Comentario: Quién es el “Haftar del Oeste”? Por M. Sreit

La reunión de París, organizada el martes 25 de julio de 2017, entre el mariscal Jalifa Haftar y el primer ministro libio Fayez Sarraj ha sido recibida positivamente por una gran parte de los libios, especialmente en Trípoli. Aunque parezca temprano – y arriesgado – apostar por un éxito y hablar de paz, son muchos los libios que consideran que la reunión de París supone una iniciativa seria. También hay aquellos que ven en este encuentro la prueba de que el mariscal Jalifa Haftar ha aceptado la “hoja de ruta” que el primer ministro libio anunció hace una semana. De hecho, la propuesta del primer ministro Sarraj, incluye, entre otros puntos destacados, el asunto de las elecciones anticipadas así como la reconciliación nacional; temas que también han sido abordados por los dos líderes libios en París.

Al mismo tiempo, últimamente se han organizado en la capital libia varias reuniones dedicadas al tema de la seguridad. Estas reuniones, encabezadas – y supuestamente promovidas – por Najmi Nakou’, jefe de la Guardia presidencial en Trípoli, no tienen precedente en la historia reciente de Libia. Destacan por la voluntad de Nakou’ de unificar las milicias armadas de Trípoli y ponerlas bajo el control de un aparato militar central. Pero también cabe mencionar que, al organizar estas reuniones, Najmi Nakou’ ha excluido a los representantes de otras milicias importantes en el Oeste, como aquellas basadas en Misrata o en Zintan. La ciudad de Misrata está dividida desde hace tiempo entre quienes están a favor de un acercamiento entre Sarraj y Haftar y los que rechazan este escenario y recomiendan una oposición al líder del este de Libia. No obstante, si el posicionamiento de Misrata tiene importancia, es también porque se trata de milicias originarias de esta ciudad que se encargan de la seguridad del primer ministro Fayez Sarraj así como de varios ministros del Gobierno libio de unión nacional, entre ellos, los ministros de defensa y del interior.

Habrá que ver si las perspectivas que se califican como positivas de la reunión de París se confirman a largo plazo. Mientras tanto, también habrá que tener en cuenta la influencia de ciertos militares sobre la percepción que los libios tienen de la realidad del país. Najmi Nakou’ aparece hoy como una personalidad poderosa con recursos – incluso militares –, mientras que muchos libio siguen viendo a Fayez Sarraj como una persona débil. Además, Nakou’ tiene una ventaja importante: es una figura de consenso desde el punto de vista de los libios del oeste. Eso no implica necesariamente que Nakou’ llegará a tener un papel significativo a nivel político; dicho esto, Nakou’ ha adquirido una reputación de hombre poderoso en un tiempo bastante corto. Además, a día de hoy, hay quienes se preguntan si Nakou’ no podría acabar siendo, a largo plazo, el “Haftar del oeste libio”. Este escenario podemos descartarlo de momento; pero este tipo de rumores siempre hay que tomarlos en consideración, por si acaso.

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Security and Stability in Libya: The Way Forward (B. Mikail)

SECURITY AND STABILITY IN LIBYA: THE WAY FORWARD

Barah Mikaïl

 Compilation of the findings and recommendations discussed during a workshop on “Security and Stability in Libya” held in Tunis on 22 May 2017 by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in cooperation with STRACTEGIA

The ongoing situation in Libya reflects well the depth and the complexity of the country’s multifold crises. At this stage, Libya’s key actors remain far from capable of reaching a durable political agreement, despite intensified regional and international initiatives meant to help and to support them. So far, the meeting between Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in Abu Dhabi early May 2017, as promising as it sounded, has not been followed by strong initiatives. Prime Minister Sarraj’s grab on the country may be growing but ongoing tensions and fights in Libya also indicate that finding a solution to the Libyan conundrum remains difficult.

Besides security remaining a main concern in Libya, tribal dynamics, while not new, have also been growing worryingly. Dramatic evolutions in the oil crescent, where Benghazi’s Defense Brigades (BDB), the Libyan National Army (LNA), and their respective allies fought in spring 2017, also indicate how deep and how complex Libya’s problems are. The Tripoli-based Presidential Council, the eastern-based LNA, as well as many alleged poles of power (Bunyan Marsus, BDBs, armed militias, influential tribal leaders, etc.) have taken positions that question the prospects for achieving political national reconciliation.

