The strategy of the UN in Libya - By Ken Hanly
By Ken Hanly, a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba Canada
The UN has one overriding aim in Libya: to create a unity government or Government of National Accord (GNA) which can then ask for military aid to fight the Islamic State, and for help to deal with migration to Europe.
The first phase of UN strategy was to convene a Libyan Political Dialogue of various stakeholders including representatives of the two rival governments. The former internationally recognized government is the House of Representatives (HOR) based in Tobruk in the east of Libya. The rival government is the Tripoli or Salvation government of the General National Congress (GNC) based in Tripoli. The scheme was to have dialogue members come up with a Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) which would then be approved by both parliaments.
The former UN Special Envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, was able to come up with what he regarded as a final draft of the LPA, which also included the outline of the GNA. However, Leon was never able to have the LPA passed through either parliament. Had he been able to do so, the two rival governments would have voluntarily handed over power to the GNA. It would have been a voluntary regime change from the HoR and GNC to GNA.
When Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Martin Kobler, took over for Leon. he also failed to get either legislature to approve the LPA. However, there must be a GNA and so Kobler gathered together all those representatives from the Dialogue who supported the LPA and had them sign the LPA in Skhirat, Morocco, on December 17 last year. Those who signed from the two rival governments had no authorization to do so. Now there is forced regime change at the stroke of a pen, so to speak. The UN Security Council supported the move along with the international community as a great leap forward. One problem remaining was that the HoR had to give a vote of confidence in the GNA before its term began according to the terms of the LPA.
The UN and the GNA have so far been unable to get this vote. Yet the GNA must go on. Instead of getting the vote, Kobler noted that after one failed meeting a letter approving the GNA was allegedly signed by a majority of the GNA. This letter, together with the alleged blessing of ,members of the Dialogue that Kobler convened, gave the GNA the go-ahead to announce its birth. The UN still noted that the HoR should give a vote of confidence but carried on without it. However, a recent meeting in the east with military commanders and others threatened to separate eastern Libya — Cyrenaica — from the rest of the country unless certain demands were met, including keeping Haftar as the head of the army. Two sections 8 of the LPA, as it is at present, require that the Presidency Council of the GNA take on Haftar's position as commander-in-chief of the Libyan National Army. Suddenly, it became important the HoR vote again.
Another reason why the HoR must decide to support the GNA is that it is the legislature of the GNA. It also approves some of the appointments of the Presidency Council. What could the GNA do without the HoR? One possible solution is found in the recent meeting of the State Council, a mainly advisory body of the GNA composed of GNC members. The GNC does not recognize the State Council. The members were chosen by Makhzoum, who was one of the unauthorized signers of the LPA. He was expelled by the GNC some time ago. The LPA says that Abusahmain, the president of the GNC, should present the list. But he and the GNC do not recognize the GNA so of course he did not send any names. The UN solution was just to have someone who does agree to make up the list — Makzhoum — to do so even though this violates the LPA.
The GNA decided that this State Council could also be the GNC. It convened a meeting in a Tripoli hotel at which the State Council during the first part magically transformed itself into the GNC. It passed a resolution that supported the GNA, amended the constitutional declaration of 2011, and then dissolved itself and became a meeting of the State Council. The actual GNC met and declared the other meeting illegal, but how many militia does it control now?
You might wonder how the amendment to the constitution could have any validity when passed by the GNC. In 2014 the Libyan Supreme Court held that the elections that led to the HoR were unconstitutional and the legislature should be dissolved. This leaves the GNC and the associated Salvation government as the one legitimate Libyan government. If the legitimate government's legislature amends the constitutional declaration that is all that is needed. The LPA claims it should be the HoR but it turns out that the HoR is not the legitimate government after all and it is the GNC that can do the amending.
Now the way is open for a new UN strategy should the GNA fail to get a vote of confidence and amendment from the HoR. The UN can simply gather together all those who support the GNA from within the HoR and have them meet in Tripoli as the legislature of the GNA, a reborn HoR just as there was a reborn GNC. Before they are reborn they could say they are the old HoR because after all they are a majority of it supposedly. They can then pass a motion to support the GNA and become the HoR of the GNA legislature. The actual HoR could call this all illegal as the GNC did with the State Council meeting. In this case the HoR might be backed by Khalifa Haftar and the LNA. If this happens we might see Cyrenaica separate. Tomorrow we will see if the HoR has a quorum and a vote. If everything is passed without any problem the strategy discussed here will not be necessary.
Note: This article was first published in the Digital Journal
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Libya Observer