Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1309, (25 - 31 August 2016)
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1309, (25 - 31 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Libya reconciliation drive

New moves are afoot in Libya to avert further civil war. But is there any chance of success, asks Kamel Abdallah

Al-Ahram Weekly

Dignitaries, elders and sheikhs from the Obeidat tribe, the largest social entity in eastern Libya, and political leaders and dignitaries from Misrata in the west of the country, signed a reconciliation agreement Friday following intensive dialogue sessions held in Tunis last week between representatives from both sides. This was the first breakthrough of its kind since the crisis erupted two years ago leading to an unprecedented degree of polarisation that cast a shadow over the prospects of any national reconciliation. Meanwhile, Mohamed Al-Zawi, the last secretary-general of the Libyan General People’s Congress (the parliament during the Gaddafi era), announced that officials from the old regime had initiated a dialogue in prison with their jailers in order to discuss the future of the country.

These talks are separate and different in framework and aim from the UN-sponsored political process that is still lurching on shaky ground due to ongoing disputes surrounding the outputs of the Libyan Political Agreement that parties to the UN-sponsored Libyan National Dialogue signed in Skhirat, Morocco, on 17 December. Nevertheless, they indicate that new alliances are being forged and may affect forthcoming developments in Libya.

On the fringes of the Misrata-Obeidat meetings in Tunis, Fayez Al-Sarraj, chairman of the Presidency Council and prime minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA) that was formed as a result of the Skhirat Agreement, met with a delegation of dignitaries and elders from the Obeidat Saturday to offer his congratulations on the agreement struck with Misrata. Al-Sarraj stressed how important that agreement was to supporting the progress of the Political Agreement process and the GNA, especially as both sides affirmed “the need to unite in the war against terrorism, to work to support the institutions of government and to activate and build a national army for the whole of Libya.”

The chairman of the Presidency Council listened to the observations and ideas that the Obeidat delegation presented in the interests of resolving the current political crisis in the country. The meeting underscored the inviolable principles of Libyan national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The Obeidat-Misrata agreement unveiled Friday contained 15 points that covered a number of political, security and military questions, controversy over which has been at the root of the crisis that has gripped the country since 2014.

A statement released by the signatories to the agreement explained that the meeting had been inspired by the social and patriotic duty that falls upon tribal and municipal leaders to mend political rifts, especially given the sharp decline in the quality of life of the Libyan people due to the security breakdown, economic straits, diminishing liquidity and deterioration in healthcare, education and other public services. They stressed that national reconciliation is the only way to end the current conflict.

The statement stressed that the meeting, which brought together in the Tunisian capital “dignitaries from the Obeidat tribe from across its geographical extension in the eastern region with dignitaries from Misrata with its diverse social components”, emphasised the need to abide by the principles of the 2011 February Revolution; namely, “freedom, social justice, respect for human rights and the peaceful democratic rotation of authority”. It also underscored the need “to commit to the civil nature of the state, to avoid centralisation in the administration of the state, to promote the efficacy of security, military and judicial institutions, to fight terrorism, as well as to dissolve all non-governmental military formations and armed bodies operating outside of the authority of the state.”

The representatives from the Obeidat and Misrata also expressed their condemnation of all military coups, which are “a crime against the people and the constitution”. In addition, they urged the return of all refugees and displaced persons and called for the protection of the petroleum facilities as well as the closure of all prisons operating outside of the authority of the state.

The Misrata-Obeidat agreement called on the GNA Presidency Council to create a National Reconciliation Agency as an established institution as opposed to a ministerial body whose work might be jeopardised by the dissolution or fall of a government.

Back in Libya, Al-Zawi is leading a dialogue between imprisoned supporters and officials from the old regime and their Islamist jailers in Tripoli. The two sides converge in their opposition to the outputs of the UN-sponsored National Libyan Dialogue. The dialogue, which lasted over a year, culminated in the Political Agreement signed by the Libyan factions in Skhirat on 17 December 2015, which continues to meet resistance from hardliners on all sides of the Libyan conflict.

Although some attempts to promote national reconciliation take place away from the eyes of press, there are concrete indications that significant changes are taking place in the nature of the socio-political and military alliances that arose with the outbreak of the Libyan civil war in 2014. In May that year, General Khalifa Haftar launched Operation Dignity against his Islamist adversaries who, together with their allies, responded with Operation Libya Dawn. The Libya Dawn alliance crumbled in late 2015 while the Operation Dignity alliance began to fracture when one of its chief commanders joined the GNA.

Operation Dignity Commander Colonel Al-Mahdi Al-Barghathi, who was appointed defence minister in the GNA, has been joined in his support for the GNA by Commander of the Counter-terrorism Agency Faraj Aqim and Commander of the Petroleum Facilities Guards Ibrahim Al-Jadhran. In addition to parting ways with General Haftar on the question of recognition of the GNA, the three men have begun to forge a new alliance with Misrata, the main contributor of troops to the forces that have been fighting Daesh (the Islamic State group) in Sirte from the west.

The dialogue between former Gaddafi regime affiliates and radical Islamists is further evidence of the process of shifting alliances in Libya. If an alliance is in the making here, its cement would be opposition to the Skhirat accord and the processes it initiated and, therefore, totally antithetical to the alliance that is in the process of formation between Misrata and social and military components in the east, which support the GNA and are also fighting Daesh.

The new alliances could have profound repercussions for the political process set into motion by the UN. Ultimately the success of this process remains contingent on its ability to forge a minimum degree of consensus among its constituent components, the alternative being civil war.

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