Ongoing conflicts and their impact on security structures in Libya

Continuing unrest in Libya can be explained by a myriad of factors. Among others, the difficulties the Presidential Council encounters in imposing its will on all Libyan actors decisively limit its ability to guarantee security and stability. Similarly, problems prevail when it comes to identifying who is in charge of “the” army and who are the real military commanders responsible for the security and the stability of the country.

Furthermore tribal, ideological and/or political conflicts have serious consequences on stability, with the role and the influence of external actors – including but not limited to Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Qatar – as further factor interfering in the already complex Libyan environment, as highlighted recently with evolutions in Derna for example. Moreover, human trafficking and the smuggling of goods alter both the conditions for the development of Libya’s social and economic perspectives and the citizens’ day-to-day perspectives. Libyans are still faced with a deteriorating economic situation and a liquidity crisis that drastically limits access to cash. In the context of lacking accountability and control, free circulation of arms and weapons favours the proliferation of uncontrolled armed gangs and militias and the increasing role of mercenaries. On the political level, the ongoing fragmentation and all actors’ prioritization of consolidating their own power over achieving security are important spoilers for stability. This is also linked to the allocation of positions within the government based on cronyism rather than merit – a practice that only serves to further erode the trust of the population in the government’s ability and will to achieve positive development for the country.

With this multitude of challenges ahead, quick and efficient solutions do simply not exist. But there is a way of assessing and determining where priorities are. Acting efficiently in Libya requires a focus on key steps. On the level of security forces, this includes efforts to build a strong national army and to form militaries that will have the task of reintegrating militia members into a single national army under the control of a unique official government. Additionally, all groups and communities (including Tubus and Tuaregs) will have to be allowed to be part of national security institutions and to have their political representation guaranteed on the national level. Reforms of the security sector will have to be accompanied by better development plans and policies that would contribute to guaranteeing better perspectives for citizens and address the effects of the migrant crisis. None of these will however be possible without a prior reconciliation between Libyan warring parties (starting with representatives of “the east”, “the west” and “the south” of the country). It is in this context that the international community can contribute to an improved context for stability and development in Libya.

The tribal factor and its consequences for the security sector

While not new, the tribal factor remains an important issue in Libya, due to the fact that historical, political and social elements overlapped and contributed to shaping the Libyan society. Nuances in the influence of tribal structures do exist at the national level – for instance, the west is known for being less tribal than the east and the south –, but overall tribal dynamics remain both part of the Libyan contemporary problems and a possible contributor to solving them.

Tribes present a challenge and are oftentimes counterproductive to efforts of national stabilization when they act on their own, not recognizing any political and/or national authority. As an example, many tribes end up dealing with smugglers and their networks, hence maintaining – be it directly or indirectly – the existence of clandestine migration that presents a destabilizing factor for Libya. As another example, dynamics of retaliation and revenge between different tribes can increase the number of violent clashes and contribute to the emergence of further problems in already tense environments.

On the other hand, due to their political and social influence, tribes can also have an important role in solving Libya’s current crises. Tribes are important and influential actors in many parts of the country, and the authority they have on the people that belong to their “community” makes ‘asabiya (social cohesion) a potential driver for appeasement. Particularly in the context of the political vacuum that prevails in Libya, getting tribes to defuse their mutual tensions and put aside their rivalries can be of great help to overcome societal cleavages and contribute to a stabilization of Libya’s social landscape. The pivotal role of committees of reconciliation (where many important tribal figures intervene), and the way their mediations succeeded in limiting the effects of tribal and clan fights throughout the last two to three years are clear and strong indicators for this important role.

How to foster conditions for security and peace in Libya?

There are many ways security and peace could be fostered in Libya, depending on what priorities are set. Some of these deal with military prospects, others with political decisions. In any case, acting efficiently in Libya requires several cornerstones.

Firstly, the constitutional stalemate has to be overcome, which requires a review of the composition of the Presidential Council and the promotion of certain principles, such as limiting the number of vice-presidents to two. Additionally, the presidential mandate should be set for a limited period of time. Furthermore, the fostering of more transparency in all political processes is a necessary step, as well as the creation of a National Planning Committee that will help overcome Libya’s demographic contradictions, and developing initiatives that help citizens engage in reconciliation efforts. In order to achieve these cornerstones however, additional elements are required, such as putting an end to the interference by others countries whose strategies are causing tensions in Libya, and finding a solution to political and military divisions and the way they are impeding the emergence of a strong army.

