Role of Libyans is crucial to defeat terrorism
Five years after their 2011 uprising, Libyans are waking up to harsh realities: A crumbling economy, insecurity on the loose, constant terrorism gnawing at the foundations of the state and the risk of Somalisation of the country and the region.
The birth of the new government in Libya continues to be arduous. The real question is not whether the Sarraj government is approved by the internationally recognised parliament but whether this government can be functional on the ground.
Also, will the majority of Tripoli’s inhabitants accept that the government be headquartered in their city? How will the government deal with rogue militias? Will the south receive its rightful share of development and especially its cultural rights? Libyans were awakened early February 19th by the sounds of US jets bombing a farmhouse near Sabratha where suspected Islamic State-affiliated terrorists were allegedly plotting operations in and outside Libya. More than four dozen people, mostly Tunisians, were killed.
The US strikes carried three messages: One to the terrorists warning them against staying too long in Libya. The jihadists are likely to move next to West Africa, the Sahel and the Mauritanian desert. The second message was to the Libyan political class exhorting it to vote in favour of the Sarraj government. The third message was meant to reassure the new Libyan government that it will find tangible support from Europe and the United States in fighting terrorism.
What the Libyans should realise is that it is not the military intervention that will eradicate terrorism in Libya but their reaching an agreement about a common view of their state and their society, rebuilding the state’s institutions and reorganising their civil society. When these issues are properly addressed and resolved, we can start talking about stability in Libya.
There are decisions that must be agreed upon for normal life to return to Libya. The first is agreeing on a consensus government. The second is equipping the Libyan Army and concomitantly disarming all militia groups. The third is the preparation by experts of realistic and feasible economic and social plans.
As to clamping down on terrorists, it will require months and will need aid and cooperation regionally and globally. The eventual Libyan government can determine the extent to which regional and Western powers can contribute in this matter.
Officialdom in next door Tunisia and the general population are reading the lips of Libyans to try to figure out the types of dangers they might face. As much as Tunisians oppose a military intervention in Libya, they are also hopeful that a quick Libyan consensus about the new Sarraj government would lower tensions.
It is in the interest of Tunisia to prepare for such an eventuality and all other concomitant emergencies. Tunisian authorities should prepare to receive Libyan refugees. Security issues should be naturally taken into consideration.
The Tunisian government must have a plan to secure the southern and eastern borders, involving volunteer citizens and civil organisations. It must establish a system for thorough searches of all vehicles and individuals crossing the border and the establishment of as many intelligence gathering cells as possible. Preventing a terrorist attack is an absolute necessity especially that according to recent international reports Islamic State (ISIS) in Libya could be planning terrorist operations in North African countries.
In the event of an important flux of refugees, Tunisian authorities must have adequate economic and humanitarian plans ready. Tunisia must not repeat the terrible mistakes of 2011, when it turned out that many of the charities that were helping the refugees were also recruiting Tunisians to fight in Syria and Iraq.
The Tunisian government can also convince the new Libyan government not only of Tunisia’s readiness to accept Libyan refugees but also of its readiness to contribute in the training of Libyan security and military officers, to set up a number of economic projects in Libya and help implement infrastructure projects there.
Undoubtedly, there has been always hope for security and economic activity to return in Libya. In reality however, there are a number of conditions for this hope to turn into reality.
First, there must be available well-thought-out plans and strategies for an efficient use of Libya’s riches.
Second, there must be a detailed security plan for Libya, which includes citizens surrendering their weapons and the Libyan Army being armed and trained.
Third, the country’s new constitution and elections must be carefully planned so as to equip Libya with the necessary institutions for a modern state.
Finally, any hopeful project for Libya can only be carried out by the Libyans themselves. To get there, concessions from all sides must be made and there must be a genuine desire to let bygones be bygones. National reconciliation could be key.