Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Libya and A Seventh UN Envoy

Libya and A Seventh UN Envoy

Saturday, 23 January, 2021 - 13:00
Dr. Jebril Elabidi
Libyan writer and researcher

Libya has been suffering for years from the prolongation of its crisis and its people’s suffering because of a blend of international and internal disputes, and chaos, which has resulted in deliberate efforts to delay the crisis’ solutions.

Jan Kubis, a former Slovak diplomat, is the UN’s seventh envoy in Libya. His appointment came after the mysterious resignation of Bulgarian Nikolay Mladenov, who attributed it to personal reasons, which itself succeeded the Lebanese Ghassan Salame’s resignation for health reasons. Neither justification is compelling.

The new envoy has many of the same obstacles ahead of him. The realism he is known for cannot bring an end to the Libyan crisis alone. Bringing the parties together requires immense effort, which could be initiated by the envoy’s office and replacing the controversial figures who were part of the previous envoys’ teams.

The “Libyan-Libyan” dialogue, which was held under the United Nations’ auspices, through its envoy Stephanie Williams, was mismanaged. The problems start with the members selected for the dialogue committee, members whose selection framework was not explained. This obscurity is particularly problematic because many influential national figures- like those who supported the unarmed movement of February 2011 or those who are still loyal to the “revolution” of September 1969- were not included on the list of 75 figures who had been selected to take part in the dialogue, although some of those who had been invited apologized for not being able to participate.

This raises many questions about who formed the committee, who chose its 75 members, and what was the criteria adopted for having 75 individuals represent the Libyan people. Did they decide that 75 people should participate because this year marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations’ establishment? The Libyan crisis is not a birthday party for the United Nations; the flares of its war cannot be used to light up the candles that symbolize the years the organization has been alive for.

Recreating these figures and imposing their inclusion on the list of every Libyan dialogue- figures who do not represent the Libyan people, some of whom represent the international Brotherhood organization or openly pledge allegiance to Al-Qaeda and have direct ties to it, all of whom do not believe in the geography of the national state- is a strong indicator of why the crisis has gone on for so long amid the absence of a sincere pursuit of consensus.

Despite the difficulty of establishing negotiations, the reconciliation process in Libya could follow the model of the "Loya jirga" - which is a mass national gathering- that used to include the country’s tribes (the real social representatives in Libya), together with community leaders, religious scholars, politicians, university professors and thinkers, in a meeting that resembles a general assembly to work out a way out of a legislative and constitutional paralysis, as political maneuvering has demonstrated an inability to save the country from the quagmire of political partisanship and factional rivalry, and the failure to exercise democracy- due to democratic illiteracy, given the limited spread of a genuine democratic culture.

Democracy is a concept and system of governance, a collective way of behaving and a collective culture. It emerges as a result of an accumulation of experiences over time. Thus, “consociational democracy” through a Libyan version of the "Loya jirga"could be the most applicable and fruitful in the Libyan context given the feebleness of the “political elites”, both those who are indoctrinated and those who are not. This will help save the country from the chaos and violence resulting from partisan discourse and the disputes of political parties, who are merely serving their own interests and projects and whose agendas had been written outside of Libya for the benefit of those who do not belong to it and have no affiliations with it.

The United Nations is actively seeking to hold elections in a divided Libya at the end of December without any guarantees regarding results, as though the elections are being held for the first time in Libya. In unified Libya, electoral “celebrations” were held but were soon swiftly disregarded by the Islamic political parties, particularly the Brotherhood, which does not recognize an election result unless it wins.

The Libyan crisis, in its current state, can only be resolved through consensus and a settlement between all the parties involved. Figures obscurely chosen by the United Nations, with an imbalance in social and political representation, cannot bring it about. Any solution will fail if it does not include factions.

Other opinion articles

Editor Picks