Akhbar Libya 24 – Special Interview
Postponing presidential elections over and over since 2011 is the main cause of the bloody struggle for power that has wrought havoc in Libya, stated Aref Ali Nayed, the head of Ihya Libya (Reviving Libya).
Nayed indicated that the last official postponement of the elections occurred after the 2014 elected parliament, which approved the selection of the president of Libya to be through direct presidential elections.
More details are in the interview that Akhbar Libya 24 has conducted with Dr. Aref Ali Nayed, the head of the Ihya Libya (Reviving Libya).
First, I would like to welcome you with us. We will address the latest local and international developments. After the decision of the Commander-in-Chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA) to resume oil production and export, you described the agreement to re-produce and export oil as a brave decision. Do you believe that this agreement will lead to the end of the war and reaching a consensus between all Libyan parties?
This agreement has broken the deadlock between the parties and charted an important new negotiating line. Although it is still nascent and fragile, it can develop if the intentions are sincere and if all stakeholders adopt transparency and good and fair governance, and close all doors of erosive corruption and suffocating monopoly.
The agreement on equitable distribution of Libyan resources to all Libyan citizens, their villages, cities, and regions deconstruct an essential factor that has led to the successive wars since 2011.
Should Libyans sit together without manipulation, tricks, and cunning of ideologues who place their narrow interests above those of the country, they can actually reach understandings that can form the basis for the envisaged Libyan state.
Fayez al-Sarraj, the President of the Presidential Council of the Government of National Accord (GNA), as well as the Governor of the Central Bank of Libya (CBL), Siddiq al-Kabir, and Osama al-Juweili, one of the GNA’s leaders, have rejected this agreement in press statements. How do you follow up on these reactions and how do you assess the justifications behind these rejections?
Of course, any real agreement between the Libyans will disturb those who have seized and monopolized political, financial, and military decisions in the western part of Libya. Unfortunately, the President of the Presidential Council acts as if he is Libya’s absolute ruler and gives himself the right to enter into international agreements without any permission from the only Libyan legislative authority, namely the House of Representatives (HoR). The constitutional declaration and the Skhirat Agreement itself stipulate that. At the same time, he does not want Libyans to reach agreements that stop wars and take the country towards peace, stability, and state building.
We should remember that the Presidential Council is defective. Half of its members have already resigned and its decisions are invalid because they lack unanimity, which is impossible due to the absence of its half. We need to remember it is an unelected entity that has not gained the confidence of the HoR. Its term expired four years ago.
As for the CBL’s governor, he will surely object. He has hijacked the management of Libya’s funds. The HoR has expelled him twice and his legal tenure expired years ago.
As for the military figures’ negative comments on the agreement, it is surprising given they have always claimed they are defending the civilian state, and their civilian superiors have already spoken in the favor of the agreement.
Will there be repercussions after Sarraj, the CBL in Tripoli, and several leaders of the GNA-affiliated armed groups rejected this agreement. Would it become a stumbling block in oil reproduction and export?
At face value, the spoilers seemed to succeed, especially the so-called designate president’s attempt to bypass the National Oil Corporation (NOC). He insisted on imposing “force majeure” on the entire oil sector but the intense diplomatic contacts, especially with Washington and other capitals, thwarted the attempts of the spoilers and reopened oil exports. Things are still moving forward very positively.
Economically, to what extent will this agreement affect the situation in general, for example, the availability of liquidity, the bearish dollar exchange price, among others?
Libya, unfortunately, is completely dependent on oil exports to provide the necessary resources for all aspects of life and services to the citizens. Therefore, directing oil imports to serve all Libyans fairly will stimulate the economy and provide liquidity and services. However, for this to really happen, imports must be protected against corruption, misuse, and the financing of terrorism and wars.
During your press statements, you announced that the agreement to reopen the production and export of oil will dry up the sources of terrorism. What do you mean? Where are these sources? Are they in Tripoli or in some neighboring countries?
Regrettably, I remember well in 2011 how Ali al-Sallabi, Sadiq al-Gharyani, and their groups managed to remove the late Qasim Azouz, then the CBL’s governor, and install one of their puppets in his place.
Since then, they fiendishly managed to place members of the group and its puppets on the CBL’s board of directors and its most important departments. The CBL has become an ATM for extremist groups through their companies, credits, and foreign currencies they have acquired.
Years ago, the CBL transferred huge funds and balances to Turkey. The frequency of this increased after the last colonial agreement that the incomplete and expired Presidential Council made without the approval of the Libyan HoR, the only entity authorized to ratify all agreements.
The CBL is still transferring the salaries of the new colonists and their Turkmen mercenaries. Therefore, any agreement that prevents the seizure of oil resources and ensures that they do not go to Turkey and its ideological groups will actually dry up the sources of terrorism.
