Libya inching closer to elections as calls for withdrawal of foreign forces, mercenaries intensifies

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Speaker of Libyan House of Representatives Aguila Saleh gives a press conference after a high-level meeting on Libya Constitutional track at the United Nations in Geneva.
Speaker of Libyan House of Representatives Aguila Saleh gives a press conference after a high-level meeting on Libya Constitutional track at the United Nations in Geneva.
Denis Balibouse, Pool, AFP
  • Talks are under way in Geneva between rival factions of Libya for new election dates.
  • Elections were to have taken place on 24 December last year, but the High National Election Commission dissolved electoral committees.
  • The US says Libya is held at ransom by "small cabals of men backed by weapons rather than popular legitimacy".

Since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 through a NATO-backed uprising, Libya has not known peace. But the mood within the 15-member United Nations (UN) Security Council is that the country is on its last stretch toward achieving constitutionalism.

UN under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary Anne DiCarlo, addressing the UN Security Council, said: "This [democracy] is what the Libyan people have asked for."

The Security Council met on Monday almost a week after Libyan talks were held in Cairo, Egypt from 12 to 20 June.

The talks brought together representatives from the two rival administrations running the country.

In the east, an administration backed by military commander Khalifa Haftar, governs the country, and in the west, there's a High Council of State in Tripoli, the capital city led by Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, who enjoys the support of western governments and the UN.

The country should have gone to the polls in 2018, but that was derailed by a military campaign led by Haftar. 

The elections were then slated for 24 December 2021, but were again derailed after the head of the High National Election Commission (HNEC) ordered the dissolution of the electoral committees nationwide.

The current plan is that polls should go ahead on an agreed date sometime this year.

There are expectations that talks that began in Geneva on Tuesday would come up with a conclusive date for the general elections.

READ | Libya's Haftar claims 'mandate from the people'

"It is my hope the upcoming meeting in Geneva between the heads of the House of Representative and High State Council will lead to a final and implementable agreement that would lead to the elections at the earliest possible date," DiCarlo said in the briefing to the Security Council.

James Kariuki, the UK's deputy permanent representative to the UN, said for lasting peace in the oil-rich North African state, there was a need for the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya.

He said:

Their continued presence is detrimental to peace and security in Libya and the broader region. All foreign forces and mercenaries should leave Libya without delay.

Mercenaries and foreign forces had taken sides in the Libyan impasse and this resulted in the disturbance of the use of public funds and economic activity, particularly in the oil and gas sector, the backbone of the country's economy.

Since April, oil exports from Libya had gone down by 33% with an estimated R48 billion ($3 billion) in revenue losses. The country's economy cannot afford further losses.

"The disagreement over the control and use of public funds that triggered the partial shutdown continues and could lead to further oil field closures in the near term," DiCarlo said.

Richard Mills, the deputy US representative to the UN, described insurgents in Libya as "small cabals of men, in most cases backed by weapons rather than popular legitimacy".

He said it was "appalling" that Libya was suffering at the mercy of men who had "spent the last six months cutting deals and crafting schemes to determine who will be in power, and who will get which spoils - while some three million Libyans are still waiting to exercise their right to vote for Libya's leaders".

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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