Libyan election hopefuls told they hold nation’s future in their hands
- UN envoy salutes all Libyans “who have worked courageously and in good faith to plant the seeds of reconciliation”
- Talks with 1,000 Libyans revealed they are keen to turn the page and reclaim sovereignty and ownership of their destiny
Updated 29 January 2021
NEW YORK: “Libya’s future is in your hands.” That was the message to prospective election candidates from the UN’s envoy to the country, Stephanie Williams, ahead of her trip to Geneva for what she predicted will be “a decisive round of intra-Libyan talks.”
They are expected to lead to the creation of a new, temporary executive authority that will shepherd the nation toward elections scheduled for December.
Williams has been acting head of the UN Support Mission in Libya for almost a year, since the resignation of Ghassan Salame. In her last briefing to the Security Council before Jan Kubis takes over, Williams reminded all prospective candidates who seek executive office of their responsibilities.
She also paid tribute to all the Libyans “who have worked courageously and in good faith to plant the seeds of reconciliation and fulfil the aspirations of their fellow citizens.” She urged the council to issue a resolution that officially backs the new unified Libyan government and calls for the dissolution of all other executive entities in the country.
Although peace talks in Berlin last year did not immediately end the Libyan conflict, or halt the “blatant foreign interference” in the country, Williams said the 55-point road map to peace that was adopted during the conference did achieve what was envisioned: “It created an international umbrella for the United Nations to work directly with the Libyan parties (and) to seek a Libyan-Libyan resolution.”
Progress can be seen on many fronts, she said, including: the ceasefire agreement signed in Geneva last October, which is still being observed; the roadmap adopted in Tunis the following month that set Dec. 24 this year as the date for national elections, and agreed to establish a unified temporary executive authority to guide the country toward them; and “long-overdue” economic and financial reforms that “are well under way.”
In the past month, the Central Bank of Libya’s board of directors was restored, the exchange rate unified, and the first comprehensive audit of the Libyan investment Authority launched.
“Steady progress has been made on the economic track, with significant economic reforms advanced over the period,” said Williams. “If these reforms are fully implemented they will smooth the way toward durable economic arrangements, including the transparent management of oil revenues.”
During a digital dialogue she took part in with 1,000 Libyans, living inside the country and abroad, Williams said the majority expressed a desire for national elections, an end to the years-long transitional period, and the UN to play a more proactive role in ending foreign interference in their country.
“Libyans are keen to turn the page, to reclaim Libyan sovereignty and ownership of their destiny as a people, after many years of relentless armed conflict, societal fragmentation, and crippling institutional division,” Williams said. She called on the council to sustain, harness and support this “rejuvenation of Libyan patriotism.”
Williams praised the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission, which includes five representatives from each of the rival sides in the conflict, for its “professionalism and selfless commitment of its members.”
She highlighted the fact that ahead of the Jan. 23 deadline for foreign fighters and mercenaries to leave Libya, which was set by the ceasefire agreement, the commission reiterated its call for the immediate repatriation of all such foreign combatants. Williams called on regional and international actors to assist Libya in this effort, and to honor the terms of the ceasefire agreement, the responsibility for the implementation of which, she said, rests not with the 5+5 but with military leaders on both sides.
After establishing an advisory committee to resolve differences over the selection mechanism for election candidates, the deliberations by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) continue. In Geneva next week, members will vote to elect three members of the presidency council. Meanwhile the LPDF legal committee has agreed to hold a constitutional referendum before the national elections in December.
While the guns have fallen silent thanks to the ceasefire, and thousands of internally displaced people have returned to their homes in the capital, Tripoli, Williams said Libyans continue to face the repercussions of war and violations of their human rights, as a proliferation of arms and explosives continues to threaten many people.
COVID-19 is making life even more difficult for the most vulnerable in Libya and food prices remain exceptionally high. An estimated 1.3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. In addition, many migrants and refugees are still