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article imageOp-Ed: UN envoy responds to missed deadline for signing Libya peace deal

By Ken Hanly     Oct 21, 2015 in World
Tobruk - The mandate of the internationally-recognized House of Representatives(HoR) based in Tobruk has now expired. Neither it nor the rival General National Congress parliament based in Tripoli have approved the UN-brokered Libya Political Agreement(LPA).
The UN special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, had set October 20 as the final deadline for the LPA to be approved by both parliaments since after that time the HoR will no longer have any legitimacy. However, the HoR unilaterally extended its mandate some time ago, anticipating what has happened. While the extension was technically invalid, do not expect any country to withdraw recognition from the HoR or Council of Deputies(CoD) as this article calls it: "After October 21, the Council of Deputies (CoD) based in Tobruk and Bayda will see its legal mandate expire because its extension was technically invalid. The CoD voted to extend its own mandate on October 5, but the extension can only be validated by referendum. As the only elected body in the country, the Parliament constitutes the internationally-recognised government of Libya. However, the 2014 elections were widely boycotted - just 18% of the electorate participated - and the CoD was later forced out of Tripoli by Islamist militias. Not only do the militias still hold Tripoli, they now back the General National Congress (GNC) as the legitimate Libyan government. The mandate of the GNC expired in 2014. The estimate of an 18 percent turnout is probably optimistic. Another source puts the turnout at 14 percent, with many boycotting the election and also many of those elected refusing to go to Tobruk, thus boycotting the sessions. Added to this is that in November of last year, the Libyan Supreme Constitutional Court ruled the elections invalid and said the HoR should be dissolved. The international community paid no attention, nor did the HoR who claimed the decision was made under duress. The GNC government, which calls itself the Government of National Salvation, regularly refers to the HoR as the "dissolved parliament" since it accepts the ruling of the court. Don't ever expect to see reference to the dissolved parliament or the National Salvation government in any mainstream press articles.
Although the HoR issued a statement that Leon's draft was not acceptable and that only an earlier draft could be considered by the HoR, Leon, as he did when the HoR rejected the draft earlier, claimed it was not really rejected: As you know there has been a position announced by the Speaker of the House of Representatives followed by a statement signed by what seems to be a majority of the members insisting that there was no proper vote and that was no proper decision taken by the House of Representatives on the agreement. Leon then said the process would go on. It is not clear exactly how it will go on but Leon claims there will be more meetings in the coming days: ..the process is going on, we will convene new meetings in the coming days to listen to proposals and ideas from the Libyans involved in the process and those outside the process to go on, because it is very urgent that the unity government is in Tripoli, is sending positive messages from Tripoli. It is not a government yet, it’s true, we need the endorsement of the agreement by the institutions involved in this dialogue to become a full government, but it is important that the Libyans see that we go on and that the proposals from this dialogue will prevail. There is reference to the "unity government in Tripoli" which is "not a government yet." Has Leon arranged some "government" of people he named in the LPA annexes that is actually in place in Tripoli? This is absolutely weird and quite inappropriate given that both rival governments reject the officials named by Leon for the Government of National Accord(GNA) and neither side has approved of the LPA.
You might think it is the international community rather than Libya calling the shots. This is so obvious that Leon is at pains to deny it: This is, let me enhance this point, this is a Libyan-owned process, this is not the international community, this is not the United Nations, bringing solution for the Libyans. If this was the case, in two or three weeks the international community could have put on the table a text, a proposal for the Libyans to accept it, but this is not the case, this has been a process that has taken more than a year. This is just so much nonsense. If the UN had done this it would have been rejected a year ago rather than now. The UN and the international community has been all along threatening anyone who stands in the way of what the international community approves, even at times continuing the process and pretending there is an agreement when one party did not initial the agreement. Both rival governments see through this facade. They simply hope to make the other side the party that is blocking a deal so that the international community will punish them.
Leon was adamant in insisting that the draft agreement could not be altered. In particular,he noted the dialogue could not go back to the earlier draft initialed by the HoR but not by the GNC. The GNC boycotted the meeting because the draft gave them no power and had been amended unilaterally without their agreement or even knowledge. The demand by the HoR that they return to that draft is a non-starter. The only reason the GNC is still in the dialogue process at all is because amendments were made.
In answer to a question as to whether the UN still recognized the HoR as a legitimate government, Leon said that was up to the international community, not the UN. However, Leon suggests that he thinks the HoR might actually approve the draft if members were allowed to vote: However, today we are in a kind of limbo and I want to give you my personal view here. The HoR has not been allowed to vote. This what we hear from this statement coming from a very important group of members, what seems to be a majority of the members of the HoR, close to 70 members. I expect that the reason that there was no vote was not because the draft would pass, but because it would not and this would bring the wrath of the UN and the international community on the HoR. A majority of the HoR would be 94 not 70:The House of Representatives is made of 200 members representing most of the towns and cities of Libya, except some towns like Berber Jado and Zuwarah, who boycotted the elections due to constitutional marginalisation, if not sponsored persecution. One hundred and sixty eight (168) seats were allocated to men, leaving thirty two (32) seats for women [3]. In total only 188 members were elected on the 25th of June 2014, with 12 seats remaining undecided due to boycott and violence erupting in some polling stations.
Leon may have been making reference simply to those present at the meeting which according to the Libya Herald was 135.
There are splits within the GNC as well as the HoR on accepting the draft, but neither side seems willing to accept it as it is, even though there may be significant support for simply forging ahead. On the GNC side, the Justice and Construction Party — seen to be the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood — supports the draft as is despite reservations. The group probably sees the GNA as a way of avoiding the development of a situation such as that in Egypt where in fact the military takes over and wages a campaign against them.
This is what General Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the HoR armed forces, plans no doubt. He wants the HoR to be replaced by a military council with him as head. President of the HoR Ageela Saleh is off to Egypt with other officials to gain support for rejection of the LPA. From Egypt, they will move on the United Arab Emirates. Both countries have pledged support for Haftar who has all along rejected the LPA. Haftar was supposed to be sanctioned by the EU some time ago but instead he has gained support from a number of Arab countries and the Arab League and signed a military deal with Jordan. The international community has to either decide to dump Haftar or forget about the non-existent Government of National Accord.
On the appended video, Leon says that those opposed to the agreement have not suggested any alternative solution. This is sheer nonsense. Where has Leon been since Operation Dignity was launched in May of 2014?Haftar has consistently claimed there is a military solution. His ongoing attacks on militants including his resolve to retake all the territory controlled by the GNC and defeat their armed forces is his solution. He is continuing with that solution while the UN and the international community are fruitlessly attempting to impose a new unity government. This solution can never get off the ground in any event when there is no parallel military agreement between the two rival militaries.
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
More about HoR Libya, GNC government libya, Bernardino Leon
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