Avoiding doomsday scenario in Libya
The reconciliation process in Libya is like Sisyphus’s boulder — each time it reaches the top of the mountain it rolls back down. The latest round of talks set a limit of the end of September to reach an agreement.
A host of questions remain unanswered: Will the new deadline be enough to convince Libya Dawn to sign the agreement? Will the Libyan factions be able to form a government and, if yes, what are the scenarios for reaching that end? Will any government be able to rein in the various armed militias in Libya? Is the country inching towards a decentralised power structure or a federal government?
It is clear that pressure from the international community has had an effect on the major players in Libya, especially after the news of the fast advance of Islamic State (ISIS) forces.
The proposed scenario is to have a head of government come from the coalition of the legitimate government in Tobruk flanked by two vice-presidents, one of them from Libya Dawn. Whether this new government will be effective and be able to replace the militias remains to be seen.
Political observers say the new government will face two major stumbling blocks: The first resides in its inability to effectively disarm the various militias and the second has to do with the composition of the proposed new army.
Will this new army be composed to a large extent of the existing militias or of the existing army? What will General Khalifa Haftar’s role be within the new military? Will he persist in demanding to separate the army from the government?
As long as these and many other questions remain unanswered, uncertainty will reign. It is true that all parties in the conflict want to reach a peaceful solution but only according to their own agendas and under their own conditions. At the same time, if agreement about an army fails to materialise, it will be pointless to talk about the end of the security crisis in Libya or about reconstruction and the return of refugees.
The consensus is not to return to the kind of power structure in place during the Qaddafi regime. Some factions are pushing for a federal system of power while others insist on a decentralised structure.
Some have proposed to redraw the administrative map of Libya. They suggested turning eastern Libya into one province with four districts.
Western Libya would become a second province with five or more districts while the south, because of the diversity of its ethnic make-up (Tuaregs, Toubous and Arabs), would be divided into two provinces with three districts.
Proponents of this plan say that such a decentralised structure would give room for all political leanings and ethnic minorities to have a say.
It might be said that the reconciliations that have taken place lately in Libya, such as between the tribes of Wershfana and Misrata and between Wershfana and Zuwara, were effective in checking the swells of ethnic hate and strife that emerged following the demise of the Qaddafi regime.
But we should not be misled into thinking that such reconciliations are sufficient or capable of bringing about peace and security.
There are still many political and religious forces whose interests are threatened by such reconciliations and who will endeavour to break them.
It seems almost certain that Libya will continue to go through a state of insecurity and lawlessness for more months to come, which will give al-Qaeda and ISIS forces ample time to continue their territorial expansion.
I hope Libyans are aware that delaying reconciliation for any reason is delaying the return of legitimacy to the country. I hope Libya’s neighbours realise the price of insecurity in Libya, if left unbridled, will be very heavy and will definitely spill over to them.
I also hope the various Libyan factions will not continue to waste time in futile jockeying for power and push for an agreement that will put an end to a doomsday scenario for Libya.