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Op-Ed: Trouble for Libya unity government as east threatens to separate

They were also angry at the arrival of the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. The acceptance of the GNA in the west and to some degree in the south has been growing. This statement, however, shows that the new government is not yet one of national accord.

Significantly the meeting took place in Marj, where commander-in-chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA), General Khalifa Haftar, has his headquarters. Among those present at the meeting was Ali Gatrani, a boycotting member of the Presidency Council of the GNA and a strong supporter of Haftar. The group statement said the sanctions by the EU were a violation of Libyan sovereignty. The group also said that the HoR was the only legitimate legislature and until the GNA was endorsed by the HoR there would be no co-operation with it. Ironically, the HoR is also the legislature of the GNA. Perhaps, it will not cooperate with itself. The statement also rejected cooperation with any government protected by militias. The LNA is mostly composed of Haftar’s former militias, and the oil export ports are protected by the militia of Ibrahim Jodhran.

The statement said that the LNA was “a red line” and had to be supported. They said that if the Presidency Council ignores their demands then they would campaign for self-determination in Cyrenaica. the eastern part of Libya. Haftar supporters are now enlisting federalists who want more autonomy for Cyrenaica. Now that Jodhran has supported the GNA in order to be able to export oil, the federalists may very well find Haftar’s position attractive. If Hatar is successful, Jodhran might decide to abandon the GNA. Otherwise, he may face a battle with Haftar for control of the oil ports.

The Libya Herald said it was thought that Haftar fully supports the statement in spite of the separatist threat. He may even think that since the GNA is unlikely to meet the demands of the group, he will end up as the ruler of Cyrenaica, supported by countries such as Egypt and the UAE. If the GNA gives in to the groups’ demands that would include keeping Haftar as commander in chief of the LNA, the Islamists in the GNA would probably rebel or even leave, leading to the collapse of the government. While Haftar himself was not at the meeting, Gatrani, often viewed as his mouthpiece, was there.

The pro-GNC Libya Observer also reported on the meeting, noting that the group said the GNA was illegitimate until given a vote of confidence by the HoR. However, the GNA simply accepted a statement by an alleged majority of the HoR that they approved of the GNA as equivalent to a vote of confidence by the HoR and as a result declared themselves in operation, to the applause of the UN Security Council and numerous western countries including the U.S. Numerous meetings of the HoR have been held since with no quorums, in spite of Salah twice pleading that members show up. He is sanctioned by the EU for supposedly impeding the process. The Observer notes the key demand of the group: “The Arab Libyan Military forces led by Khalifa Haftar are a red line that cannot be crossed.” The statement said, adding that the post of the Commander in Chief of the military forces should go to Aqilah Saleh being the president of the parliament. According to Skhirat agreement, the powers of the Commander in Chief of the military forces move to the Presidency Council of Skhirat government. The GNA has ignored the fact that it should be the head of the LNA. The Observer notes as well that Abu Buera, a member of the HoR and a federalist had called for a military council led by Khalifa Haftar to run the country. On Monday, we will see if there is a meeting of the HoR and enough HoR members show up to deal with these crucial issues. I expect not. Kobler and others will be rushing to the east trying to bring the HoR on board with promises they will probably find are impossible to keep without destroying the GNA.

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