Since Gaddafi’s death, which many Africans consider as an assassination, Libya has been plunged into an unprecedented crisis that has let perpetual instability. It’s almost nine years since the man who was called the Libyan Guide was silenced. His removal from power, which, according to his detractors was supposed to bring much-needed democracy in Libya, has proved to be a curse for this North African state, filled with large oil reserves.
Not a day goes by without firearms crackling Libya since Gaddafi’s death. The country, which is now a shadow of its former self has become ungovernable because of two rival factions vying for control of political power, oil and gas fields. Despite the many conferences, high-level meetings and summits held here and there to help the country out of its troubles; it has remained on its knees. Yet the population, torn between nostalgia for the Gaddafi era and regrets, want peace more than ever, without which Libya cannot become the master of her own destiny as was the case in the past.
The Libyan crisis, an African issue, according to the AU
Accused of having abandoned Colonel Gaddafi at the crucial moment when he was being hunted down by those who wanted to oust him from power, by all means, the African Union has decided to rectify the situation by getting involved in the resolution of the Libyan crisis. Even if its aid is often described as that of the “neighbour that comes after the rain”, it remains convinced that the resolution of the Libyan crisis cannot be achieved without the involvement of Africans, hence the creation of a high-level committee to monitor this crisis led by Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso.
The Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s initiative to offer aid to Fayez-al-Sarraj’s troops, who are fighting with those of Marshal Aftar, has aroused strong international reactions and Africa is not left out. The Congolese president in charge of leading the AU High–Level Committee on the Libyan crisis took advantage of the presentation of new year wishes ceremony to the diplomatic corps in early January to remind the world of the need to have recourse to Africa in any search for a possible solution to the Libyan crisis resolution by reminding foreign diplomats accredited in his country that “Libya is an African country and the victims of the Libyan conflict are essentially in Africa and Africans. Therefore, any strategy for resolving the Libyan crisis that tends to marginalise the African continent could prove to be completely ineffective and counterproductive”.
The African Union, which condemns in the strongest terms the use of mercenaries, which constitutes a criminal act, is making the same statement. Through Moussa Faki Mahamat’s voice, said: “the international community is called upon to join its efforts with those of Africa for the rapid promotion of a peaceful solution to this crisis, which has dangerous consequences in all respects for the country, the region and the continent as a whole”. The meeting of the High-Level Committee on 30 January 2020 in Brazzaville, the 8th of its kind, was an opportunity for the pan-African body to present its proposal for a negotiated political solution that excludes the military solution as well as any external interference.
When Libya was subject to a military invasion by NATO forces in 2011, Africa’s voice advocating for a political solution was snubbed by the major Western powers and NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who were in support of the armed intervention. Today, the West seems to have reconsidered its position regarding the role that Africa can play in this dispute, as evidenced by the responsibility given to it at the Berlin conference in Germany to organize the Inter-Libyan Forum in collaboration with the UN. In order to be better heard, Denis Sassou Nguesso calls on Africans to avoid differences and to speak with one voice. This seems difficult given the affinities that exist between Marechal Khalifa Hafter, the strongman of Eastern Libya, and the Egyptian Head of State Abdel Fatah Al Sissi, who holds the rotating presidency of the African Union.
Algeria’s remarkable mediation
The assistance of Libya’s neighbours cannot be neglected in resolving this crisis. Present at the Berlin conference organised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso regretted that some of Libya’s neighbours had not been invited to take part in the conference, following Morocco’s example, where the Libyan institutions currently recognised by the international community have been set up by the United Nations.
Contrary to Egypt, whose president is accused of supporting Marechal Haftar, Algeria is showing great neutrality in the management of the conflict that is tearing Libya apart. Since the beginning of this new year, it has been very involved in the settlement of the Libyan question. Opposed like the African Union, to foreign interference, it has multiplied the mediations receiving, among others, the actors of the Libyan crisis, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recently proposed sending mercenaries to Libya in support of the men of Sarraj, the head of diplomacy of the United Arab Emirates who violated the arms embargo established by the United Nations and delivered arms to Marechal Haftar. In its proactive role, Algeria also organised a meeting on 23 January 2020 to which the foreign ministers of Libya’s neighbours (Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Mali, Niger and Chad) were invited. In return, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune was also invited to visit Egypt, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates for consultations on the Libyan file. Algiers fears that the involvement of foreign forces (Turkish, Egyptian and Emirati) in the crisis could complicate the already tense situation on the ground.
“The involvement of neighbouring countries and the AU in the resolution of the Libyan crisis will spare the Libyans from foreign interference rejected by the Libyan people as well as by all the countries in the region.” Said Sabri Boukadoum, Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs. If a military presence is needed to ensure compliance with the ceasefire in force in Libya, Algiers prefers it to be from the African Union with a UN mandate. The importance of Algerian mediation in the Libyan crisis and the major role it can play was recognised by the Turkish President during his last visit to Algeria. “Algeria is an element of stability and peace in this difficult situation in the region and in the face of developments in Libya, which have a direct impact on this neighbouring country”.
Summits that didn’t do much good
Germany has recently joined the number of countries that have organized meetings and summits for the return of peace in Libya. The international conference held in Berlin on the initiative of Chancellor Angela Merkel and the UN Special Envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salamé, was not only attended by the five–member countries of the Security Council, but also by Algeria, Egypt, the Republic of Congo, Turkey, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, the Arab League, the African Union and the European Union. The main measures of these consultations included the need to respect the ceasefire signed by Fayez el-Serraj and Khalifa Haftar and to put an end to foreign interference. For many analysts, a major step has not been taken in Germany since no inter-Libyan agreement has been reached to end hostilities on the ground, let alone a clear willingness on the part of the two players in the crisis to put a definitive end to their differences.
The international conference in Berlin simply ended like the Turkish-Russian initiative, which forced Serraj and Haftar to sign a ceasefire agreement that was later violated. The meetings organised in Paris by Emmanuel Macron in 2018 to find a way out of the crisis or the Prague summit in November 2018 initiated by Italy, which wanted to regain control of the Libyan dossier, all ended in failure.
The Libyan crisis remains closely linked to the death of Gaddafi, who was ousted from power not by the will of the Libyan people, but following the war launched in 2011 by Nicolas Sarkozy against the Tripoli regime with the support of the United Kingdom and the United States. The chaos in Libya has not only created a migratory flow that Europe is struggling to manage, but above all a deterioration of the security situation in Africa, particularly in the Sahel and the Maghreb. The foreign interference deplored by the United Nations and the African Union is, however, the heart of the problem. For it is marked by hypocrisy and is fuelled by the hidden and obscure interests of those who support the two actors who engage in daily exchanges of fire despite the distress of the population.
Putting an end to this gross hypocrisy would be the step forward that could allow the two belligerents in the conflict to finally talk to each other in an honest and sincere manner.
Article from AFRIC Editorial