UN Envoy Laments Ongoing Political Deadlock in Libya

In a candid discussion with UN News, the departing leader of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) called on the nation’s authorities to resolve their deadlock and guide Libya towards peace and stability.

Since the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya, a country rich in oil, has faced numerous challenges. The delay of national elections set for December 2021 has exacerbated these issues.

UN Special Representative Abdoulaye Bathily, last November, initiated dialogue among the representatives of Libya’s principal institutions including the Government of National Unity and the Libyan National Army, aiming to overcome the political deadlock.

“My plea is for them to acknowledge the significant moment in history they are a part of… to prioritize their nation’s future,” he imparted to UN News.

Mr. Bathily also shed light on the grim situation facing Libyans and the renewed interest from various regional and global powers due to the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Sudan, alongside instability in the Sahel region.

The following conversation has been shortened and simplified for better understanding.

Abdoulaye Bathily: Since 2011, Libya has seen various transitional governments, all of which have aimed to stabilize the country through elections. Yet, despite noble intentions, these efforts remained unfulfilled, leading to continuous instability.

Libya’s wealth is ample for all its citizens to live prosperously.

The interim leaders have perpetuated their rivalries rather than pursuing elections or stability, thereby exacerbating tensions and encouraging divisions among their armed supporters. This has resulted in their collective satisfaction with the status quo, which allows them to distribute governmental resources amongst themselves.

Despite its abundant oil production of 1.3 billion barrels daily, the common Libyan faces increasing impoverishment over the last decade.

UN News: Your warnings pointed out the competitive interest in Libya from both local and international entities. What causes this renewed interest?

Abdoulaye Bathily: Initially, there was consensus among global and regional actors to assist Libyans in reaching a political accord. However, recent months have seen a shift, particularly due to the Ukrainian conflict’s implications for Libya’s economic and strategic importance in the Mediterranean.

Libya’s strategic Mediterranean location has attracted renewed global and regional attention, significantly influenced by the Ukrainian conflict and its economic ramifications, alongside the military and geopolitical implications for Libya.

The Ukrainian crisis has introduced new economic and geopolitical dynamics to Libya’s situation, while recent conflict in Sudan affects both Libya’s security and its economy.

Additionally, the ongoing crisis in the Sahel region, particularly in countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, and the refugee situation in Chad, have further complicated Libya’s internal challenges.

UN News: This month, members of the UN Security Council expressed their gratitude towards you and reasserted their commitment to a Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process under UN facilitation. What are your thoughts?

Abdoulaye Bathily: I welcome their statement and hope for a truly Libyan-led process driven by actors genuinely committed to peace. The obstacle remains the leaders who monopolize the political dialogue, impeding a feasible solution in Libya.

UN News: What has UNSMIL done recently against the refusal to engage sincerely in dialogue and the reluctance to hold elections?

Abdoulaye Bathily: UNSMIL views the High State Council, Presidential Council, Government of National Unity, and Libyan National Army as pivotal to Libya’s peace or conflict. Our aim is inclusivity in the peace process, contingent on their cooperation.

Regrettably, their conditions and outside interference have hindered our peacemaking efforts. As long as external support persists, achieving a resolution remains difficult.

Therefore, I emphasized the importance of unified support from international and regional actors for a peaceful, inclusive Libyan process.

UN News: As Libya’s political deadlock continues, how has this affected the economic landscape?

Abdoulaye Bathily: The economic decline is evident, with the Libyan pound depreciating and citizens’ purchasing power decreasing, leading to widespread grievances despite Libya’s vast wealth.

Libya now faces increased poverty, insecurity, and a decline in democratic and security measures for most citizens.

UN News: The presence of armed factions and weaponry in Tripoli has raised concerns. Could you elaborate on the security situation there and in Libya as a whole?

Libya is becoming virtually an open arms market; its transformation into a quasi-mafia state is evident.

Abdoulaye Bathily: Libya, akin to an ‘open supermarket of arms,’ faces internal political strife and an international arms trade fueled by these groups, leading to heightened tension and power struggles, especially in western Libya.

UN News: The issue of migrants and refugees remains critical in Libya. What insights can you share?

Abdoulaye Bathily: Migration remains a pressing concern, with rampant human trafficking exacerbated by the current security situation, casting doubt on any near or long-term improvements.

Libya’s descent into a mafia state is highlighted by the trafficking of gasoline, migrants, and other valuable items, conducted by easily identifiable groups within and outside of Libya.

UN News: As you conclude your term, what final message do you have for Libyan stakeholders who have resisted engaging in dialogue?

Abdoulaye Bathily: My final appeal is for them to recognize the historical significance of their actions and to consider their country’s future earnestly. They must assume moral responsibility for the sake of Libya and the wider region’s wellbeing.

The Libyan populace’s aspirations for peace and stability merit realization.

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