By Sami Zaptia.
London, 25 April 2020:
Ageela Saleh, the head of Libya’s internationally recognized parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR), launched a political initiative to end the Libyan crisis, which he hoped would enjoy local and international support.
In a speech broadcast on Thursday night, the eve of the holy and fasting month of Ramadan, Saleh stressed that he was “ready with national figures and political elites to provide sincere advice to reach the elements capable of overcoming and solving the problems and issues of this country,”, hoping his HoR colleagues would “be the first supporters of this proposal.”
Saleh announced an eight-point political initiative based on the restructuring of the current executive branch (the Presidency Council (PC) of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) signed in the Moroccan city of Skhirat in Dec 2015.
The LPA is the current political framework under which Libya operates. It was agreed after the 2014 Tripoli militia coup overthrew the former political order agreed since the 2012 democratic parliamentary elections and confirmed by the 2014 democratic parliamentary elections. The coup led to Libya’s political split and plunge into a quasi civil war which has continued with twists and turns until today.
The LPA had given birth to the supposedly compromise and consensual Presidential Council (PC) led by Faiez Serraj. However, the PC failed to function consensually, and its eastern and Zintani members resigned leaving the current three-person PC operated almost unilaterally by Serraj from Tripoli.
In his new initiative, Saleh proposed the re-selection of the PC, on the three historical regions (Cyrenaica, Tripoli and Fezzan), and the rewriting of the constitution with the HoR continuing to operate until new legislative elections are held.
The proposal to re-formulate the PC into the so-called ‘‘three plus one formula’’ is not a new proposal. It was proposed in 2018 and both the HoR and High State Council (HSC) had agreed on a process – by setting up a joint Dialogue Committee – and made long strides in its reformulation.
It will be recalled that, under the terms of the LPA, the PC can only be re-formulated consensually by both the HoR and HSC. The 2018 PC reformulation proposal involved choosing a three-person PC who would in-turn choose a Prime Minister from without the PC – whereas with the current set up the Prime Minister is one of the members of the PC.
However, after making good progress the HoR and HSC failed to make progress and Serraj reinforced his position or pre-empted his removal – by making concessions to the HSC by appointing ministers aligned to them. This seemed to have scuppered the proposed reform of the PC and almost certain replacement of Serraj.
With regards to Khalifa Hafter and his Libyan National Army (LNA), Saleh does not mention Hafter or his role directly, but proposes that ‘‘The Libyan National Armed (LNA) Forces are doing their part to protect this country and its security and may not in any way be compromised’’.
However, he goes on to propose that the new Presidential Council ‘‘shall take over the functions of commander-in-chief of the armed forces during this phase’’. He also goes on to propose that ‘‘The armed forces have the right to nominate the Minister of Defence’’.
On Saleh’s proposal to consult Libyan elites and social leaders, this seems to be very similar to what UNSMIL’s Ghassan Salame had proposed through the National Conference (@multaqa.libya) that consulted widely across Libya and was set to meet in Ghadames on 14-16 April 2019 – when Hafter pre-empted it and launched a military attack on Tripoli. The Conference was postponed by UNSMIL and never met.
Although at the time of publication there has been no official response from the Serraj government nor from UNSMIL, Tripoli critics have already dismissed the proposal as a rehash of old proposals. They also see it as a last ditch effort to save the HoR and its LNA in view of recent military defeats on the battleground. The fact that the proposal puts the Hafter-led LNA at its centre is very likely going to receive a total rejection by the powers in Tripoli and its powerful militias.
Here is the full text of Ageela Saleh’s political proposal:
On the occasion of the holy month of Ramadan, I extend my best congratulations to the Libyan people and the Islamic nation, hoping that this month will be the end of the epidemic and the beginning of achieving libyans’ hopes for security, stability and the building of their desired state.
I cannot fail to praise the efforts of the government and the High Committee to combat the Corona epidemic, auxiliary medical and medical staff, the Libyan armed forces and the security services, and the efforts being made to overcome this global crisis, which would not have succeeded without the commitment of the Libyan people to precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the epidemic.
