from AHMED ZAYED in Tripoli, Libya
TRIPOLI – EFFORTS to secure peace through dialogue in the restive Libya have gotten off to an undesirable start as lingering concerns over the composition of forum participants haunt the process.
This indicates the United Nations, whose mission in the North African country (UNSMIL) is leading the process in neighbouring Tunisia, is losing control of the negotiations.
Stephanie Williams, the American diplomat, heads the negotiations that began on November 9 with the hope of restoring the unity of the country that has been in turmoil since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown and later murdered in 2011.
Williams is the Acting UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya.
The outcome of the dialogue is supposed to pave way for the delayed general elections, to be organized by a new head of the Presidential Council and a Prime Minister to be appointed during the forum in Tunisia.
However, there were always fears that the composition of dialogue teams would scuttle the forum.
There are 75 participants.
The main requirement was that members should not hold public office at the time of the negotiations.
Thus, 13 participants were delegated by the House of Representatives. The High Council of State also delegated 13 participants and UNSMIL as well as representatives of civil society selected 49 participants.
There is concern these forum members have no influence in the political affairs of Libya.
Another misnomer has been the absence of representatives from the city of Tarhouna, despite it having a third of Libya’s total population of more than 6,8 million people.
The city lies 65 kilometres to the east of the capital Tripoli and the absence of members from there in the negotiations was bound to cause disharmony.
Conversely, there is reportedly some discontent that the northwestern city of Misrata in the northwest has an unduly huge number of participants.
Another sticking point is concern raised by the Supreme Council of Sheikhs and Notables that 45 participants in the political dialogue Forum were associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
There are also ructions in Tripoli remaining as the administrative capital, instead of Sirte in the north.
The retention of Tripoli is carried in a document Williams submitted for approval to the forum participants.
According to analysts, retaining Tripoli as the capital would diminish the next government’s efforts to unite the country as the city would be under constant threat from the Muslim Brotherhood and terror groups.
While the UN has dismissed the document carrying proposals by Williams as forged, sources privy to the forum insist it is authentic and indeed the UN’s grip on the negotiations is slipping away.
There are mounting allegations by participants that the UN is manipulating the process of electing the head of the Presidential Council to exclude Aguila Saleh, the jurist who is President of the House of Representatives.
He is a firm favourite to win in an election held transparently as he enjoys the support of more than 50 participants in the forum in Tunisia.
Addressing the participants at the opening ceremony, Tunisian President Kais Saied said that the launch of the dialogue was a historic moment.
“Tunisia is proud of this meeting because it will be a prelude to a new beginning in Libya,” Saied said.
Williams retained confidence in the UNSMIL-facilitated dialogue.
“We rely on the determination of the Libyans and the right of the Libyan people to protect their homeland, sovereignty and the wealth of their country,” she said.
– CAJ News