With the first anniversary of the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), on 17th December 2015, approaching in two weeks’ time, Libya Herald, on the margins of the Med 2016 conference in Rome, took the opportunity yesterday to exclusively interview the head of UNSMIL, Martin Kobler, about the LPA.
The interview was an opportunity to recap and reassess the progress of the LPA and it come at the end of a second day of heavy militia-infighting across Tripoli causing mayhem and spreading fear amongst residents of the capital. Some of these militias are widely seen as ‘‘pro GNA’’.
Shops in Tripoli were forced to close and residents were forced to stay at home. The interview also came on the back of a Libya Herald interview in November with Presidency Council head and GNA Prime Minister-elect Faiez Serraj in London during which he admitted that the PC/GNA had failed to make progress since it arrived in Tripoli on 30 March 2016.
Libya Herald : Why is the LPA still not working?
Martin Kobler: ‘‘The LPA has been agreed upon with the Libyan Political Dialogue Committee a year ago and we are entering the first anniversary now and we have to take stock: What was working and what was not working’’.
Kobler defended the success of the LPA saying that it has wide international consensus and its successful fight against DAESH. However, he admitted it had ‘‘implementation problems’’ such as the fact that the House of Representatives (HoR) has not passed the constitutional amendment to incorporate the LPA into the 2011 Transitional Constitutional Declaration. The HoR has accepted the LPA in principle and as a framework, and recognizes the Presidency Council, but has refused to approve the Faiez Serraj-led Government of National Accord (GNA).
Martin Kobler: ‘‘There is a consensus by the major international stakeholders that the LPA should remain the framework of development. This does not mean that it is set in stone and it is very important that there is a process to discuss the deficiencies of the LPA’’.
‘‘That’s why the Libyan Political Dialogue, not the UN, the Libyan Political Dialogue requested the HoR to bring about the constitutional amendment. I wanted to go to Tobruk to discuss this with the HoR members (Wednesday 30th November). I was speaking in person with President Ageela and tried to be helpful here to bring about the process to pass the constitutional amendment’’.
Libya Herald: Given that the HoR is quite clearly refusing to pass the constitutional amendment, what is UNSMIL going to do to help the poor average Libyan citizen who is still continuing to suffer one year from the signing of the LPA?
Martin Kobler: ‘‘This is my major concern. We are working here for the Libyans. For the many Libyan men, women and children who cannot go to school. The hospitals are not working. Out of 98 hospitals, only 4 are working’’.
‘‘The political problems have to be solved. And I request the Libyan stakeholders to sit together, including members of the HoR, to pass the constitutional amendment. Or at least to say what should be done to make the LPA work’’.
‘‘The problems have to be put on the table and then people can discuss it. The State Council is not functioning, the HoR is not functioning. All the institutions are not fulfilling their duties, including also the HoR’’.
‘‘It took the HoR 6 months and 8 days to decide that they reject the list of the GNA members: it could have been done in a few days. Now, the HoR has, as per the LPA, the duty to fulfil. To pass the constitutional amendment and to endorse the GNA’’.
‘‘If it is not possible, they should, please, tell us why it is not possible. What do they request? What changes do they have in mind for the LPA. We would like to be helpful to organize a process to discuss these questions and it is up to the Libyans to decide what to discuss. We, the international community are not imposing anything. It is up to the Libyans to decide what to do’’.
Libya Herald: The GNA/PC has failed to deliver since 30 March as evidenced by the dinar exchange rate, the bank cash shortage, power cuts, insecurity etc. The HoR has failed to pass the constitutional amendment or approve a GNA. Hafter is refusing to change his position. Do you not feel it is your humanitarian duty to do something for the Libyan public?
Martin Kobler: ‘‘I totally agree. It’s a humanitarian duty to improve the living conditions of people. To be helpful to the Libyans, to restore peace and security to all the people. Now, what is the way to do it?’’
‘‘There is the LPA in place and it has the solutions. Even if you want to change the LPA, there is a mechanism inside it. The government can be changed. The PC can be changed. That is why I request the HoR to pass the constitutional amendment to make it part of the constitutional setup of the country and then they become owners of the LPA. They can even abolish it. This is a Libyan-owned process. The HoR is the parliament of Libya. Ii can use this mechanism to change it or leave it. This is a very clear political roadmap’’.
‘‘I wrote a letter to president Ageela Saleh to bring this about. It is very important that the HoR becomes the owner of the agreement. Now, the agreement does not have a real owner. Who is the owner of the agreement? It is not the UN. It is not the Libyan Political Dialogue. This is now a very fluid situation. There must be clear legal structures’’.
‘‘But I totally agree that it is a humanitarian question, not only addressed to the UN. I put this humanitarian question to the HoR. Do the Libyans want to continue to let the people suffer? To have the hospitals not working. To have schools with shattered windows. To have universities working sub-optimally and to have shooting on the streets?’’
