Cairo Libya peace initiative seen as attempt to keep Hafter and Saleh relevant – so far ignored by Tripoli
By Sami Zaptia.
London, 7 June 2020:
At a Cairo press conference yesterday led by Egypt President Sissi, Libya’s House of Representatives (HoR) head Ageela Saleh, and Libyan National Army (LNA) commander, Khalifa Hafter, launched a peace initiative for Libya. Much of the initiative is the recycling of what has passed before, including Saleh’s April eight-point initiative.
The initiative can be viewed on several levels. It was an attempt by Cairo to keep their allies, Saleh and Hafter, united after their apparent fallout on 8 April – when they had announced conflicting initiatives on the same day. Hafter’s announcement had been interpreted as a coup.
It can be viewed as an attempt by Cairo to keep the two politically relevant and an attempt to ensure they have a seat at any forthcoming negotiations. It follows that it is also an attempt by Cairo to have representatives at those negotiations and continued top-level influence in the politics of Libya.
It can also be interpreted as an attempt by Cairo to save its face and the face of its two allies in view of their military setbacks.
On the immediate and practical level, the initiative calls for a ceasefire by 06.00 hours, Monday 8 June.
However, the initiative is at odds with the military reality on the ground, with Tripoli sprinting from April to the first week of June from the coastal towns of Surman and Sabrata – to the outskirts of Sirte.
The question must then be asked: Why didn’t Saleh, Hafter and their foreign backers accept a ceasefire when they were at the gates of Tripoli? Emboldened by Turkish support and having gained momentum and found themselves on the front foot, why should the Tripoli-aligned forces accept a ceasefire now? What is their incentive to do so? In view of all the damage Hafter’s campaign has caused to western Libya, why not attempt to capture Sirte, Jufra airbase and the eastern oilfields and eradicate Hafter as a power altogether?
Much will depend on what the international backers of the two sides want to do in this proxy war. Will Russia and Egypt put up resistance to Turkey’s decisive aircover to enable Hafter some resistance at Sirt, Jufra or the eastern oilfields? Or have they given up on Hafter or made a separate deal – making Hafter dispensable?
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.
The fact that the proposal puts Hafter and his LNA at its centre is very likely going to receive a total rejection by the powers in Tripoli and more importantly its aligned powerful western Libya militias.
The Cairo initiative says foreign mercenaries must be removed from Libya, militias must be dismantled, and their weapons handed over so that the LNA, in cooperation with the security services, can carry out their military and security tasks in the country.
The initiative also goes on to say that ‘‘To regain the State’s control over all security institutions and support the military institution (the LNA) to assume its responsibilities in combating terrorism and asserting its role in cooperation with the security and police agencies to protect Libyan sovereignty and restore maritime, air, and land security. This again puts Hafter’s LNA at the heart of the new security institutions.
Politically, the Cairo initiative again recycles the proposal to regionally elect a new three-person Presidency Council which will nominate an external prime minister – subject to HoR approval. All top positions and ministries shall be shared out regionally and the HoR shall amend the currently operating 2011 Temporary Constitutional Declaration after electoral assemblies for each region form a committee to draft a new constitution.
Under this initiative, Libya will endure yet another ‘‘transitional period’’ of weak government which will take the country to beyond 10 years since Qaddafi was toppled – of initially 18 months, and which can be increased by a maximum of 6 months,
During this period, all Libyan state institutions, especially the main economic institutions, notably the Central Bank of Libya, National Oil Corporation, and Libyan Investment Authority – shall be restructured and their boards reshuffled.
All economic and monetary institutions in eastern, southern, and western Libya are to be unified to implement structural economic reforms and prevent Libyan funds from reaching any militias, and ensure a fair and transparent distribution of Libyan resources to all citizens.
Here is the full text of the Cairo initiative:
- To emphasize Libya’s unity, integrity, and independence, respect for all international efforts and initiatives and relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and accordingly, all parties’ commitment to the ceasefire as of 8th June 2020.