The UN can make the difference and create conditions for stability and peace. The track record of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) may be seen critically in Libya by some people, such as those that consider that it has neglected numerous political parties and individuals that represented various ranges of the Libyan society (i.e. many of the parties that had been given official licenses with the end of the rule of Gaddafi). Others also criticize the UN for not having sufficiently worked towards facilitating new elections from which new figures could have better represented the population’s will. Nonetheless Libyans are almost unanimous in saying that UNSMIL is the only institution that can really guarantee a solution for Libya; they just consider that the UN should develop adapted and more adequate strategies that accurately target key problems and include all actors in negotiations. The many positive reactions that followed the announcement of the appointment of new UN special envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame come here as an opportunity for the intergovernmental organization to capitalize on the progress that has been achieved up to now and to act in a way that will allow Libyans to finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Solutions are possible in Libya. Some local initiatives have proved successful in contributing to stability and security in Libya. A recent example for this is the Mubadara 53 (Initiative 53), a plan that was launched in Tripoli and that reached a total of 53 Libyan towns and municipalities. The initiative, which encouraged municipal councils and important local actors to develop common initiatives meant to guarantee ceasefires and stability, proved successful. Some experts even consider the Mubadara 53 as a potential alternative to overcome the country’s political stalemate. But targeted and adequate international support is also seen as an important contribution to the sustained success of such initiatives.

Les juifs de Libye peuvent-ils prétendre à un droit au retour ? Entretien avec Raphael Luzon

Après des décennies d’occultation, la question juive en Libye semble reprendre de l’importance. Ont joué en ce sens les multiples réunions organisées récemment en Italie, en Grèce et à Malte et où ont été évoquées des questions telles que la possibilité pour les juifs de Libye de retourner dans le pays ou d’accéder à des dédommagements. D’aucuns soutiennent ces droits, cependant que d’autres les rejettent, ou les accueillent avec prudence. Le fait pour des personnalités libyennes d’avoir procédé à des rencontres et des réunions avec des juifs dont beaucoup avaient quitté la Libye en 1967 ne pouvait en tous cas passer inaperçu.

Parmi ces réunions, figure la rencontre organisée sur l’île de Rhodes, fin juin dernier, par Raphael Luzon, président de l’Union des juifs libyens de la diaspora. Né à Benghazi, maîtrisant à ce jour encore « l’accent de Benghazi » comme le ferait tout habitant de la ville, Raphael Luzon, en dépit de décennies d’exil, a encore vif dans sa mémoire jusqu’au nom des quartiers et des rues de sa ville natale. Il est par ailleurs fier du fait qu’il continue, à ce jour, à écouter et à se laisser emporter par les chansons et mélodies de Ali al-Shaalya, Mohammed Sudqi et Shadi al-Jabal, entre autres chanteurs libyens.

Abdallah al-Kabir et Mohammed Sreit ont pu s’entretenir avec Raphael Luzon. Celui-ci nous a confié après coup qu’il s’était senti heureux de nous donner cette interview car elle lui a permis en quelque sorte de casser le « mur de la peur » qu prévalait jusqu’à peu dans son esprit. Dans le même temps, Raphael Luzon estime que beaucoup reste encore à faire ; pour cause, selon lui, l’absence de compréhension de beaucoup de Libyens du sentiment sincère que les juifs de Libye entretiennent vis-à-vis de l’idée de pouvoir rentrer dans un pays auquel ils se sentent étroitement liés. Propos recueillis.

Abdallah al-Kabir et Mohammed Sreit : Comment évaluez-vous la rencontre de Rhodes que vous avez organisée fin juin 2017 autour de la question des juifs de Libye ? Cette rencontre a-t-elle abondé dans un sens qui puisse servir votre cause ?

Raphael Luzon : La rencontre de Rhodes a incarné ce pas de géant que nous attendions depuis si longtemps. Elle a permis de briser la glace et de faire tomber ce mur de la peur qui prévalait jusqu’ici. La rencontre a d’ailleurs eu lieu de manière officialisée, elle a consisté en un dialogue courtois et humain qui a permis de réunir des Libyens répondant à des religions et des affiliations diverses, mais tous unis par leur appartenance à la Libye.

AA et MS : Pourquoi la participation à cette réunion de responsables gouvernementaux israéliens ainsi que de députés de la Knesset ?

