Libya’s shaky steps to settlement

Friday 29/01/2016
United Nations envoy for Libya, Martin Kobler, holds a press conference in Tunis, on January 27th.

Tunis - Libya took a shaky step away from its chaotic state of affairs with the decision by the internationally rec­ognised parliament based in Tobruk to approve the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA).

The House of Representatives (HoR), however, demanded that one of the clauses in the 31-page LPA be deleted and rejected the massive, potentially unmanageable 32-ministry national unity govern­ment proposed by the Presidency Council headed by Prime Minister-designate Faiez al-Sarraj.

It gave the council until February 4th to devise a new slimmed-down “crisis” government.

In a further endorsement of the LPA, the HoR told two members of the nine-member council who had suspended their membership over different issues to rejoin the body.

The clause rejected by the HoR authorises the Presidency Council to appoint top military, civil and se­curity bodies within 20 days of as­suming office. Backers of would-be Libyan military strongman General Khalifa Haftar have chosen to see the change as a move against him.

The HoR’s conditional approval of the LPA does not, however, mean that peace is about to break out or that the threat from the Islamic State (ISIS) is going to be removed.

Welcoming the HoR move, UN Special Representative Martin Kob­ler pointed out January 27th that, in fact, the HoR could not amend or delete anything in the LPA without agreement from the proposed State Council.

However, as Kobler noted, the State Council does not yet exist. For that to happen, the HoR must first approve the deal — effectively in its entirety.

Kobler also made it clear that even if the European Union or the United States may be considering sanctions against key Libyan fig­ures trying to block the deal (the president of the Tripoli-based Gen­eral National Congress, Nuri Abu Sahmain, and head of the govern­ment it appointed, Khalifa Ghwell are said to be prime targets), the United Nations is not doing so at the moment. Kobler’s aim is to get all sides to back the deal, he said.

However, despite seemingly en­couraging messages from the HoR, getting the new government to Tripoli remains the major obsta­cle. One of the city’s main militia bosses, Haitham Tajouri, on Janu­ary 26th led a 90-vehicle demon­stration in the city in opposition to both the LPA and the national unity government.

In a defiant and, for the first time, distinctly pro-Islamist statement, Tajouri said sharia had to be the legal system in Libya and that any attempt by the international com­munity to “impose” a government would be considered “an invasion”.

On the other side, the main Mis­ratan brigades and Abdulrauf Kara, who leads the Rada (deterrent) forces — the only effective polic­ing body in Tripoli — support the national unity government but are not strong enough to deal with Ta­jouri and ensure the government’s safety.

Nothing can happen, however, until the Presidency Council sub­mits a revised frame of govern­ment. The expectation among UN officials is that the council will meet its February 4th deadline and the HoR will approve the new plan.