Libyan tribes wary about Brotherhood’s dominance in Tunis talks

The leaked list of participants showed that 42 out of the 75 invited personalities are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Friday 30/10/2020
A file picture of Libyan tribal representatives attending a conference in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. (AFP)
A file picture of Libyan tribal representatives attending a conference in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. (AFP)

TUNIS – In a pre-emptive move before the inter-Libyan dialogue scheduled to begin on November 9 in Tunis, the Libyan tribes warned against turning the talks into a platform for passing the Muslim Brotherhood’s agendas and recycling its hegemony over power in Libya under the cover this time of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, which is sponsoring the dialogue.

The warning, which was accompanied by the announcement of the refusal of some Libyan personalities to participate in this forum, shook the fluctuating political equations that govern the paths of organising this dialogue, the results of which are supposed to cement the political and military understandings reached in the meetings of Bouznika in Moroccan and the 5+5 meetings in Geneva.

It also raised many doubts and fears that the Tunis Forum will end up caught in a vicious circle that prevents it from achieving a serious breakthrough that ends the current political stalemate which has been deepened by dissonant regional and international agendas and calculations related to the strategic interests of the influential powers in the Libyan file.

Abdelkerim Hermi, diplomatic adviser to Tunisian President Kais Saied, confirmed that his country has completed all preparations for hosting the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, expressing his hope that this forum will lay the foundations for peace and security and launch a comprehensive political path that will end the state of fighting and chaos in Libya.

Hermi pointed out that his country “does not deal with the situation in Libya out of a desire to position itself or influence the decisions or compete with other countries, but rather out of wanting to ensure that the Libyans overcome the current situation as soon as possible so that they can start enjoying their lives and look forward to the future with greater optimism.”

However, Hermi’s upbeat tone, which coincided with similar optimism expressed by Stephanie Williams, Acting Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, was not echoed by the Libyan tribes, whose role and influence in shaping the Libyan political scene in all of its balances cannot be ignored.

This was evident through the stances taken by the Supreme Council of Sheikhs and Notables of Libya and the Supreme Council of Libyan Tribes and Cities, in addition to the announcement by a number of parliamentarians of their refusal to participate in this forum for reasons having to do with serious concerns about the forum being used to pass Muslim Brotherhood agendas at the expense of the interests of the Libyan people.

In this context, Mohamed al-Misbahi, head of the office of the Supreme Council of Sheikhs and Notables of Libya, affirmed that the Council “rejects the fraud of passing the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya through the UN mission.”

The Supreme Council of Sheikhs and Notables of Libya—which was established in Azizia in 2014 and held its first public meeting in the city of Seluq in 2015—is considered one of the important and influential bodies in the Libyan scene as it groups many Libyan tribes and cities. It aims to mend the Libyan rift, put an end to the fighting, and combat all forms of terrorism and militias.

Misbahi said that the Supreme Council of Sheikhs and Notables of Libya “did not object to the inter-Libyan meeting,” but “objects to the deceitful manner of distorting the will of the Libyans through the UN mission in order to pass the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, by inviting to the forum controversial individuals, some of whom are known leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya announced earlier that it had invited 75 people from Libya representing the political and social spectrum of the Libyan society to participate in the first meeting in Tunis of the Libyan Political dialogue Forum, which will be held based on the outcomes of the Berlin Conference on Libya, which were approved by UN Security Council.

The list of participants was leaked and it turned out that 42 out of the 75 invited personalities are affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which prompted the Supreme Council of Libyan Tribes and Cities to voice its disapproval of what it described as “the UN mission’s method of exclusion, marginalization and favouritism.”

In its statement, the council denounced what it described as “the domination of Islamic organisations and their allies on the list of those invited to the dialogue, while national actors and influential social components were excluded.”

The council considered the UN Mission’s selection of the participants in the Tunis forum—among whom figured some known personalities “who live abroad and have no bases at home, dozens of extremists, and even people known for practicing and advocating terrorism”—can only be considered as total “disregard for the sacrifices of the Libyan people in the face of terrorism.”

Finally, the council warned that “poor preparation and planning for the conference heralds a new failure of the political process,” which would lead the country into another phase it described as “sombre”, while announcing “its rejection of the convening of the Tunis conference in terms of the manner and the people invited by the United Nations mission, and the illegitimacy of this conference,” and declared its “rejection of its outputs.”

In what seemed to be a response to these criticisms and warnings, Stephanie Williams said that the United Nations mission “wants the Libyan dialogue to be at the level of historical responsibility … and that what matters to the Libyan people is what will result from the next meeting in Tunisia and not who will participate in it.”

However, Libyan parliamentarian, Misbah Douma Ouhida, who received an invitation to participate in the Tunis Forum, voiced concerns that “this forum will produce an agreement that would bring the Libyan crisis back to square one of division and put the Libyans in a state of confusion that may last for several more years.”