A state of uncertainty and confusion dominate the Libyan scene amid the ongoing political conflict between outgoing Prime Minister Abdel Hamid al-Dabaiba and Fathi Bashagha, who was sworn in as new head of government a few days ago before the Libyan Parliament in Tobruk. Meanwhile, the 2+3 group issued a statement that aims to resolve the crisis, at least temporarily.
Special Adviser of the UN Secretary-General on Libya Stephanie Williams launched an initiative to facilitate the election process, but many Libyans questioned her true motives. It depends on the establishment of a committee that includes representatives of two competing bodies: House of Representatives, based in Tobruk, and the Supreme Council of State, based in Tripoli. The goal of this committee is to establish a consensual constitutional basis. The UN adviser suggested that the committee will hold an intensive meeting for two weeks starting from 15 March. Williams did not explain how “consensus” would be achieved between the two conflicting parties in just two weeks.
The Libyans were skeptical about Williams’ intentions and considered the initiative as biased towards al-Dabaiba, who refused to hand over power to the new government headed by Bashagha, which is a clear change in her position regarding Bashagha and his government.
Moreover, the initiative contradicts the statement of the 2+3 group, which condemned the kidnap of two ministers in Bashagha’s government by militia loyal to al-Dabaiba to prevent them from taking the constitutional oath before the parliament.
During the past few days, the Libyan capital, Tripoli, witnessed huge military mobilizations, coinciding with the new government formation. Moreover, the sacked head of the Libyan unity government reportedly issued orders to the militias loyal to him to remain on alert.
The statement did not grant support or recognition to the Bashagha government, but it stressed the need for any dispute over the future of the political process to be resolved without resorting to violence. Indeed, this is the only gain, as every dispute on the ground must turn into a political, not a military fight, to neutralize the role of the militias and mercenaries that have arrived in Libya since the conflict began 12 years ago.
The United States and four European countries have vowed to hold accountable those who threaten stability in Libya, reiterating the United Nations’ call for actors to refrain from actions that may undermine stability.
The 2+3 group’s statement was welcomed by Bashagha while causing a shock to al-Dabaiba, who was waiting at least for Western support. This is after he, in recent months, expanded his circle of Western supporters by signing economic and trade agreements in the hope that those agreements would attract support for an extension of his term. I believe the most shocking paragraph in the statement for al-Dabiba was the five countries’ affirmation of their willingness to hold accountable those who threaten stability through violence or incitement, stressing that individuals or entities inside or outside Libya, who obstruct or undermine the completion of the political transition process, will be held accountable. Al-Dabaiba became an outlaw or outcast, both internally and externally.
Hatem Sadek: Professor at Helwan University