Hypocrisy in action

No wonder that most Libyans see the forum as an external process imposed on them. They have little confidence in it and little faith that it will work.
Friday 05/02/2021
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Stephanie Williams attends the first day of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum at an undisclosed location, Switzerland, February 1, 2021. (REUTERS)
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Stephanie Williams attends the first day of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum at an undisclosed location, Switzerland, February 1, 2021. (REUTERS)

A great deal has been said by Acting UN Special Envoy for Libya Stephanie Williams during the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) about the need for transparency in Libya and for candidates for the Presidency Council and the prime ministry to adhere to it.

She has also continuously repeated that the LPDF is a Libyan-owned process through which Libyans are deciding on their own government.

But it is not a Libyan-owned process. It is a UN-owned and UN-controlled process, and there has been minimal transparency throughout. Apart from the representatives of the House of Representatives and the State Council who have taken part in the forum, the overwhelming majority of participants were selected by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). But on what basis? What was the criteria for choosing them? There has been no transparency on how the choices were made.

The lack of transparency has continued throughout the forum’s proceedings. The meetings and discussions, both in person and virtual, have been private, apart from this last one, and even then, only the presentations by the candidates for the Presidency Council and prime ministry were publicly televised. But as soon as each presentation was over and Williams or anyone else started to speak, the screens went blank and the microphones cut out.

UNSMIL preaches transparency but does not practice it. The entire LPDF process, especially the entire final session in Switzerland, should have been televised and made accessible to the Libyan people so they could follow it and make up their own minds about it and the candidates.

There has been a lack of transparency in other aspects of the forum’s life too. In November, there were serious allegations that at least one person who has since become an official candidate for prime minister bribed some LPDF members. A formal letter from 11 Libyan human rights and legal organisations to the UN demanded an inquiry be launched, the results be publicly announced and for anyone found to have been involved in corruption be banned from running for the Presidency Council or the premiership. Williams herself said there would be an inquiry. But what happened to it? What did the inquiry say? The accusations of corruption, of money flowing around, have been swept under the carpet, made to disappear.

No wonder that most Libyans see the forum as an external process imposed on them. They have little confidence in it and little faith that it will work.

Like UNSMIL’s earlier, failed Presidency Council and the Government of National Accord (GNA) devised in Skhirat before it, this current attempt to bring peace and concord to Libya is flawed from the start because it rides roughshod over Libyan laws and Libyan sovereignty. The new proposed government becomes legitimate not because the House of Representative approves it, but because the UNSMIL-selected LPDF says so, because the UN says so. The LPDF has been turned into Libya’s legislature, its parliament. That has been further confirmed by the LPDF’s decision that should the HoR and the State Council fail to agree on a constitutional basis for December’s elections or the appointment of the heads of the seven sovereign institutions within 60 days of the start of the “preparatory phase,” arbitrarily set by Williams as December 21, 2020, then it will do so.

If the LPFD succeeds in bringing about a new administration, it will be a triumph for UNSMIL, but a triumph fuelled by hypocrisy and deception.

Williams is leaving UNSMIL this month. The job of UN special envoy has been given to Jan Kubis, a former Slovak foreign minister and, until the end of last year, the UN’s special coordinator for Lebanon. The LPDF may well produce a new administration for the next 10 months, but it is going to be a difficult time. There is no guarantee that a new, LPDF-devised government will be able to impose its authority throughout the whole country, that a constitutional basis for December’s elections is secured or even that they take place on time or at all. It could all go wrong. He is going to have his work cut out for him trying to help Libya arrive, in one piece, at that December destination. The hope is that, working in harmony with Libya’s many institutions and components of society, he succeeds.