Libyans take UN-peace deal to the wire

Friday 16/10/2015
UN envoy for Libya Bernardino Leon, right, makes an announcement in Skhirat, Morocco, on October 8, 2015.

Tunis - After more than a year of mediation between the two main factions in the Libya crisis, the UN special envoy an­nounced the names of the people who would be prime minister and deputy prime ministers in the Liby­an national unity government.
The prime minister is to be Faiez al-Serraj, from Tripoli and a mem­ber of the internationally recog­nised House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk. The three deputy PMs are to be Ahmed Maetig, Fathi Majbri and Musa Kuni, represent­ing, respectively, Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan.
Apart from regional balance, there is political balance in UN envoy Bernardino Leon’s offering between the HoR and its rival in Tripoli, the General National Con­gress (GNC).
Maetig is from Misrata, which until recently had been firmly on the GNC side in the Libya divide. He is also the nephew of one the main GNC leaders, Abdurrahman Sewehli. Majbri, from Benghazi, is education minister in the HoR government. Kuni, one of the Libya Dialogue negotiators, is a member of Libya’s Tuareg community.
Leon named Omar Aswad, from the anti-GNC town of Zintan, and Mohamed Ammar, an Islamist member of the GNC and of its ne­gotiating team in the dialogue, as ministers to join the other four men on a presidency council to govern Libya until a new constitu­tion is in place.
Leon proposed a series of names representing different political and geographic constituencies as mem­bers of the new government. He suggested that Sewehli be presi­dent of the planned State Council and that another Misratan, Fathi Bushagha, be head of the country’s security council,
Leon’s list has united Libyans in opposition to his plan. It is claimed that, while Serraj is an honest poli­tician, he is too weak to be prime minister.
Members of the GNC and the HoR noted that government min­istries are not Leon’s to fill. Some of those named, such as former Interior minister Ashour Shuwail, rejected their nomination, as did Sewehli, who pointed out that the State Council presidency should be for its members to decide.
In the east there is bitterness at what is seen as a Misrata-domi­nated government and lack of suf­ficient Cyrenaican representation.
While publicly backing him, privately Western diplomats ex­pressed astonishment at Leon’s ministerial suggestions. “He did not need to name them,” said one European ambassador to Libya. “He should not have done so.”
Quite apart from the names, there is strong antipathy within the HoR and the GNC to the supposed­ly final draft agreement, which ap­pears to still be a work in progress despite the official UN line that it cannot be changed. The latest amendments relate to a definition of sharia and a proposed general amnesty law.
The HoR has clearly decided that if it does agree to the draft agreement, it will do so at the last minute. Recent heated sessions on the proposals ended without deci­sions.
The parliament scheduled an October 19th session to see if it can come up with a solution. That is one day before the deadline for the government to be approved.
In fact, it may not matter. The deadline of October 20th was set because it is the last day of the HoR mandate. However, the HoR has unilaterally extended that man­date indefinitely.
Leon, who will soon be replaced as UN special envoy by German diplomat Martin Kobler, remains optimistic that both sides will ac­cept the agreement and the names.
So are members of his team and the Western ambassadors who have been part of his support group throughout the negotiations. They point out that Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Saudi Ara­bia, Qatar and Turkey fully support the deal and have been putting “in­tensive pressure” on both sides to accept it.
Although Libyans continue to protest the agreement and the names, there is believed to be a majority in the GNC in favour of accepting one, even though its president, Nuri Abu Sahmain, is opposed.
As for the president of the HoR, Ageela Saleh Gwaider, he is seen as supportive even though he has sug­gested that negotiations could con­tinue past October 20th. He is said to have told Leon, who apparently intended to appoint an easterner as prime minister, that having both the head of the government and of the HoR from the east would be un­acceptable.