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Op-Ed: Libyan GNA having problems relocating to Tripoli

The Prime Minister of the GNC, Khalifa Al-Ghwell, was outspoken in his criticism of the role of Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) who has been urging that the GNA relocate to Tripoli from Tunis. He said that Kobler behaved more like a destructive godfather than the head of the United Nations Support Mission In Libya (UNSMIL). Kobler was to meet with officials of the GNC today but the meeting was postponed until next Monday according to Ali Abu Zabouk the Foreign Minister of the GNC. Even then, he can only come if he does not meet with any other parties during his visit. The Libya Herald reported: UN Special Envoy Martin Kobler was prevented from flying to Tripoli today by the “government” there despite a statement the day before yesterday by Nuri Abu Sahmain, head of the continuing General National Congress (GNC), that Kobler would arrive in the Libyan capital today for talks . . . It may be that Kobler was not allowed to land when the GNC discovered that he was going to meet with other parties.

Zabouk criticized the efforts being made to impose what he calls a non-accord government by taking advantage of Libyans’ needs. He is no doubt referring to the liquidity problem with the banks and the humanitarian needs that await the establishment of the GNA before they will be met. Zabouk said: “We understand that some parties want to create a real stability in Libya, but such stability cannot be achieved through reliance on foreigners or at the expense of Libya’s sovereignty..” He also criticized the threat of sanctions claiming that they did not create a good environment for negotiations with international stakeholders.

The Libya Herald also reported on Ghwell’s criticism of Kobler and other statements he has made. Ghwell has made it clear that he will not hand over power to the GNA headed by Faiez Serraj. In a statement the GNC said it would only relinquish office if “a national government that came from the hearts of Libyans was appointed. It would not stand aside for what it said was government imposed against the will of the Libyan people.” Kobler has demanded that power be handed over to the GNA immediately. The internationally recognized House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk also rejects the demand that the GNA takeover power and continues to operate. Both governments reject the GNA takeover as it is happening.

The Libya Herald is usually anti-GNC and some of its reporting reflects this. It points out that in the east Tripoli suburb of Suq al_Juma that has up to now been a stronghold of the Libya Dawn militia that supports the GNC, there were protesters demanding that Ghwell resign, and described him as head of a gang. One of the protesters told the Libya Herald: “ We supported them before to protect the revolution and provide services to people. But we’ve found out that they’re just thieves and they never stop trying to prevent national reconciliation because it means the end of their power.” The Herald claims that Aref Khoja is in Tripoli. He is appointed interior minister in the GNA. He is said to be holding meetings with sympathizers and militia leaders about providing security for Serraj when he arrives.

There is a concerted propaganda attempt to show growing support for the GNA. There are even reports that the GNC was intending to start procedures to turn over power to the GNA. The GNC issued a statement on Tuesday saying that this was false. There have been other rumors as well. One was to the effect that the president of the GNC, Nuri Sahmain, had fled the capital and that the Grand Mufti and radical Islamist Belhaj were supporting the GNA. All of this appears to be false.

Sahmain agreed to meet with Kobler March 23rd but as noted above it did not happen. Kobler could come to Tripoli next Monday. Sahmain confirmed that the GNC is still operating from Tripoli and that the rumors that he left the capital are completely false.

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