Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Unity government at last

UN envoy Bernardino Leon has announced the names of those who will form an interim national unity government, writes Kamel Abdallah

Al-Ahram Weekly

UN special envoy to Libya and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Bernardino Leon announced late Thursday evening, 8 October 2015, nominees for the “proposed” national consensus government and the presidential council.

The government is to be headed by the House of Representatives delegate from Tripoli, Fayez Al-Sarraj. The presidential council is to be made up of three parliamentary deputies and two ministers of state.

Leon said that this was “a proposed list of names that all parties can agree upon,” and emphasised the need for the Libyan people to agree on the nominees. He noted, however, that “some parties will express reservations and objections to some or perhaps all of the names.”

The UN envoy’s remarks reflected his awareness of how difficult it will be to bring the Libyan factions to agreement on the new government after two years of conflict. The UN estimates that some 2.4 million Libyans are living under difficult humanitarian conditions.

Given the persistence of the current divisions and the poor chances of securing full agreement over a government, Leon took the initiative to announce the proposed formation without waiting for the complete consensus sought by some parties to the conflict.

In addition to Fayez Al-Sarraj, the proposed presidential council includes Ahmed Moateg (a prominent businessman from Misrata who once served as prime minister), Moussa Al-Koni (a Tuareg from Ubari in southwest Libya who served on the Interim National Council and, two years before that, under Gaddafi, as Libyan consul in Kedal in northern Mali), and Fathy Al-Majbari (minister of higher education in the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni and a member of the Mujabra tribe, originally from the petroleum oases in the east).

The two proposed ministers of state are Mohamed Al-Emari Zayed (member of the General National Congress representing Benghazi, head of the Salafist-oriented Risala Party, and professor in the Faculty of Engineering, University of Benghazi) and Omar Al-Aswad (from the town of Al-Zintan in western Libya).

In addition to the individuals above, the UN envoy announced the names of 17 candidates for ministerial posts in the proposed government. These are: Fathy Al-Hinqari, Osama Siyala, Osama Al-Seid, Tareq Yusef, Abdel Salam Al-Hassi, Al-Shibani Bouhamoud, Mustafa Boushaqour, Ashour Shawail, Ibrahim Al-Nayed, Abu Oogeila Seif Al-Nasr, Salem Qanat, Amal Al-Hajj, Iman Bin Yunes, Khalil Al-Bakoush, Mahmoud Bin Shaban, Murad Hamima and Al-Taher Al-Sunni.

The presidential council will have the freedom to select agreed-upon members from the list or to choose other persons to fill cabinet seats.

Leon also named Abdel Rahman Al-Saweihli as head of the Council of State and Fathi Bashagha as head of the National Security Council. Al-Saweihli, a member of the GNC and one of the boycotting deputies of the House of Representatives, was a member of the GNC negotiating team in the Libyan dialogue. Bashagha is also one of the elected deputies who is boycotting the House of Representatives.

Leon’s proposals elicited diverse reactions internationally, regionally and domestically. France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US all expressed their full support for the final text of the framework agreement on the national unity government and the proposed names.

In a joint statement, the governments hailed the step as an important achievement in joint efforts seeking to reach a just solution that includes all parties. This achievement should promote a successful transitional process enabling Libya to become a democratic sovereign state that will enjoy peace and stability, the statement said.

It added that the leaders of the proposed government bear a vital responsibility in overseeing the transitional process and ensuring that the Libyan people have a stable government that is representative of all sectors of society.

The abovementioned governments appealed to all Libyans to support this historic settlement and enable the government to serve their country. They stressed that this government is “the legitimate entity” charged with protecting civilians in Libya and countering the growing threat of terrorist groups before they become entrenched in the country.

The statement urged that no weapons be brought into Libya except in accordance with a request by the national unity government and in accordance with the provisions of the political agreement and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

Lastly, the statement urged the governments of the House of Representative and the General National Congress to immediately ratify the final framework text and to approve the senior government officials. Any further delay in this will prolong the suffering of the Libyan people, the statement stressed.

UN Security Council members cautioned that the international sanctions committee was prepared to punish those who threaten peace, security and stability in Libya or who attempt to undermine the success of the interim period.

The EU announced that it will place more than 100 million euros at the disposal of the Libyan national unity government the moment it begins work. This sum will be included in the aid bundle already been prepared to help Libya.

Regionally, Egypt was the first Arab country to congratulate the Libyan people for the announcement of the proposed government. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said that it was ready and looking forward to working with the Libyan government and supporting it in its efforts to bring the situation in the country under control and realise the hoped-for peace and stability.

Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and the Arab League quickly followed with congratulatory statements. Other Arab countries were much slower to welcome the news particularly Jordan, the UAE and Qatar. These countries have been the most deeply involved in supporting warring factions in Libya.

Inside Libya, reactions were more polarised, reflecting the country’s sharp divisions. Some Libyan factions have been slow in supporting the diplomacy and warlords have sought to continue the fighting in order and maintain their presence in the arena.

Foremost among those who welcomed the announcement of the proposed government was the commander of the Petroleum Facilities Guards, Ibrahim Al-Jadran. Al-Jadran represents the military wing of the federalist camp. His forces control the largest oil-exporting ports in the country.

In a statement released soon after Leon unveiled the proposed government, Al-Jadran pledged his support for the government. He said the new government must sustain the war against terrorism and the fight against corruption.

Among all votes in favour of the proposed government, Al-Jadran’s support may be the most significant given that other members of the federalist drive had looked to Al-Jadran and his militias for protection. Al-Jadran renamed these militias the Cyrenaica defence force after Libyan Dawn launched its Operation Sunrise, aimed at regaining control of the oil-exporting ports earlier this year.

Still, ordinarily apolitical Libyans from across the country appear to head the list of those cheering the proposed national unity government. They desperately long for the fighting to end and normal life to resume. They see this as the first serious chance to lead the country out of its current plight and to restore stability, particularly given the international pledges of support.

The announcement of the proposed government has received a warmer welcome in the south and west of Libyan than in the east, which is divided by competing interests.

By contrast, the majority of House of Representatives members from the south and west, where there are numerous tribal conflicts, quickly voiced their support for the proposed government on social networking sites.

But reservations were voiced by some political parties, political activists and other entities. Some criticised the way the proposed government was announced and the venue; others the method of selecting the members of the presidential council and cabinet nominees; and still others the degree of leeway accorded to the council to approve or reject the nominees.

Chief among those to voice objections or to distance themselves from this proposed government were the Alliance of National Forces (ANF), led by Mahmoud Jebril. The largest political entity in Libya, the ANF is an umbrella organisation for an array of tribal and regional blocs that is generally liberal and secularist in outlook.

Another prominent political force to air reservations was the Justice and Construction Party, the political arm of the Libyan chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood. Both the ANF and the JCP took part in the Libyan dialogue.

Outright rejectionists of the announced government proposal are activists of various stripes from eastern Libya and warlords. Many are opposes to the agreement allowing their terrorist adversaries to take part in the process, thereby granting them legitimacy. The argument, however, coming from those who have been unable to produce a solution for more than a year and a half, is unconvincing.

Opponents of the agreement generally come from the ranks of the federalists, activists, some military quarters, certain tribal groups and those who fear that they have everything to lose with the end of war.

The east, from where most of these hail, is a fluid area that is difficult to pin down and understand. The region has proved unable to demonstrate any ability to manage the affairs of the country, in spite of the fact that it hosted the House of Representatives and the internationally recognised government for more than a year.

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