RL : La présence de responsables politiques israéliens a plusieurs avantages. Certains partis politiques israéliens peuvent trouver à travers cette initiative un moyen pour se gagner sur le plan interne les voix des Israéliens originaires de Libye ; mais ils ont aussi à travers cette réunion un moyen par lequel ils peuvent convaincre les citoyens israéliens en général de ce que leurs actions s’inscrivent dans un sens favorable à la consécration d’avancées sur le plan régional. Par ailleurs, il ne peut y avoir que des avantages pour les responsables israéliens à s’entretenir directement avec des parties arabes et à échanger leurs points de vue mutuels.

AA et MS : Comment concilier dès lors le fait que les responsables libyens soutiennent le droit des juifs originaires de Libye à retourner en Libye, cependant qu’ils ne reconnaissent pas ce droit aux réfugiés palestiniens ?

RL : Il n’y a pas de principes en politique, seuls les intérêts prévalent dans ce domaine. Mais votre question devrait être adressée aux responsables politiques israéliens directement, et non à moi.

AA et MS : Khalifa Ghweil, président du Gouvernement de Salut National en Libye, a nié avoir envoyé un représentant à la réunion de Rhodes, tout comme il a nié vous avoir adressé une lettre à ce sujet. Comment réagissez-vous à cela, vous qui aviez pourtant parlé de cette lettre en considérant qu’elle avait valeur de missive historique ?

RL : Je conseille à monsieur Khalifa Ghweil de publier un communiqué officiel et signé dans lequel il niera ou reconnaitra avoir procédé à l’envoi d’une telle lettre. Cette valse-hésitation de sa part ne le sert en rien, elle ne fait qu’alimenter les soupçons à son encontre, les uns et les autres estimant que tout ce qu’il recherche au bout du compte est la satisfaction de toutes les parties. Pour notre part, nous attendons toujours qu’il nous réponde de façon officielle, sans tourner autour du pot et sans chercher à politiser la donne.

AA et MS : Comme vous le savez, la Libye souffre maintenant la présence et la superposition d’un ensemble de conflits. De plus, les ingérences étrangères en ajoutent à ce problème. Considérez-vous pour autant que les temps sont mûrs pour traiter de la question du retour des juifs de Libye ?

RL : Mais qu’est-ce qui alimente le plus les problèmes entre Libyens ? La rencontre de Rhodes, ou plutôt les envois d’armes, les replis communautaires et l’extrémisme qui prévalent dans le pays ? La Libye dispose de moyens ainsi que d’un réseau de relations à niveaux régional et international qui peuvent aider à accélérer la résolution d’une crise qui affecte les citoyens libyens, et non les responsables politiques. Pourquoi ne tirent-ils donc pas profit de ces moyens ? Par ailleurs, est-il logique de considérer que parler des ingérences turque, égyptienne, émiratie et italienne en Libye serait quelque chose d’admissible, cependant que notre retour à nous, fils et filles de ce pays, en Libye ne le serait pas ?

AA et MS : Pensez-vous que l’idée du retour des juifs en Libye est mieux admise par les Libyens aujourd’hui qu’elle ne l’était précédemment ?

RL : Les jeunes Libyens sont plus ouverts et bien plus conscients des réalités aujourd’hui. Quant à la question du retour des juifs en Libye, elle correspond à une démarche individuelle qui n’engagerait que ceux qui y tiendraient, et non la communauté des juifs de Libye prise dans son ensemble. Cela étant dit, j’aimerais poser une question qui est à mes yeux très importante : connaît-on l’exemple ne serait-ce que d’un seul juif de Libye qui aurait porté, de quelque manière que ce soit, tort au peuple libyen ? Ou peut-on considérer, au contraire, que nous sommes des victimes qui ont payé le prix de certains évènements et qui, malgré cela, ne sont mus que par de bonnes intentions vis-à-vis de l’ensemble du peuple libyen ?

AA et MS : Pour finir, quel est le message que vous souhaiteriez adresser aux Libyens en général et aux lecteurs de cet entretien en particulier ?

RL : Je leur dis ceci : Ô peuple libyen ! Vous qui êtes ma famille en Libye ! Le temps passe, et le bateau Libye coule jour après jour. C’est pourquoi, je vous en conjure, mettez-vous d’accord, et éloignez-vous de la voie de l’extrémisme ! Construire un Etat moderne ne peut se faire que par le biais de l’ouverture intellectuelle, économique et politique, tous trois gages de stabilité, de développement et d’épanouissement.

