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Op-Ed: GNC Libyan government threatens to arrest GNA security officials

This move will make it almost certain that any attempt to locate the new UN-brokered Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli will generate conflict and resistance from Libya Dawn, the main military force supporting the GNC, and which controls most of Tripoli. The head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Martin Kobler, is insistent that the GNA be located in Tripoli. At present, it is operating out of Tunis. Before the term of the GNA even starts, it must have a vote of confidence from the legislature of the internationally recognized government in Tobruk in eastern Libya, the House of Representatives (HoR). So far there has been no vote, though the HoR met four times. Each time it failed to reach a quorum to vote. Ghwell issued the order in his capacity as prime minister and minister of defense of the GNC.

The 18 member temporary security team was set up in a recent decree by the Presidential Council of the GNA. The group was praised by the UN in a press release: The Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) and head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Martin Kobler, welcomes the Presidency Council’s decision (1/2016) to establish a Temporary Security Committee to facilitate the implementation of the security arrangements outlined in the Libyan Political Agreement.SRSG Kobler urges all Libyans to support and facilitate the work of the Committee and calls on all relevant national institutions and security actors to collaborate with the Committee and provide all necessary assistance to facilitate its work. “Any efforts aimed at hindering the work of these institutions would only contribute to worsening the situation in Libya and those would be held accountable for obstructing the peaceful transfer of power.”

One reason Kobler would like the GNA to be in Tripoli and have the GNA the security force there, is that this would give the GNA control of the offices of the Central Bank and the National Oil Company. Once the GNA gets control of those institutions and also the $57 billion or so in frozen Libyan assets, it will have tremendous leverage to buy off opposition and starve the competing GNC and HoR holdouts into submission by cutting off their funds.

None of the members of the Security Team are in Tripoli. The group is headed by Brigadier-General Abdurrahman Attawil. and Major-General Hamed Abud. Even a key member of the GNA government, Ali Al-Qatrani a deputy prime minister from the east of Libya objected to some of those named to the Security Team. He considers Attawil to be “controversial” as he is associated with the Islamic militias that control Tripoli. The Libya Observer describes Al-Qatrani as an ally of General Khalifa Haftar, commander in chief, of the Libyan National Army associated with the HoR.

However, Attawil is not looked upon favorably by some in the GNC who wanted to fire him for his poor performance as southern regional commander in 2012. Kobler has driven a wedge between the various militias who used to all support Libya Dawn. His predecessor, Bernardino Leon, did the same thing, exploiting an existing division within Misrata militia and convincing a number of groups to support the GNA.

Ghwell warned soldiers and police in areas controlled by Libya Dawn not to be deceived by promises that would be made by prime minister designate Faiez Serraj or his people. He has ordered that any of the Security Team that appear should be detained and questioned.

The GNC sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon requesting that he halt any action or act by the UN-imposed government before the GNC takes a decision regarding the government. This is totally unrealistic. The UN will claim that the GNA decides what it will do, not the UN. Also, the GNC has made no effort to make a decision on the GNA and in effect itself claims to be moving on to other practical issues. The letter warns that the GNC will take all legal and security measures to maintain “Libya’s sovereignty and to ensure the safety of the homeland.” Translated, this means that the GNC will enforce its control over the area in which it is active. Al-Ghwell went further and said the formation of the team by an illegal party, outside of the Libyan state, would incite violence and instigate rebellion in the Libyan army. This may be precisely what the GNA expected or perhaps they hope that the entire Libya Dawn structure will collapse and join the GNA.

Today is the deadline for the GNA to present a list of members of the government together with its political program to the HoR for a vote of confidence that must take place within ten days. So far, Kobler has no press release detailing progress on this historic date.

UPDATE: The English text of the directive establishing the Security Team can be found here. The text gives the entire membership and sets out the functions of the group. The directive claims to be a law. Why that should be, I fail to understand since the GNA’s term does not begin until after the vote of confidence by the HoR, which has yet to happen.

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