- The initiative is based mainly on the outcomes of the Berlin Summit, which resulted in a comprehensive political solution that includes clear implementation steps (political, security, and economic tracks), respect for human rights and international human rights law, and an investment of the consensus that resulted from the Berlin Summit between the leaders of the concerned countries with the Libyan crisis.
- To complete the work of the Military Committee (“5+5”) course in Geneva under the UN auspices to ensure the consequent success of the remaining tracks (political, security, and economic), taking into account the importance of the UN and the international community’s obliging all foreign parties to remove the foreign mercenaries from Libya, dismantling militias, and handing over their weapons so that the LNA, in cooperation with the security services, can carry out their military and security tasks in the country.
- To work towards restoring Libyan national institutions while identifying the appropriate Libyan national mechanism to revive the political track under the UN auspices benefiting from the efforts of the international community to resolve the Libyan crisis.
- To regain the State’s control over all security institutions and support the military institution (the LNA) to assume its responsibilities in combating terrorism and asserting its role in cooperation with the security and police agencies to protect Libyan sovereignty and restore maritime, air, and land security.
- The Presidential Council shall take decisions by a majority of votes, except for sovereign decisions related to the armed forces, which shall be adopted by consensus based on the proposals of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and in his presence.
- Each of Libya’s three regions (Eastern Region, Western Region, and Southern Region), shall form an electoral assembly whose members are selected from among the members of the HOR and the State Council representing each region, along with tribal elders and notables and considering an acceptable representation of women and youth, in addition to political elites selected from among intellectuals and unions. The three electoral assemblies shall meet under the UN auspices to be agreed upon and for each region to choose its representative, either by consensus or election, within 90 days.
- Each region shall select its representative for the Presidential Council, as well as a Deputy Prime Minister from among the competent and patriotic Libyans to form a Presidential Council of one president and two Deputies. Then, the Presidential Council shall nominate the Prime Minister, who in turn, together with his two Deputies, shall form a government and present it to the Presidential Council in preparation for referring it to the HOR for a vote of confidence.
- The United Nations shall supervise the electoral assemblies in general to ensure the integrity of the process of selecting candidates for the Presidential Council.
- Each region shall have a proportional number of ministerial portfolios commensurate with its population after agreeing to the members of the new Presidential Council and naming the Prime Minister. No single region shall have the presidency of more than one of the three authorities, namely the Presidential Council, the HOR, and the Cabinet. The region of Tripoli shall have 9 ministries, Cyrenaica region 7, and Fezzan region 5, while the 6 sovereign ministries shall be divided among the three regions equally (two ministries for each region) with the appointment of two deputies from the other two regions for each minister.
- The HOR shall adopt the amendments to the constitutional declaration through a legal committee formed by the Speaker, Mr. Aguila Saleh after the committee (comprising representatives from among the members of the HOR and the State Council) agrees on the points that must be modified in the constitutional declaration within 30 days starting from the date of the first session.
- Under the UN supervision, the electoral assembly for each region shall form a committee of competent national figures, constitutional experts, and intellectuals, to be approved by the Libyan HOR to draft a new constitution for the country that defines the form for governance of the Libyan state and put it to the popular referendum for approval (the committee shall complete its work within 90 days from the date of its formation).
- The transitional period shall be 18 months, which can be increased by a maximum of 6 months, during which all the Libyan state institutions, especially the main economic institutions, notably the Central Bank of Libya, National Oil Corporation, and Libyan Investment Corporation shall be restructured and their boards shall be reshuffled to ensure the effectiveness of the new government’s performance and providing it with the necessary resources to manage the transitional period that would end with the organization of presidential and parliamentary elections.
- To take the necessary executive measures to unify all economic and monetary institutions in eastern, southern, and western Libya, implement structural economic reforms, prevent Libyan funds from reaching any militias, and ensure a fair and transparent distribution of Libyan resources to all citizens.