ES – State Legitimacy And Local Governance In Libya: A Reading

SUMMARY AND MAIN RECOMMENDATIONS EMERGING FROM A SEMINAR ORGANISED IN TUNIS, FRIDAY 9 DECEMBER 2016

Five years after the fall of former president Moammar Gaddafi, instability, insecurity, war, and political divisions still prevail in Libya. In Tripoli, the chairman of the UN-backed Government of National Accord, Fayez al-Sarraj, claims that he is the only legitimate prime minister; further east, the Tobruk-based House of Representatives has not yet agreed to recognize al-Serraj’s legitimacy. Moreover, other powerful individuals claim that they are indispensable actors in the country. One such actor is ex-prime minister Khalifa Ghweil who in mid-October 2016 orchestrated a coup attempt against Prime Minister al-Sarraj. Another key contestant is general Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), and a rival to the al-Sarraj-led

Government of National Accord (GNA). Haftar’s latest “coup” was in September 2016, when he took control over important eastern oil export terminals before delivering them to the National Oil Company. While Haftar had been an important political figure in Libya, this move demonstrated the powerful means at his disposal as well as his personal quest for a national destiny.

This complex political environment is stressed further by a number of other threats and challenges. The uncertainties regarding the adoption of a new constitution, the war against Daesh and other radical movements, the key role of militias with conflicting political agendas, ideological divisions, the country’s faltering economy, and the role of tribes and clans all combine with a governance vacuum to jeopardize Libya’s future. Another key aspect will be the economic well-being of the country’s people, and whether or not the economic demands of the population are being appropriately considered.

Libya’s successive governments have all failed to address the population’s basic needs. As a result, many Libyans have turned to local governments, adding further to national divisions. There are a variety of drivers of national division. Geography, identity, and security concerns all help determine the population’s political affiliation. Currently, many Libyans look to local leaders and representatives they think can best defend their interests.

Some Libyans seek solutions by looking to their municipal councils, while others favor religious, tribal and/or clan leaders. A certain segment of the population does believe in national leaders, such as Fayez al-Sarraj or Khalifa Hafter, but it is hard to know the extent to which any such personality could represent a majority of Libyans. This complex political situation makes it increasingly important to correctly identify the trends in Libya’s most important towns and regions.

To improve understanding of these trends, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, in cooperation with Stractegia, organized a seminar in Tunis on December 9th, 2016, entitled “State Legitimacy and Local Governance in Libya.” Nearly forty guests shared their views on how to address Libya’s most pressing challenges. Participants represented many sectors of Libyan civil society: politicians, academics, human-rights activists, humanitarian workers, and civil-servants. Participants came with different, and at times conflicting, ideological points of view.

The seminar addressed four main topics: an overview of the political and institutional reality in Libya; the political prerogatives best left to local government; the aims of the Libyan civil-society amidst the growing role of the country’s tribes; and the global impact of local, national, and international perspectives on the country’s future.

Libya’s Political and Institutional Realities

Many Libyan towns and regions face instability and insecurity. Tripoli and its neighborhoods fall under the rule of militias with divergent political and ideological agendas. Despite appearances, the situation in Benghazi is hardly better: security concerns remain a problem in this important eastern city and clashes with radical groups continue to plague areas in the Western part of the city. The duration and intensity of the fighting against Daesh in Syrte indicate the degree of insecurity that prevails in some parts of country as well as the limited fighting-capacity of Libya’s armed battalions. Aside from this, the clashes that occurred at the end of 2016 in Sebha between two important tribes demonstrate the uniqueness of the Libyan political situation as well as the extent to which the country suffers from a growing political and institutional void.

We cannot explain the fragmentation of Libya’s military by blaming the absence of regular state institutions during the reign of Moammar Gaddafi. The political void that prevails in Libya today is also due to the failure of the UN-led process of reconciliation. The Tripoli-based government, set-up following the Skheirat agreements (December 2015), lacks both power and sovereignty. Compared to the government in Tripoli, the rival institution in Tobrouk, led by Abdallah al-Thinni, seems to be in a position of strength. Al-Thinni’s disagreements with the government of al-Sarraj will continue as long as the House of Representatives does not recognize the Government of National Accord (GNA).

Libya’s political divisions favored the emergence of armed groups and brigades that do not respond well to orders from the government. Well-known examples include Bunyan Marsous (BM), a coalition of fighting forces that originates from Misrata, and the Libyan National Army (LNA), which follows the orders of the east-based field marshal Khalifa Haftar. BM and the LNA are allegedly the most powerful military “institutions” in Libya. That said, they are rivals who have refused to share a common agenda, adding to the uncertainty over the future of the country.

