Bilal Abdullah

Key Takeaways

  • While UN envoy Abdullah Bataille’s initiative has not yet come to fruition, alternative paths to a settlement in Libya are emerging, including national reconciliation and dialogue under the umbrella of monarchical legitimacy.
  • The existence of multiple avenues to address the Libyan crisis raises questions about their alignment or divergence with the primary approach led by the UN mission, particularly given indications of setbacks in this primary approach. 
  • The UN is anticipated to retain dominance in the settlement process, potentially diminishing gains from the national reconciliation approach, although it may not be entirely incompatible with its efforts. 
  • The monarchical legitimacy track remains a likely option, as it could favor the preservation of existing power dynamics.

The dawn of the year 2024 has marked the rise of various initiatives in Libya, some hinting at departures from conventional approaches to resolving the nearly decade-long conflict. Alongside maintaining the initiative of the UN Secretary-General’s envoy to Libya, Abdullah Bataille, albeit with waning momentum, two other courses of action have emerged. 

Firstly, there is a focus on expediting steps related to the national reconciliation process, seen as the overarching framework for reintegrating supporters of the former Gaddafi regime into the political process. Secondly, there has been a notable surge in the activities and political engagement of Crown Prince Mohammed al-Hassan al-Rida al-Senussi within Libya during the closing months of the previous year and the initial weeks of the new one, with reports suggesting the preparation of an initiative.

Besides these two avenues, traditional attempts to rival the UN initiative persist, notably through the House of Representatives and State Council maneuvers to influence the settlement agenda. These efforts address long-standing contentious issues, such as a consensus on the occupants of sovereign positions and forming a new government through an agreement between the House of Representatives and the State Council.

As a general principle, it is often believed that the multitude of approaches to conflict resolution can hinder peace efforts, reshuffle the cards, and reflect divergent views among external actors involved in the conflict. Conversely, setting aside all other peace initiatives and prioritizing only the UN’s role in the reconciliation process can signal international consensus on settlement or a desire for calm and conflict de-escalation.

This paper monitors and analyses these trajectories, evaluating the degree of coherence or contradiction among current initiatives and their intended outcomes. It also assesses the prospects of maintaining these parallel approaches to conflict resolution.

The National Reconciliation Process

Despite the intricate nature of the National Reconciliation Process in Libya, the focal point of discussions revolves around integrating supporters of the former regime, mainly led by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, into the political process. This movement holds significant sway, given its widespread presence across various regions of Libya, particularly in critical strongholds such as Bani Walid, Warshefana, Tarhuna, Sirte, Mazda, Ragdalin, Jamil, and Asaba.

Even though this political current has suffered from marginalization and organizational fragmentation since Gaddafi’s ouster, Saif al-Gaddafi’s frequent public appearances in recent years and his candidacy for the presidential elections (which did not materialize) toward the end of 2021 marked a pivotal development. This presented a symbolic leadership capable of mobilizing and guiding this movement, particularly during critical electoral junctures. Consequently, consolidating the fluid nature of this movement into a semi-cohesive voting bloc could significantly impact the legitimacy or trajectory of any forthcoming elections organized as part of the settlement process.

In terms of political alliances, the most significant weakness for Gaddafi’s supporters lies in the scarcity of these alliances, with the movement primarily focusing on ties with Russia. Another Moscow ally, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, wields considerable power in the eastern and, to a lesser extent, southern regions, diminishing Moscow’s inclination to prioritize Gaddafi’s supporters over Haftar during the current phase. Regarding the national reconciliation track, several developments have recently unfolded notably:

  • The primary activity in this track revolves around preparatory conferences conducted over six months in anticipation of an all-inclusive conference scheduled for April 2024 in Sirte. The inaugural preparatory conference took place in July 2023 in Brazzaville, Congo, followed by the fourth conference in mid-January 2024 in Zuwara, located in the country’s far northeast. Another round of preparatory conferences is slated to be held in Congo this February.
  • Although Gaddafi’s supporters were the primary focus of this process, Saif al-Islam’s team at the Sebha conference in mid-December announced its withdrawal from participating in the preparatory committee for the all-inclusive conference. This decision was prompted by their perception of the Presidential Council’s lack of seriousness in achieving national reconciliation, particularly concerning the absence of progress in addressing the issue of detainees from the pro-Gaddafi regime.
  • Amid the ongoing momentum for reconciliation, marked by monthly preparatory conferences, the House of Representatives (HoR) discussed the National Reconciliation Law on January 8, referring it to the House Committee on Justice and National Reconciliation for review. This move reflects the parliament’s effort to exert legal control over the reconciliation process. Conversely, Tripoli Government President Abdelhamid Dbeiba’s stance is notable, as he has a vested interest in thwarting any process that could jeopardize his grip on power.
  • During a meeting with local mukhtars (village chiefs) in mid-January, Dbeiba declared his opposition to the African Union’s involvement in facilitating reconciliation, insisting that it should be managed solely by local mukhtars without external intervention. Notably, apart from the African Union, led by Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso, no other international entities openly intervened in the reconciliation process. The African Union’s involvement in reconciliation efforts, in collaboration with the Presidential Council, is endorsed by the UN Security Council.

Hence, in theory, the national reconciliation process in Libya is not entirely separate from the UN-led process. Instead, it can be viewed as a complementary path to settlement. The outcomes of the reconciliation process are expected to align closely with the final arrangements of the settlement, particularly concerning the electoral process, which is a crucial focus of the UN’s efforts. This alignment is underscored by Saif al-Islam’s previous intention to participate in the presidential elections slated for late 2021.

In practice, the dynamics of national reconciliation diverge from those of the primary settlement track, which is currently concentrated on establishing the necessary legislative and political conditions for elections. The two main factions controlling power in the east and west of the country are pivotal players in this track. Thus, while the national reconciliation track operates independently in terms of dynamics, its outcomes are intertwined with the main settlement track led by UN envoy Abdallah Bataille. Some parties, seeking to disrupt or derail the settlement process, are creating parallel tracks to the reconciliation process. 

Dbeiba’s proposal, articulated during his meeting with Libyan mukhtars, does not present a viable alternative but instead serves as an attempt to obstruct the ongoing reconciliation efforts and evade potential commitments. On the contrary, Saif al-Islam’s position should not be interpreted as rejecting the reconciliation process, as it remains the sole avenue where supporters of this movement officially engage in various UN-backed sub-tracks. This confrontational stance likely pressures the entities responsible for facilitating the reconciliation process, such as the UN mission, the Presidential Council, and the African Union. Continued boycott by Gaddafi supporters would undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the entire process.


Bilal Abdullah is a Researcher focusing on Libyan affairs. He has published and cooperated with several think tanks in and outside the Arab region. Abdullah is preparing for a Master’s degree from the College of African Postgraduate Studies at Cairo University, specializing in Tribalism and the Future of the State in Libya after 2011. Some of Abdullah’s published studies include “The Amazigh Movement and Dynamics of Libyan Political Life”, “The Amazigh Spring in Libya: Between Revolution Gains and Challenge of Division”, “The Democratic Transition of Power in Tunisia after the Revolution: A Study about the Role of the Tunisian General Labor Union”, and “The Political Role of A-Azhar after the Revolution: Constants and Variables”. He has a BA in Political Science from the College of Commerce at Helwan University and a Diploma in African Studies from Cairo University.


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