This week in Libya: murder, mayhem and the continued push towards total state failure. While the army in Benghazi continues to inch towards complete liberation of the city, the conflict in Derna becomes more complicated. The South continues to be ignored as smuggling, immigration and the ethnic fighting goes on unchecked. And in West Libya, ISIS casts a longer shadow with each passing day.
But hey, that’s what all this around-the-world dialogue is for, right? In case you’re one of the growing number of people who are cutting news and social media out of their lives, here’s some background; the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) is conducting a series of national dialogue sessions with the warring factions of the Libyan conflict (which includes the GNC, the HoR, prominent (or so they say) members of Libyan society, and war lords, among others). The ultimate goal of these talks is to reach a ‘peace agreement’ between all sides, in order to lift Libya out of civil war.
Several drafts of the peace agreement have been released to the public (although how these drafts were reached is hard to determine, as UNSMIL remains tight-lipped on the particulars of the dialogue sessions). The fourth (and supposedly final) draft was released last Monday, to a less-than-enthusiastic Libyan audience.
Within an hour of the release of version 4 of the draft, Libyan social media erupted with comments. Using the hashtag (#FourthDraft), Libyans remarked (and in some cases ranted) on the document that is touted as the saving grace of the country. Opinions ranged from “This is a reasonable and workable draft” to “This is all a conspiracy against us!!”
So, what makes this final peace agreement draft such a debated and heated topic? From my own observations:
1) The High Council of State: In the peace agreement, the House of Representatives remains the legislative authority of the country, and a new ‘National Accord’ government is designated as the executive.
But a third body has been created, ‘the High Council of State’. According to the draft, this body is purely ‘consultative’, although it does appear that they hold some legislative powers as they are granted ‘binding opinions’ on draft laws.
However, it’s not just the blurry role this council has. In the last draft, an article has been added that states that 90 seats of the 120 seats of the State Council are to filled by members of the General National Congress.
Yes, THAT General National Congress. The same one that has led us to this mess in the first place. It appears that this move was taken solely to appease the GNC so that they can agree on the draft. However, bringing back half this defunct body and giving them a place in the new government structure isn’t exactly a popular move. In fact, most of the outrage about draft #4 has been over this move.
Besides the fact that the GNC doesn’t exactly have an impressive record of achievement for them to be consulted on matters of state, the current body as it exists continues to show support towards groups like Ansar Shariah. Giving them three quarters of the seats in this council is also an inordinate percentage.
2) Councils, Committees and Commissions Galore: The State Council isn’t the only body to be created if this agreement is implemented. While I haven’t counted the exact number, there appears to be at least a dozen councils and committees to be formed. These councils are specified for a wide array of jobs, from a ‘Women’s Support and Empowerment Unit’, to a specialized council for reconstruction of war-affected areas.
In my limited experience, the councils and committees that are set up in Libya are done so for the primary goal of providing a fancy position for people who want one. With this draft, there will be a seat for everyone who’s currently clamoring for some kind of power, probably with some to spare, too. But how effective (or even necessary) some of these committees will be is not guaranteed. Among them is the ‘Libyan Political Dialogue’, which apparently transforms from the group orchestrating the dialogue process into an actual body. They will continue to exist with questionable levels of authority.
3) Who’s Who?: As many observers have noted, the distribution of powers in the new government structure is rather vague. The HoR is supposed to be the legislative authority, but the State Council seems to have some sway with regards with legislature. The ‘Libyan Political Dialogue’ also seems to hold exceptional powers.
Aside from the power division, there is some confusion over the terminolgy. The Libyan army is recognized as the regular military force, but who is officially covered under the term ‘army’? One of the problems in the conflict is the double meanings that various terms have. One man’s ‘revolutionary’ is another man’s ‘terrorist’, and one person’s ‘army’ is another’s ‘azlam’.
Overall, I believe the draft is an acceptable document. I think I speak for many, many Libyans when I say that the war has gone on for too long. Any solution at this point is welcome, as long as it means an end to the bloodshed and the return of normal life.
However, with that in mind, a peace agreement must be one that ensures peace, not one that simply divides power. The current document, as it stands, has a number of loopholes that can keep the conflict going on indefinitely. Aside from that, there’s really no guarantee that any of the people who will be appointed into the overall structure will actually work towards creating and maintaining peace, or some kind of mechanism that deals with those that attempt to obstruct the process.
The final date to accept this peace deal is June 17. So far, all sides are still deliberating on it, and a meeting in Germany today hasn’t produced any tangible results. I’m not sure what will happen next week, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that hopefully, we see an end to the war soon.