The power of militias and the corresponding insecurity have also had a direct impact on the humanitarian and economic situation in Libya. Kidnappings are common in the country. Women, children, as well as skilled professionals, such as engineers, have mostly been the targets of these kidnapping. This level of uncertainty has put the process of national development on hold and decreased the public’s access to basic public services.

The state of the health sector is extremely worrying. The increase in the price of medicines, the impossibility for hospitals to deliver proper health services, and the spread of diseases, all present great challenges for the population. Recently, seventy-three babies died in southern Libya due to the deteriorating state of the country’s health sector.

The ability of the population to access services such as water, sewage, electricity, and telecommunications is sporadic, increasing the burden on the population. Migration remains a core issue with important consequences for the lives of Libyans. Everyday, Libyans and non-Libyans alike depart from the country’s coast in order to cross the Mediterranean. Migrants are aided by cartels profiting from illegal migration. Camps have been set up to provide basic services to migrants but their efforts have been complicated by inefficiency and inadequate facilities.

Many foreign countries are involved, directly or indirectly, in Libya. The United States, France, Italy, Russia, Egypt, Turkey and even some Gulf states have involved themselves in varying ways in Libya. Many Libyans believe that this foreign involvement has created negative externalities. Ultimately, while some voices continue to call for a democratic transition in Libya, the most likely  political outcomes for the time-being are the establishment of military rule and the reign of militias.

What prerogatives for local governments?

The important role of local governments is not a new phenomenon in Libya. Local governance, exercised through popular committees, was present during the rule of Moammar Gaddafi. Five years ago the Interim National Transitional Council adopted Law No. 59 of 2012 which affected the Local Administrative System. Law 59 helped define the role and duties of local and municipal councils, determined the powers dealt to governors and mayors, and decided the amount of financial resources to be allocated to provinces and municipalities. Reading through the law’s eighty articles makes clear that the writers of Law 59 did not think it necessary to differentiate between the concepts of “local administration” and “decentralization.”, while instability and political division have also not allowed the full implementation of some of the article’s key principles.

Municipal councils have been set up in Libya and their members are directly elected. Municipal councils fall under the purview of the Ministry of Local Governance (Wazarat al-Hukm al-Mahalli). However, the duties and activities of municipal councils should be reinforced. As of January 2017, more than half of Libya’s forty municipalities suffer from insecurity.

In some municipalities, elected local officials have been replaced by military figures. Such an outcome undermines the population’s democratic rights, increasing pressure on political systems. The arbitrary appointment of military officials–who seek to prove their importance to the country’s future– indicate the level of insecurity plaguing many Libyan towns. A key question going forward: how do Libyans view these developments? So far it seems that many voices stand in opposition to further “militarization” of Libya’s local institutions, but yet, oftentimes these voices go unheard.

Municipal councils have a very important role to play in Libya, especially since their proximity with people makes them aware of how Libya’s political trends affect life on the ground. Furthermore, municipal councils can help limit the violence provoked by the illicit flow of weapons throughout the country. Indeed, progress starts with local administrations having the capacity to assess where weapons are and who is using them. Moreover, municipal councils are able to directly communicate with the militant groups and individuals responsible for the violence. They can also reclaim weapons from militant organizations based on terms of agreements that can include the notions of forgiveness and reintegration.

The problem with local government authorities is that, while they lack money, their members also happen to be divided based on their political or ideological allegiances. The rejection by a majority of the Libyan youth of any overwhelming role for military leaders is a message that must not be missed. The country also needs to achieve serious reforms if it wants to take advantage of the pivotal and positive role that local government authorities can play. This is why an emphasis must be placed on agreeing on a new Constitution, reforming local administration, adopting a law for the functioning of the provinces (muhafazat) and appointing qualified people.

All of these objectives can hardly be achieved as long as Libya lacks the presence of a strong sovereign government. And this is where the UN and Libya’s backers can have a useful contribution, through sharing their experiences and giving relevant advice.

Civil society and the importance of the tribal factor

Civil society organisations (CSOs) existed formally under Moammar Gaddafi, but they only became relevant and active starting from 2011 onwards, thanks to the motivation of the Libyan people as well as the considerable support given to them by many public and private donors.