You commended the step taken by the Deputy President of the Presidential Council, Ahmed Maiteeq, regarding the Libyan-Libyan dialogue. Will this step lead to a real, comprehensive, and lasting national reconciliation, as you mentioned? Is launching all local initiatives for national reconciliation likely during the coming period?
The sheikhs, notables, and social leaders of Libya have never stopped their attempts since 2011 to reconcile themselves and reach a comprehensive national reconciliation. Unfortunately, their honorable deeds and efforts have been neglected, and the United Nations Support Mission in Libya has become accustomed to inviting figures that represent only themselves, small numbers of people, or scanty dwarf parties. If the Libyan social leaders rally around this new dialogue step, a comprehensive reconciliation can build thereon if the intentions are sincere and the participation is broadly representative.
As per your letter to the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the end of August, will the establishment of a joint oil export board, a joint credit account, and an internationally monitored joint multi-signature payment mechanism ensure a fair distribution of oil revenues?
Nothing guarantees justice and fairness except strict Libyan popular control of all institutions and transactions. This can only materialize through renewing the Libyan legitimacy by conducting urgent presidential, parliamentary, and municipal elections.
The proposals we presented as Ihya Libya (Reviving Libya) to the United Nations Secretary-General form part of the mechanisms that may help in moving towards fairness, which requires deep popular awareness and honest oversight by the authorities elected by the Libyan people who possess the only genuine and legitimate rights.
UNSMIL and the diplomatic missions have not welcomed that move so far. What is your comment about the lack of any statements from the international community or reactions about the agreement to open, export, and produce oil?
We all were surprised by the delayed reactions. Perhaps the Libyan-Libyan agreement has surprised many and sabotaged some of their arrangements. However, we thank Washington and some other capitals for their pressure on the so-called NOC’s designate president and forcing him to backtrack on his obstructive stance to open oil exports.
According to our sources, there are agreed names for the next presidential council in Libya: three candidates for the president and four for the prime minister. In addition, the presidential council will be reshuffled and the meetings begin shortly. Do you have any contact with these names or have you been invited to attend these meetings?
All reports about the composition of the next presidential council and government are mere rumors, speculations, and attempts by some to create momentum around their names. I did not participate in any of the deliberations in Geneva, Montreux, or Morocco. After I finished my urgent duties assigned to me by H.E. the Speaker of HoR as his envoy, I gave up that position to avoid any confusion or conflict of interest.
In light of Haftar-Maiteeq’s announcement and recent agreement, what will happen to the next Geneva conference, the initiative of Aguila Saleh, and the Berlin and Cairo initiative as well?
The Berlin decisions have had a strong international foundation. They have included all the important tracks and succinctly summarized the outputs of the preceding meetings in Skhirat, Paris, Palermo, Abu Dhabi, and others. The Cairo initiative managed to build on Berlin and on the Ramadan initiative of the Libyan Speaker. It has provided a strategic security framework that stopped the Turkish expansion to the east and established a ceasefire. As for the Geneva conference, its success depends on the transparency and seriousness of UNSMIL.
If UNSMIL is clear, fair, and chooses well, then the prospective dialogue will succeed. If it violates any of these conditions, the dialogue will fail. However, the success of the Libyan efforts currently underway is highly likely, especially if they culminate in real and sincere dialogue meetings in Cairo soon to reach understandings that lead to urgent presidential, parliamentary, and municipal elections, and a new establishment of a united, secure, stable, and prosperous Libyan state.
Parliamentary sources in Libya have announced that the delegations of the HoR and the High Council of State will resume negotiations in Bouznika, Morocco, after being postponed for several days. In your opinion, will these negotiations end with a complete agreement that obliges all parties to implement their outputs?
Morocco is still graciously trying to embrace and encourage the Libyan dialogues so that this may lead to understandings that end the bloody conflicts and lay the foundation for building the Libyan state. However, the current negotiations in Morocco suffer a deep structural problem, which is the reason for their obstruction so far and may lead to their collapse. This is due to the strange obsession of the Muslim Brotherhood to monopolize everything, beginning with the State Council itself and even the power of legislation. According to the Skhirat Agreement, the State Council should be only a consultative entity. It should not compete with the HoR in this regard as the latter is the legitimate legislative authority in Libya. Moreover, the State Council should have consisted of all the deputies elected in 2012 to the General National Congress (GNC). Yet, the Muslim Brotherhood and the former al-Wafa Bloc excluded all of their rivals in the GNC— especially those who respected the results of the 2014 elections and handed over power to the new elected HoR. The huge Bloc 94, for example, was excluded completely. The result was that the Muslim Brotherhood has monopolized the State Council whose chair, Mr. Khaled al-Mishri, is one of its most prominent members.
