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New UN envoy to Libya, Africa determined to make its voice heard (Analysis)

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Tripoli, Libya, October 4  (Infosplusgabon) - The challenges facing the appointment of a new UN envoy to Libya are comparable to the enormous stakes surrounding this position and the complexity of the Libyan affair marked by foreign interference.

 

This has made the African Union (AU) to get more involved by insisting that the next head of the UN mission in charge of leading the political mediation in this North African country should come from the African continent.

 

The issue gave rise to a fierce struggle between the AU and the United States in the Security Council on the appointment of the next UN envoy to Libya.

 

It is recalled that African countries within the Security Council recently opposed a candidate supported by the United States to fill the post of envoy.

 

Thus, the Bulgarian, Nicolai Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, has been proposed for the post, with the endorsement of Washington.

 

But African countries present in the Security Council rejected his candidacy, reaffirming their commitment to the appointment of an African candidate.

 

This rejection comes after a reform of the post of Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary in Libya defended by the United States.

 

It involves splitting the function in two with "a special envoy" responsible for overseeing the political mediation between the protagonists of the Libyan crisis, and "a coordinator" whose task is the administrative management of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNMIL) operating under the supervision of the special envoy.

 

Although African, as well as some European country-members of the Security Council, such as France and Germany, initially opposed this restructuring of the UN post, the American project finally succeeded.

 

A professor of Political Science at the Libyan University, Abdessalam Belaïd al-Ghaidi says "this episode is only one element in a series of struggles between African countries and the United States that have led to the failure of the nomination of several African candidates for this post".

 

He recalled, in this regard, that "from March, just after Lebanese Ghassan Salamé threw in the towel for health reasons, the former Algerian foreign minister and veteran African diplomat, Ramtane Lamamra, was appointed by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, for his experience and deep knowledge of the issue acquired during his tenure as head of the Security Council and Peace of the African Union".

 

Mr. al-Gaidi said that "in the face of U.S. blockades, Lamamra preferred to withdraw himself to give the opportunity to a new candidate since this American opposition will undoubtedly taint his mandate and undermine his mediation work that requires contacts with the major powers that really pull the strings behind the scenes".

 

"Then, it is around the former Ghanaian minister, Hanna Tetteh, whose candidacy was unanimously approved by the members of the UN Security Council to fail, because of the manoeuvring of the United States in favour of the candidacy of the former Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thoming-Schmidt", he stressed.

 

It should be noted that the United States has, in the past, put itself in the way of the African Union's ambition to appoint a joint AU/UN special envoy, intended to demonstrate the involvement of the continental organization in the search for a solution in Libya from which, it has been ruled out in favour of foreign interference since 2011.

 

The Libyan crisis has spilled over into various African countries, particularly the Sahel countries such as Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, which are suffering from assaults and attacks by extremist Islamist armed groups that have pledged allegiance to AQIM and Daech, after equipping themselves with weapons recovered in Libya.

 

An estimated 23 million weapons looted from Gaddafi's military arsenal during his reign are estimated to be circulating freely among the population and in the hands of armed groups and militias after the February 17 revolution that overthrew the former regime.

 

The rise of the jihadist movement in the Sahel region and the repercussions of the Libyan crisis on the stability of the countries in Libya's neighbourhood have finally persuaded African leaders to become more involved in efforts to find a solution to the crisis, hence the determination that was forged at the 32nd summit on February 10, 2019, in Addis Ababa.

 

A plan for a roadmap, including a Libyan Reconciliation Conference and elections, has been developed in addition to various mechanisms created by the AU where member-countries will find a space to seek a resolution to the Libyan crisis within an African framework.

 

The group of Libya's neighbouring countries, the African Union High-Level Committee on Libya and the Quartet comprising the AU, Arab League, EU and the UN, all of which represent frameworks for consultation, meet regularly to find a solution to the Libyan crisis.

 

Hamouda al-Issaoui, a Libyan political analyst, stressed that "still today initiatives from African countries are still continuing to find a solution in Libya, the latest to date is that of Morocco, which is currently hosting the second round of dialogue between delegates of the High Council of State and the House of Representatives (Parliament) to complete the discussions begun in early September on the appointment to leadership positions such as the prosecutor, the governor of the Central Bank, the chairman of the electoral commission ... etc.".

 

He added that "these meetings, which should officially begin tomorrow, after two postponements, should be crowned by an agreement between the two parliamentary groups".

 

Al-Issaoui recalled that "Algeria has, since the accession to power of the current President Abdelmajid Tabboune, undertaken a mediation initiative to bring closer the points of view between the parties to the conflict in Libya", adding that "the Algerian President has involved Tunisia and is working to organize a meeting between the Libyan protagonists through a Libyan-Libyan conference without external interference".

 

He also quoted "the Egyptian President Abdel Fatteh al-Sissi who proposed last June a plan to end the crisis called "Cairo Declaration for a settlement of the crisis in Libya", based on the proclamation of a cease-fire, the end of the front line in Sirte and al-Joufra.

 

The declaration also bordered on the resumption of military talks of the Joint Military Commission 5 + 5 under the auspices of the UN and the organization of general elections.

 

Even if these last two mediation initiatives have not succeeded in bringing the Libyans closer together, due to foreign interference and the stakes involved, giving this issue an international dimension, it reflects the interest that this country represents for Africans and the Pan-African continental organization, which is keen to be part of the efforts to find a political solution.

 

Certainly, the United States has recently invested in the search for a solution, managing to make progress, particularly with regard to the oil issue and the lifting of the blockade through dialogue with both sides, the Presidential Council of the Government of national accord and that of Haftar.

 

But Washington is motivated essentially by geostrategic considerations because of Russia's presence alongside Haftar via the mercenaries of the Wagner group, reputed to be close to the Kremlin.

 

Their traditional rivalry with Moscow means that the United States also wants to have a stranglehold at least, an arm in Libya to ensure that Russia's vision is not favoured in political negotiations.

 

The current situation in Libya is favourable to the consensus, thanks to new deals.

 

The latest developments are marked by the announcement of the resignation of the chairman of the Presidential Council, Fayez al-Sarraj, and his intention to hand over power to a new authority, the Commission for Inter-Libyan Political Talks.

 

The other related issues are the proclamation of an informal ceasefire since 21 August and the recommendations of the meeting in Montreux, Switzerland on 9 September, to establish a transitional phase of 18 months during which the Presidential Council will be restructured before general elections in March 2021.

 

This climate has led to general optimism, according to analysts, who note the obstacles represented by the sponsoring countries on both sides, with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia supporting Haftar and Turkey and Qatar supporting the Government of National Accord.

 

The momentum created has led to the resumption of the United Nations-sponsored Libyan Inclusive Political Forum in Geneva in mid-October to appoint a new authority and build consensus for a new transition.

 

The Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the UN, Stephanie Williams of the United States, is to lead the political negotiations, which, according to the same analysts, jeopardizes the chances of success of the Forum despite the enthusiasm of the participants to find a solution.

 

Thus, observers of the Libyan political scene believe that the appointment of a new envoy will breathe a new life into the talks and consolidate the ceasefire by giving more weight to the commitments of the protagonists during the discussions.

 

It will also give the new envoy room for maneuver to dissuade the countries sponsoring the warring parties from exerting pressure that could disrupt the achievement of a final settlement of the Libyan crisis.

 

FIN/ INFOSPLUSGABON/PLM/GABON2020

 

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