As the world witnesses the carnage in Ukraine, the determination by Ukrainians to defend and stand up for their country is both inspiring and humbling. The people of Libya understand this fight. Their country, too, has been torn apart as a proxy for disputes among outsiders.
Libya has faced a bloody decade of warfare but is now on the precipice of moving, finally, toward self-determination. The international community, particularly the United Nations, must do everything they can to encourage forward the momentum in Libya.
If they do so, the sentiment will signal that sovereignty and self-determination matter, especially when it’s under attack.
The Libyan people are hungry for progress rather than the stagnation they have suffered in the past several years. The United Nations helped set up a framework for elections and a period of transition afterward.
Unfortunately, Libyan leaders who committed to this process have ignored it and have focused instead on cementing their own power. Elections that were scheduled in December of last year were delayed. Leaders who were supposed to hand over power refuse to relinquish it.
Now, continued ambiguity has delayed the transition of authority from former Prime Minister Dabaiba to Fathi Bashagha, who was elected Prime Minister by the Libyan House of Representatives earlier this year. He has the support of a large segment of the Libyan people.
The Libyan people do not want this. They want unity and they want peace and progress. Prime Minister-designate Bashagha has gone to great lengths to ensure a transparent process that would give Libyans and the international community confidence in a new government. A roadmap was recently unveiled and Stephanie Williams, the representative of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, praised it.
The role of the UN Mission is to offer technical support for the transition and elections. Therefore, it must make clear that forward progress is essential right now. If it miscalculates or is too reluctant to push forward, the result could be continued division. While the UN cannot technically choose sides, it should not have to because the difference between Debaiba and Bashagha is clear.
Former Prime Minister Dabaiba has had ample opportunity to lead Libya to the elections the Libyan people asked for and deserve. He delayed elections in December after breaking his pledge to not run for president. He now refuses to step aside despite the end to his mandate.