Mustafa Fetouri

According to the United Nations roadmap adopted in November 2020, Libyans should have cast their votes to elect a legislative and president on 24 December, 2021, but that did not happen. As a measure of precaution the roadmap mandated another attempt to be made no later than 23 June 2022, which also meant the end government of Dbeibah’s mandate.

What the roadmap failed to provide for is the current situation in which no elections, prime minister has been fired and a replacement has been voted in by Libya’s parliament. Now Libya has two prime ministers, each one claiming legitimacy.

To further complicate things, the House of Representatives (HoR), last February, voted in Fathi Bashaga as new Prime Minister, replacing Dbeibah who had already lost parliamentary confidence last September. Furthermore, the Bill that brought Bashaga in, mandates yet another roadmap, calling for election in 14 months’ time. The HoR is trying to sideline the UN mediator, Stephanie Williams, who returned to the country last December, as a UN Special Advisor on Libya because the UN has, so far, failed to appoint a new envoy to Libya.

Mr. Dbeibah has, so far, refused to hand over power to Bashaga, vowing to hand over only to an elected new government. In essence, both he and Basahaga have been voted by the same Parliament, however on different bases. Unable to enter the capital, Tripoli, Bashaga opted to set up two offices for his government: one in eastern Libya and another in Sebha, in the south, but without any power.

The problem here is two-fold: one, Dbeibah cannot organise elections without agreement with HoR which is supposed to be the legislative and, two, he is supposed to have been out of office long ago. HoR will not allow Dbeibah to conduct elections as he has been promising.

What is certain is that neither elections will take place next month, nor will Bashaga take power—chaos at its best manifestation.

If things are to go according to the UN sponsored roadmap, then Libya, legally speaking, would be, except for a few differences, an image of itself in 2014 when it was split under two governments.

For HoR to succeed in taking over the political process, it should sideline Stephanie Williams and the UN, which explains why it came up with the idea of a 12-member constitutional committee, in a rare agreement with the High Council of State, to agree on a new constitutional base for elections. HoR also considers the Williams’ roadmap but dead. The committee met, recently, in Cairo but without progress.

If this sounds chaotic and confusing, so has been the entire political process in the country. It is puzzling even to informed Libyans.

Chaos and lack of pre-planning has been the centre-piece in the entire Libyan crisis since it broke out 11 years ago, and a closer scrutiny would reveal that Libya could have avoided the current turmoil and chaotic living had the so-called “international community” acted a little differently.

When the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1973, on 17 March 2011, authorising the use of force against Libya’s legitimate government of the late Muammer Gaddafi, the Council and its leading members failed to have a follow up plan for Libya once the Gaddafi government was overthrown.

Instead, Western policy makers and diplomats from the United States, Britain and France painted a rosy future for the Libyans once the main obstacle to it, Gaddafi, was removed from power. The message, back then, was that democratic and economically flourishing Libya was just around the corner once Gaddafi and his government had been ousted.

11 years later, and Libyans are yet to make that magical turn to the fantastic future the West had promised them.

Naively, the entire conflict, since 2011, has been summed up by the UN and major powers in the lack of people having a say in their government. The magical solution to that is, simply, an election: once Libyans cast their ballots, they would have made that magical turn into a peaceful and prosperous country in which rebuilding would be a matter of human and financial capital, of which Libya has abundance.

Well, Libyans voted twice, first in 2012 and then in 2014 but, in both cases, elections produced more division, chaos and a power vacuum, opening the way for criminals and armed “revolutionaries” to take over the entire State, transforming the entire population of over six million,  from citizens with rights and obligations, into hostages at the mercy of criminals.

Even worse, the relevant UN resolutions, most of which were adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, thus making them mandatory, have never been fully implemented, let alone reinforced by any meaningful punitive measures penalising those who trespass them. This, in turn, made Libya easy prey for regional and world powers to continue meddling in its affairs, transforming an internal conflict into a proxy struggle between different foreign countries seeking to have a say in Libya’s future.

From 2011 to date, all political settlement proposals for peace and stability in Libya have become hostage to the UN which is, in turn, hostage to its Security Council where veto holding powers like the US, UK, France, Russia and China, have the final say on what should or should not happen in Libya – a recent manifestation happened just last week.

With the war in Ukraine in full swing, this is unlikely to get better any time soon as “frozen” conflicts, like Libya’s, are not making news headlines after being pushed aside by what is going on in Ukraine. And with the UN Security Council, polarised as it is, Russia is unlikely to agree to anything it does not like. Last week, it rejected UN Resolution 2629 to extend the UN’s Libya mission by a year, agreeing only to three months’ mandate, thus jeopardising the mission’s future role.

One reason behind this has been Dbeibah’s government angering Russia by condemning its invasion of Ukraine. To add insult to injury, HoR’s new Prime Minister appointee, Fathi Bashaga, in an article published by the Times newspaper in London on 3 May, went further by describing his – yet to take office – government as a “partner” of Britain in its fight against what he called Russian “aggression in Ukraine.”

Taking such position against a UN veto power like Russia is totally insane and counterproductive to Libya, whose future is decided by the UN where Russia could derail everything. Such erroneous policy can only be made by novice and absent-minded politicians of the Bashaga and Dbeibah type!

This kind of chaos is likely to continue in Libya with only one certainty: no elections this year, and it could be another two years before Libyans cast their votes and start making that long promised magical turn into stability and peace.


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