The expressions of cautious optimism about the success of the inter-Libyan dialogue, which were once more echoed during the opening session of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in Tunis, could not dispel growing fears that this dialogue could end up producing a new document that would reproduce and reinforce the dominance of Islamist organizations on the Libyan scene even if under new deceptive headings.
Circles close to the Acting Head of UN Mission in Libya Stephanie Williams said that this blackout measure “falls within the framework of a policy of constructive secrecy,” aimed at preventing the conflicting opinions and positions of the participants in this dialogue from coming out into the open and disrupting its course.
Such concerns have started creeping into the corridors of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in Gammarth, Tunisia, aided by moves described as “suspicious” that were monitored in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The Forum itself resumed its work on Tuesday amid a total media blackout imposed by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya.
Notwithstanding the blackout, The Arab Weekly was able to obtain information leaked from inside the Forum sessions. According to these leaks, a number of participants in the forum saw signs of hidden agendas in some of the articles of the draft document entitled “The National Political Program Document for the Preliminary Phase of the Comprehensive Solution” in Libya.
Our sources said that these apprehensions further started taking shape after reviewing the selection mechanisms that were laid out in the appendix to the new political agreement project regarding the criteria for “running for the positions of president of the Presidency Council and of prime minister,” and the conditions set out in paragraphs 6 and 7 of the annex to the draft of new political agreement.
The sources believe that these mechanisms virtually make the Acting Head of the United Nations Mission in Libya the “guardian” of the Libyan people and their political elites, especially as she reserved for herself the right to evaluate the candidates for the two aforementioned positions according to 10 criteria she keeps secret. Oddly enough, such a measure reproduces the actions of former UN Envoy Bernard Lyon, when he imposed Fayez al-Sarraj as President of the Presidential Council at the last moment.
In light of these concerns, The Arab Weekly has learned that about 100 Libyan parliamentarians are preparing to issue a joint statement in which they will warn about the presence of some parties in the corridors of the hotel where the forum is taking place in Tunisia and about their interference in the course of this dialogue by proposing names and promoting specific currents, which threatens to undermine all efforts exerted to make this dialogue a success.
It is expected that these Libyan parliamentarians will hold the United Nations Support Mission in Libya responsible for this “serious breach” and will demand that it clarify the role of these foreign parties, especially the role of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, the reason for its presence inside the hotel, and its relations with the dialogue forum and its outcomes.
Observers do not rule out the expansion of the circle of those concerns that began inhabiting many Libyan activists, given the number of thorny files that lay in the path of the Tunis Political Dialogue Forum, starting with the complex file of the armed militias and going all the way to the last minute manoeuvres by Islamist organizations, especially the Muslim Brotherhood whose representatives constitute a majority among the forum participants.
Apprehensions about possible Brotherhood manoeuvres also weighed on the Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Haftar. Major General Khaled Mahjoub, Director of the Psychological Guidance Department, did not hesitate to warn against re-enacting the Skhirat Agreement experience that ended up opening the door to the militias and enabling them to manage the conflict in Libya through the Muslim Brotherhood organisation.
In previous statements, Mahjoub said that the Libyans fear the Brotherhood’s continued control of the scene in Libya, pointing out at the same time that the Libyan street is now completely gripped by the fear that this organisation will have another chance at continuing its control through the political dialogue sessions that are taking place in Tunisia.
These concerns and fears take on other dimensions, as Parliamentarian Gibril Ouhida shared by phone with The Arab Weekly his concerns about “the dangers of allowing decisions during the Tunis meetings to be taken by simple majority, because enabling those participants affiliated with Turkey and the militias loyal to it to achieve what they aspire to, namely control of the executive authority, would lead to the continuation of their influence.”
He pointed out that the current allied with Turkey, which is participating in the Tunis dialogue, is more coherent than the other groups who are divided and hold different positions and goals, especially at this juncture when some are betting on the failure of the forum at home and abroad and are working towards that goal in secret.
Ouhida believes that the tactic adopted by the United Nations mission since the Berlin Agreement is to run parallel paths of dialogue to separate the problems that would thwart the dialogue, which means that each path might succeed separately, at least formally, but in the end, the real “challenge in all of this maze remains how serious the United Nations, and the US as well, are about putting an end to the actions of the parties obstructing any consensus, or even a minimum level of consensus.”
Ouhida’s colleague, MP Ibrahim al-Dorsi, told The Arab Weekly by phone that “the Tunis Political Dialogue Forum is unclear, its outcomes are unclear, and its guarantors are unclear too. The end of this dialogue reflects a faded image and does not bode well despite our hopes for a better situation.”
He did not rule out that the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood would “create problems by placing obstacles in the path of the Tunis dialogue in order to achieve their goals and secure for themselves the biggest share, just like what happened with the Skhirat Agreement.” He further described in this context all the inter-Libyan dialogue tracks as “postponed wars, and time bombs that the United Nations mission failed to deal with in good faith.”