By Akanimo Sampson
A political risk consultancy, Menas Associates, says the way forward on political negotiations in the troubled Libya will be partially shaped by the major power struggle that is currently being played out within the Government of National Accord (GNA).
These include conflicts between key GNA individuals who have been accusing each other of corruption, as well as tensions between GNA-affiliated militias that are vying for power and access to resources now that the Libyan Arab Armed Forces’ (LAAF) assault on Tripoli has been repelled.
Last week there were protests which illustrated the extent of popular anger about the level of corruption in the GNA and its poor governance.
On August 21, following weeks of intense international pressure, Prime Minister Fayez Serraj of the internationally-recognised GNA), and Speaker of the eastern-based House of Representatives (HoR), Aguila Saleh, simultaneously proclaimed a ceasefire and called for talks to de-militarise Sirte.
For Menas Associates, if it holds, this will significantly reduce the threat of an armed confrontation in Sirte and opens the door to possible renewed political negotiations.
As has occurred on similar occasions, however, differences in the content of the two statements inevitably foreshadowed deadlock and uncertainty.
Indeed, having been notably silent about the ceasefire, Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled LAAF is dismissing it a couple of days later as a ‘marketing’ stunt and claimed that its opponents were instead preparing to launch its offensive against Sirte which it would strongly defend.
Haftar had, however, already ordered the lifting of the blockade of Libya’s oil ports which has crippled country’s economy since January 2020.
Unfortunately, this is probably a short-term measure to temporarily quell the growing anger about the seemingly endless power crisis in both eastern and western Libya.
As he has down on previous Haftar will no doubt insist of a long list of unrealistic preconditions before agreeing to permanently lift the blockade.
Supporters of Muammar Qadhafi’s son and once most likely heir apparent, Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, also demonstrated against alleged corruption which resulted in the GNA security forces responding with violence and mass arrests.
NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, spoke with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on August 19. He emphasised that NATO fully supports the United Nations’ efforts to find a political solution to the crisis while stressing that all parties should support the UN-led process and respect its arms embargo.
The COVID-19 pandemic has continued its rapid spread in Libya.
On August 23, the National Centre for Disease Control reported another 316 new positive cases which brought the national total to 10,437 — which was a 15-fold increase since June — including 1,085 recoveries and 188 deaths.
Popular anger is rising about the simultaneous threat of the pandemic and increasingly severe power cuts in both eastern and western Libya.
On August 20, another 45 African migrants drowned off the Libyan coast after their boat’s engine exploded. The remaining 37 migrants were rescued by local fishermen and were detained by Libyan authorities.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has appointed three experts to lead an independent fact-finding mission on the abuse of migrants in Libya.
Last week the US Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it is partnering with organisations — the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), the UN Development Program (UNDP); the World Bank; and the Libyan Local Investment and Development Fund (LLIDF) — to provide backup electricity to the Great Man-Made River’s (GMMR) vitally important pumping stations.