‘‘The question goes first and foremost to those who have political responsibility in Libya’’.
Libya Herald: Do you think it is right for the PC/GNA to be protected by militias instead of an army? Is it possible for a government to be totally independent if it is protected by militias: the very militias it is supposed to reform (DDR) into an army?
Martin Kobler: ‘‘It is not possible to create an independent government if it is protected by militias. I totally agree. That is why the situation has to end. And the solution is also in the LPA. There must be a Libyan army. This is very clear. With a clear chain of command with a supreme commander of the army. And there must be a strong army and a strong police’’.
Libya Herald: With the lack of a dynamic between you, Ageela, Hafter and the HoR, do you think you have become part of the problem rather than the solution? Do you see a point when you might step aside?
Martin Kobler:”No. I feel overwhelmed by the degree of sympathy wherever I am. In the markets, everywhere. People personally tell me you and the UN have to do more. Please stay with us. We need your support as the international community. You have to be better. Stay with us. Accompany us on this way to peace and security. And I feel this very strongly’’.
‘‘Of course I have other experiences. People say you are not liked in Tobruk, for instance. But this is an exaggeration. Most of the people they would like that the international community through the UN, but also myself personally that we continue to do our job to serve the people of Libya’’.
‘‘Not to serve individual interests but to serve the men, women, and children of Libya. And this is my credo. To really work together with everybody in order to improve the living conditions of the Libyan people’’.
Libya Herald: And you still think you are succeeding the Libyan people?
Martin Kobler: ‘‘Well. I think we are doing our best. You cannot do more as an international community than doing your best. I try to ask everybody where do you think we can improve our service delivery to the Libyan people. And there are good proposals. And we try to incorporate them.’’
‘‘I see that most of the political stakeholders are supporting the LPA as a framework because there is no alternative. The alternative would be chaos. And whoever has a good idea, this is really welcomed and we try to incorporate it into our proposals’’.
‘‘But at the end it is the Libyans who have to decide. The UN is here to support you, to assist you. You might accept it or not, but we are here in a supportive role and not in an executive function. The Libyans themselves have the responsibility for the country’’.
‘‘And my heart bleeds if I see how rich the country is and how now oil production went up. But on the other side the financial reserves of the country are shrinking. How the wealth is stolen out of the country. The degree of corruption. This is the responsibility of each and every Libyan. And the international community is here to help you and support you’’.
‘‘And I understand the frustration of many Libyans, also viz-a-viz the international community. Tell us what to do. The UN never has a hidden agenda. We are the most transparent. We are not an individual member state. We are the UN based on the UNSC resolution which we are going to implement. We are equidistant to everybody. We have a very humanitarian socio component and we have a human rights component. We have values. In the political sphere we are equidistant to all sides. Good propositions are always taken and if somebody has a better solution, let us discuss it’’.
Libya Herald: We are coming to the end of the year. Is there any hope that the UN will reassess its position and the LPA? Is there any plan B on the horizon?
Martin Kobler: ‘‘We are reassessing every three months. I will be at the UN Security Council again on Tuesday. There will be a statement at the Security Council and a long internal discussion with members of the Security Council. The Security Council is the body in the UN that determines the policy and gives us (UNSMIL) the mandate. This mandate will hopefully be extended’’.
‘‘This is the time of stocktaking. The 17th December is the first anniversary (of the signing of the LPA) and we have to be honest with ourselves: where are the achievements and where are the blockages and where are the problems that we have to solve. That’s why the (Libyan) roadmap (LPA) is clear.
‘‘I convened the Dialogue Committee in Malta and it is they who came up with the conclusion to request that the HoR pass the constitutional amendment in order to make them own the agreement. The agreement of course is not set in stone. It is a good process I think for the year to come. I request everybody to go fast with it.
‘‘Particularly the problem of militias in Tripoli. I share the frustration of those who say that the government cannot be protected by militias. Of course not. That is why we suggested a long time ago to establish the Presidential Guard in Tripoli. These attempts are on-going. The Presidential Guard is recruiting people not as competition to the army but of course to protect as everybody wants the Presidency Council, the Government of National Accord and the embassies’’.
‘‘We want to go with the UN back to Tripoli. Most of the embassies are in exile in Tunis or Jerba etc. that is why I think the idea of a Presidential Guard is a good one because they will make a difference in security in Tripoli’’.
‘‘In parallel a Libyan army has to be built up. A police force has to be built up. But not everything can be achieved overnight. But you have to start. I think security in Tripoli, the Presidential Guard is a good step to provide security for the Presidency Council and to tell all those who say militias cannot protect the Presidency Council: you are right’’.