Friday, February 5, 2016

Divisions increase within Libyan Government of National Accord

Divisions are increasing among parties to the UN-brokered Government of National Accord on the issue of allowing General Khalifa Haftar to keep his job as commander-in-chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA).

The internationally-recognized Libyan House of Representatives(HoR) met recently and rejected the GNA. The GNA officials are to come back with a reduced list of names for cabinet members within a few days. The HoR also approved the LPA but only if section 8 were deleted. There are actually two sections 8, as explained in a recent article. One in additional provisions gave the senior officials, the Presidency Council of the GNA the role of commander in chief of the LNA back on December 17 when the LPA was signed. This section appears to have simply been ignored by almost everyone without explanation or even noting its existence. The other provision in the main text gives the role to the Presidential Council immediately upon the approval of the GNA by the HoR. A vote on the issue as well as on other issues should come within a few days. However, it is not at all certain the HoR will give a vote of confidence in the GNA unless they have ironclad assurances that Section 8 will be deleted
Ten leading political figures, including Salah Makhzoum, deputy General National Congress president, said the HoR cannot unilaterally amend the LPA to delete Section 8. Makhzoum was one of the main signatories of the LPA from the GNC. However, he was not authorized to sign by the GNC and had left the GNC negotiating committee in August while the deal was signed in December. Another signatory to the statement was Mohamed Sawan leader of the Muslim Brotherhood's Justice and Construction Party. The group no doubt sees the GNA as a means of having a new commander of the LNA not committed to fighting against Islamists and more tolerant of the Brotherhood. The party was already split on agreeing to the GNA. The recent HoR vote and also a meeting between Haftar and the designated GNA prime minister Faiez Serraj will create even more pressure for them just to abandon the GNA. The statement was also signed by Misrata member Belgassem Gzeit. Kobler was able to split off some Misrata militia and politicians from rejecting the GNA as members of the GNC and Libya Dawn militias have done. Finally, Mohamed Ammari also signed the statement. Ammari had just suspended his membership in the GNA, in protest at Serraj's meeting with Haftar. Even Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General(SRSG) for Libya pointed out that the LPA can be amended only after the HoR has given a vote of confidence in it as it is.
The Libya Observer also reports on the statement, noting the group members are all signatories of the LPA. The group urged the Presidency Council to adhere to their duties under the LPA noting: “The HoR’s vote of confidence for the Government of the National Accord is no more than a formal procedure because the HoR has got no right to reject the new cabinet formation nor has it the right to amend it. On the contrary, it should consult the yet-to-be-formed Supreme State Council in matters of no-confidence votes as stated in article (01) from paragraph (05) in Skhirat agreement..The HoR got its legitimacy from the political agreement in Skhirat as per article (12), yet it spoke out reservations on article (08) from the appendix provisions, which are part of the agreement and objected to the ministerial cabinet formation given to it.”The Observer claims that those who signed the statement are anti-Haftar signatories of the LPA. Jason Pack of Libya-Analysis warns of the dangers of the developing situation:The implicit endorsement of Haftar by GNA PM Fayez Serraj due to his visit could trigger violence between rival militias in the capital. The hardline faction controlling Tripoli, represented by a majority of the current members comprising the GNC, is still opposing the UN-mediated agreement, despite attempts by members of the GNC in the UN-mediated dialogue committee (Saleh Al-Makhzoum) to bring them on board. His attempts are even less likely to succeed given Serraj’s visit to Haftar.
The situation is becoming even more complicated because the GNC has now expelled eight members for unlawfully taking part in signing the LPA on December 17 in Skhirat. Those expelled include Salah Makhzoum, the second deputy president. He co-signed the LPA. The GNC noted the members expelled were declaring themselves members of the GNA State Council, a mainly advisory body composed of GNC members. The GNC said its claims had no basis since the GNC had not yet approved the GNA. The Libya Herald also reports on the expulsion. Ironically, Makhzoum has just finished announcing the formation of the State Council of the GNA. These will all be members of the GNC. However, the GNC gave no authority to Makhozoum to make the appointments and he himself will no longer be a member of the GNC if and when the HoR votes confidence in the GNA.
Pro-Misrata Municipality brigades pledged their support to the GNA but only on condition that controversial figures be excluded. As the Libya Observer reports:"Misrata's revolutionaries support the consensual political project which will lead us to forming a government of concord on the condition that the controversial figures are excluded, which would guarantee our legal rights," the statement reads, in a clear reference to reneged General Khalifa Haftar.
These conditions are in stark conflict with those of the HoR for approving the GNA. The HoR demands that Haftar keep his position as commander in chief of the LNA.
The Presidency Council of the GNA went to Skhirat today from Tunis to work on a new list of government cabinet ministers. For security reasons, no doubt, the GNA has not yet met in Libya, although it is supposed to set up headquarters in Tripoli.