The group excluded even some other figures and blocs, such as that of Dr. Abdul-Rahman al-Swehli and his colleagues. Unfortunately, all the statements of the excluded and marginalized resulted in nothing and the representation of the State Council in the negotiations in Morocco was limited to a group of the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies. The pathological monopoly is not limited to representation, unfortunately, but to the methodology and intention of the negotiations. The legal tricks the Muslim Brotherhood resorted to as regards the CBL is a good example of that. They give in nominal presidencies to acquire positions that control the respective institutions.
The most important conditions for success for any negotiations is good faith and respect to the other party and their fears and needs. Unfortunately, these conditions seem unavailable. It seems that the HoR made a mistake in treating part of the State Council, namely the Muslim Brotherhood part, as if it were a partner and counterpart in the legislative authority. This is a grave mistake that must be remedied sooner. Otherwise, negotiations will fail, or will lead to results that the Libyan street cannot accept. In this case, these results, if any, will not stand the first challenge.
Why did the State Council change its delegation that participated in the first negotiations in Bouznika while the HoR’s delegation rejected this change? Do you think that there is a quota system between the two parties to divide the sovereign positions?
We have already seen the Muslim Brotherhood’s negotiating tricks. For a start, they send a reasonable and somewhat mixed delegation. After the negotiation track takes hold, they send their professional teams of the veteran members backed by large numbers of “advisors” and set up “operations rooms” that work around the clock to achieve their goals and gains. This has happened this time as well. Therefore, the HoR delegation should have insisted on the previous delegation and rejected the strange number of “advisors” and “assistants”.
The Libyan street is boiling in the west, east, and south, and people are tired and hate the sight of any political groups sharing positions, spoils, and advantages.
The negotiators in Morocco must be well aware of this and that the people reject quotas and sharing. The negotiation should be on establishing mechanisms, balances, and guarantees that secure the remainder of the public funds and resources, and ensure transparency and good governance. The matter should not be a distribution of benefits to people or even regions, but the building of balanced, fair, and just institutions that guarantee the rights of all Libyans.
The UNSMIL has announced in a press statement that the two parties to the Libyan conflict have agreed to resume military talks in Egypt. How much consensus will the parties to the conflict reach, especially since many experts say that the Libyan crisis stems from a security rather than a political crisis?
The course of the military dialogue has gone a long way, not only in the last session in Hurghada, but in the previous six strenuous sessions that were kindly hosted by the sisterly Egypt over the past years. Institution building is the optimal way to establish the Libyan state. Personalization destroys all attempts at state building.
We must focus on building institutions, including the comprehensive Libyan military establishment for the protection for all Libyans. The news that transpired from the dialogue session in Hurghada is positive. It seems that real steps have been made towards institutionalization and Libyan-Libyan military coordination.
With all these negotiations and talks here and there with the Libyan parties under international and Arab sponsorship, to what extent will these actions culminate in a radical end to the Libyan crisis. Is it possible to hold upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections if all parties agree, or will there be a new obstacle to any agreement concluded?
The postponement of the presidential elections over and over since 2011 is the main cause of the bloody struggle for power. The last official postponement occurred when the elected parliament in 2014 approved that choosing the president of Libya should be through direct presidential elections, and according to the decisions of the February Committee and the electoral arrangements therein. This decision No. 5/2014 remains binding on everyone because it was issued with a full quorum and an absolute majority. Unfortunately, the HoR is still postponing the announcement of the presidential elections despite its agreement with all parties to hold those elections in December 2018, according to the Paris Agreement.
The President of the Presidential Council, Mr. Fayez al-Sarraj, is still procrastinating on the date of the elections despite announcing an initiative in this regard early 2017 and his recent talk about elections in March 2021. However, he has not paid the sums that the High National Elections Commission (HNEC) has been asking for to conduct the elections. Yet, as per the 2017 audit report, he paid huge sums to members of the Libyan Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) to pass a draft that would prolong the existing bodies for one and a half to two years and would trigger appeals from all Libyan stakeholders and a wide segment of the social fabric.
The easiest, best, and most constitutional way is for the ongoing negotiations to be limited to specifying the date and mechanisms for conducting direct presidential elections, which all deputies, including Sarraj himself, agreed to hold in the decision No. 5/2014, according to the details provided professionally by the February Committee. In this way, Libyans can regain the legitimacy of their institutions and choose and delegate whomever they want through ballot boxes, not through shady deals and short-sighted quotas, or through wars and conflicts.
Interview by Reem Elbreki – Akhbarlibya24.net on October 04, 2020