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article imageOp-Ed: Prime minister designate Serraj announces Libyan unity government

By Ken Hanly     Jan 19, 2016 in Politics
Tunis - The announcement of the formation of the Libyan Government of National Accord(GNA) was made early this morning. The declaration was signed by only seven of the nine members of the Presidency Council, the senior officials of the GNA.
Two members, Ali Gatrani, a designated deputy minister and Omar Al-Aswad, a Presidency Council minister, had earlier suspended their membership of the Council. According to the Libya Herald: They did so in support for General Khalifa Hafter, demanding that the Libyan Political Agreement clause that the Presidency Council take over as supreme commander of the armed forces be dropped and, reportedly in opposition to the appointment of Al-Mahdi Ibrahim Al-Barghathi as defence minister. CIA-linked General Haftar is the commander in chief of the Libyan National Army associated with the internationally-recognized House of Representatives (HoR) based in Tobruk and Bayda. Bayda has demanded that the HoR leave the city. Most of the government offices are there rather than in Tobruk.
The addition to Section 8 of the Libyan Polltical Agreement(LPA) says all the senior military position functions are to be carried out by the Presidential Council from the time of the signing of the LPA back on December 17 last year. This provision has been ignored and Haftar continues as commander in chief of the LNA. The GNA has clearly not been carrying out their obligations under the LPA. This apparently is of no significance. Equally of no significance is the fact that the HoR mandate ran out last October and there was no legal basis for extending it unilaterally. This can safely be ignored since it is what the powers that count accept that is relevant. The UN Security Council and many foreign power brokers want the GNA to go forward so if the HoR votes confidence in the GNA that is all that matters.
Events are no doubt being steered by the Presidency Council in collaboration with the Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) In Liibya. The Herald give a frank assessment of how things were done: The names were selected in collaboration with members of the House of Representatives negotiating on behalf of their towns and areas, not on the basis of competence for the job. This was done to try an ensure that the HoR now votes for the package. It has to do so within ten days, by 29 January.
All of the HoR representatives who support the GNA will also be guaranteed jobs in the GNA as the HoR becomes the sole legislative body of the GNA. Nevertheless, Kobler will need to give some ironclad guarantee that Haftar remains in his position as commander of the LNA before he can hope to pass the GNA through the HoR, and many may also object to some of those named as part of the government.
A meeting of the HoR could happen as early as today. If there is no quorum, this will show that "the fix is not in" as yet. So far the GNA is operating only through ignoring Article 8. Perhaps someone has told HoR members that this can go on indefinitely and that Haftar's role should not be an issue. Even if the GNA ignores section 8 of the LPA, the Presidency Council is required to appoint someone to be commander in chief of the LNA within the GNA in a reasonably short time and this will generate opposition from many members of the GNA from the west and the former GNC should Haftar retain his position.
The Herald notes there will be 105 ministers with only one being a woman. As the Guardian report on the new government notes: Women lose out in Libya’s new order. Sarraj ignored Kobler’s request to have women form 30% of his cabinet by appointing only one, culture minister Asma Mustafa al-Usla.
This is of no significance of course as Martin Kobler SRSG welcomed the formation of the GNA: “This is a sterling opportunity for Libyans to come together to build their country. The formation of the Government of National Accord (GNA) is one important leap on the path to peace and stability in Libya, I congratulate the Libyan people. Hard work lies ahead”. No doubt there will be numerous other cheerleaders joining in. Already Fredirica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, has joined the chorus and noted that EU foreign ministers had reaffirmed their readiness to support the GNA once it takes office. I am not sure if it is a misprint with the Herald putting "Hafter" for "Kobler" but the paper claims: Said Hafter: “I call on the members of the HoR and its presidency to uphold the country’s national interest above all other considerations and promptly convene to discuss and endorse the proposed cabinet”. I would be surprised if Haftar said anything such as this as some of his supporters are resigning from the GNA because his status in the new GNA is not guaranteed. Indeed if the GNA had pain any attention to Article 8 he would have lost his job over a month ago.
There are rumours that there could be vote on the GNA in the HoR as early as today.However, Kobler must ensure that there is a quorum and that they will vote in the right way, that is to give a vote of confidence in the GNA. Given that the GNA has paid not attention to the LPA requirement that they take on Haftar's job perhaps Kobler can assure HoR members that the status quo of Haftar as commander of the LNA will not change.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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