The post-Corona world, gentlemen, and the regressive economies will not be the same as before, either prompting the international community to reconsider the system of human values that unite the nations of the world and correct the deviation that has occurred as a result of ignoring the will of the peoples and their right to a decent life, or it will tend to be further unjust and ogre, and in which the divided, vulnerable peoples become a common place for colonialism to return.
It is time to put an end to the past and to cut ties with the causes of fighting and the triggers of hatred, and to direct with a sincere intention and determination to achieve a Libyan-Libyan consensus that we are building on a secure and stable homeland under the banner of brotherhood and respect.
I do not want to return to the beginning of the crisis in the country, and I will stop at the moment when the so-called political Islam and the struggle of thieves in the face of nascent democracy were lifted following the election of Libya’s first parliament (the HoR in 2014) in nearly half a century.
Since we (the HoR) began our mission as an elected legislative authority to participate in various dialogues and in different Arab and European capitals. We have made proposals to resolve the crisis and stop the conflict, and we have left the doors of the HoR in Dar es Salaam (Tobruk) to the boycotters of its sessions, our aim being to leave the road back open for all for the benefit of all Libyans.
It was not possible to allow terrorist groups, militias and armed gangs to take over towns and villages, continue to control the necks of their people and blackmail state institutions at gunpoint.
It was not possible to allow certain terrorist groups to decide the fate of the country in accordance with their objectives and to achieve their objectives, which have nothing to do with the wishes and aspirations of Libyans.
Libya was established as a state of three provinces by Resolution 284-4 of November 21, 1949, and because there are no real political organizations or active blocs and because Libyan society consists of national tribes with their leaders and dignitaries – these tribes were and continue to be the owners of the solution and the contract, and among their sons are great political elites who enjoy patriotism and concern for the future of Libya. We affirm the need to return to the Libyan people represented in the social forces to choose who will restore their dignity, security and stability to this country.
The choice of national leaders for the wisdom and resolution of its long and complex crisis by putting the country on the right path to reach a viable and sustainable state. We affirm that beyond what we are in, after a catastrophic failure of political dialogue, and the HoR and the HSC have not reached an agreement and will not reach a solution to the Libyan crisis because of conflicts of interest. And several them want to continue the chaos, because they know that if the country stabilizes and its institutions are united, the fruits of chaos and the continuation of conflict will stop.
The return to the Libyan people is a national demand to save Libya and put it on the right path to achieve a state-building on the foundations of justice and equality.
To this end, we propose the following:
- Each of Libya’s three regions should choose their representatives in the Presidential Council of Presidents and Deputies, by consensus or by secret vote under the auspices of the United Nations.
- After its adoption, the Presidential Council nominates a prime minister and his deputies representing the three regions to form a government that will be presented to the HoR for a vote of confidence, and the Prime Minister and his two deputies will be partners in the adoption of the decisions of the Council of Ministers.
- After the formation of the Presidential Council, a committee of experts and intellectuals is formed to draft a constitution for the country by consensus, after which presidential and parliamentary elections will be held that will result from the adopted constitution, which will determine the shape of the state and its political system.
- The Libyan National Armed (LNA) Forces are doing their part to protect this country and its security and may not in any way be compromised, and the new Presidential Council shall take over the functions of commander-in-chief of the armed forces during this phase.
- The House of Representatives continues to exercise its mission and role as an elected legislative authority until a new House of Representatives is elected.
- The territory from which the President of the Presidential Council is chosen does not choose the Prime Minister.
- The President of the Presidential Council and his deputies are not entitled to run for the presidency in the first presidential elections.
- The armed forces have the right to nominate the Minister of Defence.
In view of this political split, we see the need to return the trust mandate to its people, the Libyan people, who have the first and last word in determining the country’s destiny.
I hope that the United Nations will begin by inviting the social leaders and political elites chosen by the three regions to choose and nominate their representatives in the PC and the removal of parties that do not want a just solution to the Libyan crisis that have been behind Libya’s tragedies, injustices and corruption.
We ask all states, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Security Council to support this proposal. We are ready with national figures and political elites to provide sincere advice to reach out to the elements capable of overcoming and resolving the problems and issues of this country, and we hope that my fellow people’s HoR members will be the first supporters of this proposal.