waheba, the official spokeswoman for the Presidential Council that controls foreign policy, justified the continued presence of these embassies on the inability of the current unelected structures to decide the fate of some embassies despite their need to reconsider, as she put it.
As for Mr. Ali Aoun, he saw that the continued presence of these missions is linked to the continued instability of the security and political situation, which prevents the achievement of tangible changes, while waiting for an elected government with a vision of foreign policy.
All of these justifications refer us to a perception that leads to the impossibility of the current administration’s ability to open the embassies file, which the Audit Bureau, according to its annual reports, recognized as one of the biggest corruption files that Libya has been suffering from for years.
Mr. Tawfiq Al-Shuhaibi, head of the Supreme Council of the National Forces Alliance and a former parliamentarian, confirmed that the current government and the Presidential Council could have made the changes required by the stage, but they failed to do so because reform required them to repudiate the pledges they made in favor of their partners from outside the government.
The party in which Mr. Al-Shuhaibi is active worked on studying the evaluation of the foreign affairs file to conclude that 70% of the diplomatic staff should be returned to Libya because they constitute a heavy financial burden without interest.
Against the legislation!
In the same context, the Libyan Audit Bureau report for the year 2020 warned of serious abuses by sending employees to jobs that do not exist in the staffing staff, which results in a waste of public money without achieving a benefit. For example, in the year 2020, 171 employees were unjustly dispatched, and the abuses did not stop at this point, but the phenomenon of adjusting the age through judicial rulings or amending the family status certificate and administrative certificates without the utterance of a court ruling became apparent, which allowed many to exercise diplomatic functions under the legal age for work.
Referring to the report of the Libyan Audit Bureau for the year 2018, we find observations according to the violation of legislation through the continued disbursement of the salaries of some delegates to work abroad despite the end of their work period and their reaching the legal retirement age, and the spread of the phenomenon of concluding work contracts and minutes of agreement to carry out the tasks of guards and security of embassies with persons other than Specialists and do not have any functional relationship with the Libyan state.
This excessive spending and the appointment of employees abroad in order to satisfy parties affiliated with the previous and even current governments, which expanded in dispatching employees, was one of the most important reasons that led to the refusal of some countries to grant visas to Libyan diplomats, which is considered an insult to the right of Libyan diplomacy.
Mr. Tawfiq Al-Shuhaibi says that the current government, along with the Presidential Council, is implicating the state in job contracts abroad that the state may be unable to fulfill in the future, adding that those who are closely familiar with Libyan political affairs can easily classify the heads of missions according to their affiliations with people from within the Presidential Council.
When asked about the authenticity of the news that many ambassadors are not entitled to their positions and the quota control of the Libyan foreign Turn for functional hierarchy.
Generous spending and poor performance!
“In countries that boast about the number of diplomatic missions they have abroad”
This is another comment made by the official spokeswoman for the Presidential Council when asked if there was any thought or talk about reducing diplomatic missions.
But do you always meet quality with number? Canada, for example, has approximately 144 diplomatic missions around the world, given the radiance of its foreign policy and the country’s openness. It was limited to this number with one of the most powerful passports in the world.
The Libyan Audit Bureau report for the year 2014 mentioned a decline in services provided to citizens in embassies despite the high number of employees and local workers to the point of overcrowding in some embassies offices. This can be easily noticed on social networking sites by observing the discontent of many service seekers from embassies at the slow pace of their access to services considered simple.
According to a 2018 Audit Bureau report, more than half a billion dollars are spent annually on 141 diplomatic missions, some of which did not achieve any state interests. By studying the budgets disbursement schedules for diplomatic missions, we note the concentration of spending in the last month of the year on some items, which gives an indication of spending to exhaust the allocations. In addition to the randomness used in estimating budgets, which resulted in the emergence of an abundance of a large proportion of expenditures in front of its estimation.
In the face of weak accountability and accountability in the Libyan institutions, huge sums of millions are spent without fulfilling the Libyan citizen’s need for good services within these embassies, which have become a tool for embezzling state funds.