Libya’s fate to be determined by terror or consensus

Friday 12/02/2016

What the bicker­ing parties in Libya need to realise is that what they are squabbling about, namely the country, is on the brink of slipping between their fingers.
The Islamic State (ISIS) is ex­panding towards oil fields in Libya and oil tanks are ablaze; millions of dollars are literally up in smoke, which means no relief for the economy for years to come.
There are credible reports about a weapons deal between the head of ISIS in Tripoli, Mohamed al- Madhouni, and the leadership of an armed militia in Libya and also members of the previous parlia­ment. International newspapers speak of the transfer of billions of dollars from the Libyan Central Bank to a location outside Tripoli.
All of these are signs of an im­pending explosion. Some Italian newspapers have written of foreign military intervention in Libya.
All of the delays in reaching a consensus on a Libyan unity gov­ernment are dramatically draining the country’s foreign currency reserves and will make life more difficult for all Libyans. The oil and gas infrastructure is slowly eroding and will require the new govern­ment to engage in huge spending to fix it. The challenge is compounded by the significant drop in oil prices and rampant inflation in the run­ning of government agencies.
The Sarraj government must take office as soon as possible, otherwise secession will take place and Libya will morph into several warring fiefdoms. As threats to the security in the region increase, the likelihood of foreign military inter­vention also increases.
It is clear that many of the politi­cal factions in Libya have built their strategies around strengthening their positions and gaining control of as much wealth and power as possible. The Tobruk government, for example, wants to guarantee the continuous presence of General Khalifa Haftar while the Tripoli government insists on his depar­ture. This particular conflict feeds the fear of partition of the country into independent cantons. The “Somaliasation” scenario remains a likely option in Libya.
Independent politicians in Libya see no harm in creating a national military council, with Haftar as leader, that would answer to the parliament and not to the govern­ment. The main responsibility of the council would be counterter­rorism.
The government, however, re­mains free to nominate a new chief of the army and a new minister of defence who will answer to the government and not the parlia­ment. At a second stage, other ministerial positions will be filled through consensus while observing as much as possible the nominee’s competence and qualifications for the position.
Such a scenario could save lives and prevent a military intervention in Libya, speed economic recovery and make it possible to get rid of all extremist and terrorist move­ments when the weapons embargo is lifted. Failure to reach consen­sus spells doom. All disastrous outcomes become possible. A number of Libyan politicians may be subjected to international sanc­tions and may be taken to interna­tional courts of law. Bloody clashes between various warring factions in Libya can lead to civil and tribal wars and that could lead to an international military intervention. One of the objectives of such an intervention would be to prevent the expansion of ISIS in the region and beyond. Another would be the prevention of mass migration of refugees towards Europe in a scenario similar to what happened with Syrian refugees. The Libyan people and their leaders should opt for consensus because it is the best and the most enduring course of action. Whoever is willing to make concessions today will reap tan­gible benefits two years from now when elections are likely to be held.