Five years on, it is easy to notice how limited the contribution of Libyan CSOs to “achieving the spirit of the revolution” has been. Obviously, positive examples exist, such as the experience of Jam´iyyat al-Sa´dawi, a Fezzan-based CSO that became a political party. That said, the reality is that most CSOs have not met expectations. The degree of their enthusiasm had nothing to do with this; CSO members were very motivated from the very beginning, and many of them earned considerable financial support from various donors.

Nevertheless, because of political divisions, security chaos, random circulation of weapons, and the affirmation of tribal and/or identity irredentism (ta´assob), CSOs could not claim to have changed the Libyan landscape. Their belief that changing Libya would be simple given its few inhabitants, the large youth population, and significant oil reserves, was shattered. A vibrant civil society remains the core of nation-building, but the

current situation in Libya does not allow for this. Rivalries, instability, political and ideological divisions, direct threats against CSOs and their members, and general insecurity are among the main factors forcing CSOs to hold off on activities. Political parties are becoming isolated in similar ways.

Furthermore, at a moment when governance vacuum proves problematic, tribal trends continue to have a considerable impact on social evolutions. This influence can be both positive and negative. On the one hand, there are situations where tribes cooperate with security forces and border guards in the fight against smuggling, particularly along the borders with Egypt and Tunisia. On the other hand, there are many cases (Sebha, Tobrouk…) where it is obvious that tribal tensions and rivalries only add to instability. Tribal disagreements, however, are typically resolved due in part to the presence of respected tribal members on committees of mediation.

Tribes have a history and members build on memory, follow ancestral traditions, and even guarantee social justice. Their importance is why the Libyan population and political leaders take the opinions of tribal leaders seriously. Even Moammar Gaddafi would rely on agreements with tribes and clans in an effort to ensure stability. Currently, political divisions and the absence of state sovereignty give tribes an even more pivotal social role. Tribes will remain important actors in Libya, but the question is whether they will have full sovereignty in parts of Libya due to the absence of a central government. Many Libyans do feel that in the twenty-first century it can be problematic to over-emphasize the role of tribal dynamics. Nonetheless, there remains a strong tribal factor in Libya and this system must be taken into consideration, especially given that tribes have a considerable impact on security issues.

The way forward

A single model of governance cannot define Libya. Libyans disagree over which institution holds the most power in society. The main institutions vying for power are: the Presidential Council, the Government of National Accord, the High Council of State, and the House of Representatives. All of these institutions have varying degrees of power and influence, but no one body has sovereignty over the whole of Libya.

This struggle for power raises the issue of the role of municipal councils especially in regards to the tribes, clans, and non-state actors who have recently had an expanding role in Libya. Are local government administrations in a position to compensate for the national political void? They most likely are not, especially in the short term. In their effort to consolidate power, municipal councils not only require financial means and capabilities, but also a unified vision of governance. Members need to be confident that Libyans do not perceive independent decisions by local governments as acts of treason.

Municipal councils also need to consider how “official” Libyan institutions – PC, HoR, etc. – might react towards independent initiatives. In Libya, like many Arab countries, decentralisation has given rise to geographic partitions in governance.

These issues recall one of Libya’s essential dilemmas: is a strong central government necessary to avoid further divisions? Or can Libya thrive under a system of federation while pushing for decentralisation?

Currently, the prospect of setting up a strong, central Libyan government is illusionary. On the other hand, allowing local actors (municipal councils, tribes, local leaders…) to have more power could provoke a strong, negative popular and political reaction. The international community has an important role to play in resolving this issue. Libya’s backers should focus on the following:

Continue to encourage conditions for the development of a strong central government;

Focus on the creation of a legitimate, strong army that would bring back security;

Consider the opinions of all Libyans (many official political parties in Libya feel they are ignored even though they represent significant trends within the population);

Organise regular inter-Libyan meetings to encourage the exchange of opinions and to create opportunities for reaching agreements;

Help clarify the demands of the tenants of decentralisation and local governance in a way that will promote stability;

Move beyond taboos and recognise that some social dynamics, such as the tribal factor, have to be dealt with;

Help address Libya’s many challenges (migration, oil, cash crisis…) by always framing them in terms of an “inter-Libyan agreement”.

Libya does not lack support from the international community, but the country needs honest brokers that are aware of the key challenges and social/political dynamics. Helping Libya necessitates that we revisit our pre-conceived ideas based on what is rather than what we wish for.

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