Concerns grow over Islamists diverting Libya settlement process

Libyan MP Ibrahim al-Darsi confirmed to The Arab Weekly that the planned inter-Libyan talks will take place on the Tunisian island of Djerba.
Monday 12/10/2020
Representatives of Libya’s rival administrations attend a meeting, in the Moroccan town of Temara, on October 6. (AFP)
Representatives of Libya’s rival administrations attend a meeting, in the Moroccan town of Temara, on October 6. (AFP)

TUNIS – Fears are rising that the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood will end up dominating the political settlement process, especially in light of the almost complete paralysis of the Libyan parliament headed by Aguila Saleh.

Libyan parties did not hide their fear of the influence of Tunisian political parties known for their bias towards the Islamists and of the process of selecting the individuals and parties that will participate in this dialogue.

This comes after the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and Acting Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Stephanie Williams announced the resumption of the comprehensive and direct Libyan dialogue, early next November in Tunisia.

Williams announced in a statement ” the resumption of inclusive intra-Libyan talks, based on Security Council resolution 2510 (2020), which endorsed the conclusions of the Berlin Conference on Libya held on January 19, 2020.”

Williams’ announcement coincided with the launch of consultations in Cairo between the delegations of the House of Representatives and the Supreme Council of State in Libya on constitutional issues, under the auspices of the United Nations.

Libyan MP Ibrahim al-Darsi confirmed to The Arab Weekly that the planned inter-Libyan talks will take place on the Tunisian island of Djerba. He welcomed the choice “considering the proximity of the location to Libya, which eases the arrangements for the logistics related to the talks, especially the ease of movement and of obtaining visas.”

Speaking with The Arab Weekly by phone from the city of Benghazi in eastern Libya, Darsi said that Tunisia “always remains a destination for all Libyans because they consider it their second home away from home.” However, he did not hide the apprehension of many Libyan politicians about a possible role of Rached Ghannouchi, head of the Islamist Ennahda Movement in Tunisia, who does not hide his bias in favour of the Islamist-controlled Libyan Presidential Council.

He considered that “Ghannouchi, who currently heads the Tunisian parliament, has aligned himself with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Turkish agendas, which has shaken the confidence of the Libyan national forces towards Tunisia’s role in the Libyan file over the past few years.”

He added, however, that “all Libyans have nothing but respect for Tunisia and for its brotherly people,” noting at the same time that “Stephanie Williams’s assertion that the anticipated dialogue in Tunisia will take place based on UN Security Council resolutions regarding Libya and the outcomes of the Berlin conference is a good start and a vital basis for its success.”

Darsi expressed concern about the names that will be invited to participate in this dialogue, saying, “There is a lot of suspicion about these names, especially since we know that the United Nations mission has been infiltrated by the Brotherhood groups, their beneficiaries, and those revolving around them.”

He expressed his belief that the upcoming Tunisia dialogue “will be a window screen” more than anything else, because “the interlocutors will not have much room for manoeuvre, given that the draft of the agenda and discussion items of these talks had already been drawn up in advance based on the outcomes of Berlin Conference, and that the Bouznika talks in Morocco and Hurghada talks in Egypt have left nothing for the talks in Tunisia (to discuss).”

The announcement of the selection of Tunisia as the new location for the resumption of the inter-Libyan face-to-face dialogue coincided with Tunisia’s new ambassador to Libya, Lassaad Ajili, presenting his credentials to the head of the Government of National Accord, Fayez al-Sarraj. The Tunisian embassy in Tripoli had been closed since 2014.

Fayez al-Sarraj, Prime Minister of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA),  speaks at a ceremony in Tripoli, October 8. (AFP)
Fayez al-Sarraj, Prime Minister of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA),  speaks at a ceremony in Tripoli, October 8. (AFP)

Before these developments, Tunisia had intensified its political messages in support of the United Nations efforts to resume the political dialogue in Libya towards ending the transitional phase and moving on to building permanent institutions, in accordance with the decisions of international community, the political agreements and the outcomes of the Berlin conference.

In Cairo, consultations under the auspices of the United Nations began, Sunday, between the delegations of the Libyan House of Representatives and the Supreme Council of State on constitutional issues. These consultations, which will continue until Tuesday, will discuss the legal options that could be presented to the expanded political dialogue forum in Tunisia this early November, to facilitate the deliberations on moving forward with the constitutional arrangements.

Libyan sources have expressed their fear that the Cairo meetings would be an entry point to legitimise the Brotherhood’s future status in Libya through the work of this committee, as the State Council delegation headed by the Islamist Khaled al-Mishri includes members affiliated or allied with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Libyan legal expert Mohamed al-Zubaidi said, “The meetings of the constitutional committee in Cairo are one of the chain links for bringing the situation in Libya back to square one, because it includes members of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood who were expelled from the National Conference, and then got together under an entity called the State Council, and whatever the committee’s good intentions may be, the street will not easily accept the texts that it will put in the constitution.”

Zubaidi explained in a statement to The Arab Weekly that members representing Cyrenaica and Tobruk withdrew from this committee, leaving only a few wise people on it. What is even less reassuring about the situation is that the Libyan Parliament is experiencing its weakest political period after the split of about two-thirds of its members who switched over to the Tripoli Parliament.

He warned that the current balances enable the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya to gain more hegemony over the constitution-drafting committee in exchange for continued relative recognition of the parliament’s legitimacy.

The Arab Weekly has learned that some Libyan tribal leaders and legal experts met with members of the constitution-drafting committee and informed them that “some articles (of the draft constitution) contain legal breaches and represent a crime against Libya, which has sacrificed a lot fighting terrorists.”

The sources revealed many loopholes and contradictions observed in a number of the articles of the draft constitutions, loopholes that would allow political Islam currents to take control again of the joints of the state, through the formation of parties of a religious nature.