Wednesday, March 9, 2016

UN envoy Kobler reports on Libyan situation to UN Security Council

Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, has just recently issued a news release of his report to the United Nations Security Council on the situation in Libya.

The release can be found on the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) website. The tone of the release is more sombre and less upbeat than usual. Kobler speaks of the progress of forming the GNA meeting a number of milestones but remaining precarious. He also claims Libya has no effective state institutions,
While there may be some truth in Kobler's claim, the two rival governments do control considerable territory in Libya. The original Libyan Dialogue was intended to get them to agree to a Libya Political Agreement (LPA) and a unity government of national accord (GNA). When this failed, after a year of trying, Kobler simply called together members who supported the LPA and had them sign the draft of the LPA that former envoy Bernardino Leon had presented to both parliaments. The UN in effect did not ever achieve what it originally intended. While the internationally recognized government in Tobruk, the House of Representatives (HoR), and the rival General National Congress (GNC) both have legitimacy problems, they at least exist and function — even if not efficiently. The GNA is entirely propped up by the UN and international support and does not even exist within Libya but spends its time in Tunisia and Morocco, and its officials travel constantly to meet with officials of important national players such as Egypt.
Kobler rightly notes the dire humanitarian situation in Libya and speaks of poor funding for the humanitarian response plan. The same countries who are planning extensive military programs in Libya nevertheless cannot find funds or send "special forces" to carry out humanitarian missions, even though Kobler maintains there are 2.4 million in need of humanitarian assistance. Children cannot be vaccinated because of a vaccine shortage and 1.3 million are said to be food-insecure. Kobler claims this shows Libyan political actors must take responsibility and act in the higher interest of the Libyan people. Translated, this probably means that if Libyans decided to support the GNA suddenly the floodgates of aid will be opened. If the UN was very much interested in the interests of the Libyan people, it would be concentrating on relieving the humanitarian disaster rather than using it as a tool to promote its own scheme of the GNA.
Kobler insists the "overwhelming majority of the Libyan people" support the LPA. He gives no reference to surveys. It is not necessary — the authority of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) Martin Kobler is enough. He may be right, but unless we have some evidence beyond statements by authorities we will never know. While the overwhelming majority might support some type of unity government it is not clear that they support the UN-brokered GNA. Kobler says: "Some of those politically responsible on both sides, however, still refuse to listen to the voices of the Libyan people and pursue their own narrow political interests." Notice it is the "voice of the Libyan people" that should be listened to. Kobler really wants opponents to listen to his voice and that of much of the international community. Those who sign on to the LPA get assured jobs in either the HoR which is the legislative body of the GNA or the State Council, an advisory body composed of members of the rival GNC. Political and financial interests are well-served by signing on to the GNA. Kobler is expert at telling moralizing tall tales.
In the very next sentence Kobler makes it clear it is the UN voice that is not being heeded:
However, until now we are unable to convince them entirely to go the way of peace and unity. On January 15th, the Presidency Council presented a cabinet for approval by the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives voted to endorse the Libyan Political Agreement in principle, but it requested the Presidency Council to nominate a new and smaller cabinet.
As usual, it is what Kobler leaves out of statements that are often most significant. Many on the cabinet list were not listed because of qualifications but connections. More than one appointment was put on the list without approval. Some refused to serve. Even more important, another condition for approving the GNA was that Section 8 of the LPA, which gives the job of commander-in-chief of the Libyan National Army to the Presidency Council, not Khalifa Haftar, had to be deleted. All talk of this has vanished from the discourse of mainstream media, as if it were of no importance.
Next comes the new official story of the last meeting of the HoR:
Few days ago, on 22 February, the House of Representatives met to consider the Presidency Council’s second cabinet. However, its session was interrupted by a minority of parliamentarians who opposed the vote, and resorted to threats and intimidation preventing the majority to freely express its vote. Nonetheless, this majority gathered 100 signatures in support of the endorsement of the new cabinet and its programme.Many earlier reports cited the lack of a quorum. None of the press seem to wonder how a few spoilers are able to derail a vote. Why is there no security? Why cannot the few spoilers be simply kicked out and the vote go on? Note that the HoR is also to vote on an amendment to the Constitutional Declaration to incorporate the GNA in it. They are also to be presented the political program of the GNA. As mentioned, Section 8 of the LPA is not apparently at issue even though the HoR members would not accept the GNA if Haftar loses his job. Kobler fails to mention that one supposed signer of the statement of support claims he did not sign it or that another member has claimed the letter is a forgery. Such details are all irrelevant to Kobler.
Kobler blames the leadership of the HoR for the vote failing to take place. Yet the president, Saleh, is supposed to support the GNA. How can this be? Kobler wrote to the Speaker of the HoR to "register the will of the democratic majority, and formalize its endorsement of the Government of National Accord." This is a weird way of putting the issue. Why not ask that the HoR vote on the GNA as it is required to do by the LPA? Kobler continues: Failing such recognition and a positive endorsement by the House of Representatives by early next week, Libyans have to go on. I intend to reconvene the Libyan Political Dialogue to explore the way forward in line with the Libyan Political Agreement.
Note that it is Libyans that have to go on, not the UN nor the international backers of the GNA. Kobler then stresses his usual line of the urgency of continuing of a process filled with legal flaws, and opposed by groups that obviously have considerable power. Here is Kobler's plan:First: together with the Libyans and international community we will continue to advocate for the implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement. This is the plan there are no alternatives.The Government of National Unity as proposed by the Presidency Council must be allowed to take up its duties in Tripoli as soon as possible.Those who are threatening the Presidency Council and actively preventing it from assuming power in Tripoli should be held accountable on the basis of Security Council resolutions. Branches of the government however should be established in eastern Libya, where Benghazi requires particular attention, and in the South.Interesting that Kobler talks of branches in Benghazi and in the south. Kobler''s remarks show that he has been unable so far to arrange security arrangements for meeting in Tripoli.
The State Council, an advisory body of the GNA consisting of GNC members, was able to meet without incident in Tripoli. However, threats have been made on members of the Council by members of a revolutionary group. Kobler's statement that there are no alternatives may be aimed at the Libya-Libya dialogue which is still being pursued by some.
Secondly, Kobler wants to unify and reform Libyan security forces. He wants the GNA and Presidency Council to immediately establish a mechanism to achieve this. However, the GNA has not yet been approved and it is not even clear yet how many will be in the Presidency Council. Kobler and the UN continually act as if there is no question that the GNA will be up and running soon.
Kobler also wants to broaden support for the GNA. There is no question of changing the GNA, although it seems obviously it will have to be changed to be supported by the HoR. Kobler also wants the Constitutional Drafting Assembly to present the Draft Constitution on time. Of course, there is no mention that the head of Assembly recently was disqualified for his job as he was an American.
Kobler's address to the UN Security Council makes it clear that there is no attempt to open up the LPA but on the contrary the UN is committed to moving ahead to form a GNA whether the HoR approves it or not. The result may be even more conflict within Libya and more divisions including within the GNA itself.

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