By Simon Speakman Cordall
In an exclusive interview published in yesterday’s Libya Herald, the Prime Minister Designate of the UN backed government in Tripoli, Fayez Serraj has spoken of his disappointment in seeking a resolution to the conflict riven country’s problems.
Speaking on the outskirts of the crisis meeting in London, called by a conglomeration of western governments and international bodies to seek some sort of solution to Libya’s problems, Serraj spoke candidly about the chronic problems being faced by Libya and the administration of its UN backed government.
Political appointee, Fayez Serraj, and the UN nominated body he heads , the Government of National Accord, (GNA) were first delivered to Tripoli in March of this year, ostensibly to unify the country’s two rival governments. Though initially gaining the agreement of the existing militia backed government in Tripoli, the General National Congress, (GNC) the UN backed body failed to make diplomatic inroads with their eastern rival, the House of Representatives. Moreover, a dearth of foreign currency reserves and a lack of any central authority over the country’s militias meant that the UN backed body was equally unable to assert any tangible control within the capital, fueling discontent and providing much of the impetus for the October coup attempt by the core of Tripoli’s former GNC, who retain control over a number of militias and buildings within the city.
During the interview, Serraj discussed his frustration international community’s reluctance to see Libya in terms other than as a source of terrorism and illegal migration. He also spoke openly of the chronic cash shortages and bureaucratic delays experienced by the UN backed body, the October coup, the open hostility between his administration and the Central Libyan Bank and the political maneuverings of the eastern government and intransigence of the head of its military forces , Field Marshall, Khalifa Haftar.
Speaking frankly over the resistance of the international communities to see Libya’s problems in terms other than their own priorities, Serraj said, ‘‘I keep telling them that there are other issues that concern Libyan citizens more than these… the Libyan citizen queues for three days to get LD 100 from the bank. And how you are not concerned that the electricity is cut for up to 14 hours’’. Serraj was similarly critical over the acute lack of international concern over the conditions of Libya’s schools and hospitals and the lack of apparent interest in the humanitarian problems faced by the country.
Serraj also spoke of his disappointment over the GNA’s inability to fully engage with the countries militias, which under the terms of Libyan Political Agreement, (the road map to unifying Libya) were supposed to have withdrawn from the capital earlier in the year. Security arrangements were then intended to have been filled by the newly formed elite, the Presidential Guard; the bulk of which defected to the self declared, National Salvation Government following October’s coup. With regard to the existing militias, Serraj spoke of his frustration at the shortage of funds, which made any prospect of neutralizing their threat by incorporating their members within the country’s existing security framework meaningless.
The numerous olive branches extended to the Eastern government’s, Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar were also lamented, with Sarraj openly acknowledging the distrust with which his coalition of UN appointees and militias was viewed by the head of the east’s armed forces, saying, “We invited him to join us in our battle against terrorism in Sirte. We sent him these messages clearly but sadly there was no positive response. There was inflexibility and there is still inflexibility and a different vision to the vision I drew’’.
In closing a wide ranging interview Sarraj noted what he saw as the four ‘spoilers’ preventing progress within Libya, principally, Field Marshall Haftar, the eastern parliament in Tobruk, the restrictions on cashflow caused by the hostility of the Central Libyan Bank and the country’s Grand Mufti and the various religious fatwas he has isued in support of a variety of issues.
“… I have no executive tools to implement. Whilst they have their implementation tools. Some have money, others have an army, others have media and another has religious authority etc etc..’’
Prior to joining Tunisia Live, Simon worked as a freelance journalist. He has lived in Tunisia since 2013 and previously worked in Vietnam and Moscow.