A meeting of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) was scheduled to take place today, the 13th of June. The two Deputy HoR presidents, Emhamed Shouaib and Ehmeed Homa have warned the president and speaker of the HoR, Ageela Salah, that they would hold him responsible if members are not allowed to freely vote and held him responsible for previous failures.
There have been several meetings with no quorum and two that were disrupted with no vote being taken. Ageela Salah is already sanctioned by the EU for impeding the process of implementing the terms of the Libya Political Agreement (LPA)
The HoR needs to endorse the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and also to amend the constitutional declaration to include the GNA. Salah urged the HoR members to attend the meeting today. Salah is reported to have said: “All members who fail to attend the meeting will bear the national and moral responsibility of their actions because all must prioritize Libya’s interests to every other thing in the world.”
The meeting was not held because there was not a quorum. As a recent tweet describes the situation: "No HoR session today due to the lack of quorum. Around 70 members & Agilah Saleh were present. Saleh's two deputies were not there. " Those two deputies who blame Saleh for the lack of a vote, fail to show up along with others making a vote impossible. Yet it is Saleh who was there plus 70 others.
The Libya Observer also reported on the failure reported by HoR member Saleh Fahima. Fahima said that HoR speaker Ageela Salah came to the meeting but when he saw that there were only 70 members who had showed up, he saw that there was no quorum and left.
Even if there is a vote, those in favor of the GNA want a section of the agreement deleted that gives the role of commander in chief of the GNA army to the Presidential Council. They want Haftar to remain as commander in chief of the army.
The agreement must be voted on as is and cannot be amended. The Special Representative of the Secretary General(SRSG), Martin Kobler wants the vote so the GNA will have a legislature.
The HoR is the legislature of the GNA. It is not clear what Kobler can do now there has again been no vote.
This is a commentary on some parts of the report presented to the UN Security Council on June 6 by Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG).
Kobler begins by outlining the dire humanitarian situation in Libya including 6,0000 families from Sirte fleeing their homes ahead of military operations there. He claims the number of displaced persons in Libya had reached 435,000
Kobler also makes reference to the immigrant situation, claiming that in May 1,100 migrants died in the Mediterranean. On the 26 May alone 500 migrants drowned off the Libyan coast.
Although he mentions a shortage of health workers, essential medicines and supplies, he fails to note the lack of medical resources for treating those wounded in the fight against the Islamic State.
On the political front he notes that it is almost six months since the Libya Political Agreement(LPA) was signed on December 17th in Skhirat.
His description of the event is typical puffery: "The signing was the first time that the Libyan people had dared believe again that peace and unity in Libya were attainable."
The Dialogue from which the LPA arose was meant to result in an agreement between the two rival parliaments. When neither would sign, Kobler simply gathered together all members of the Dialogue who agree to the draft agreement the UN had circulated and had them sign. None of those who signed from the two rival parliaments were authorized to do so. Details such as this never come up in UN reports.
He claims that the people of Libya welcomed the Presidency Council (PC) of the GNA to Tripoli but this he admits stands in contrast to their present sense of growing impatience and concern. The capital and other places have been plagued by a cash crisis and also frequent power outages.
The GNA has gone ahead without any formal vote of confidence in the HoR although Kobler and the GNA declared themselves up and operating from Tripoli on the basis of a letter from an alleged majority of the HoR approving the GNA in principle.
Kobler also brought together members of the dialogue whom he claims gave a green light to move to Tripoli. Now all of a sudden Kobler admits that "Libya is without a formally endorsed government". He says it has failed because some of the parties to the agreement have failed to uphold their commitments. The HoR has never agreed to the LPA in the first place so it is difficult to see how they fail to uphold their commitments.
The head of the HoR Ageela Saleh has nevertheless been sanctioned by the EU for obstructing the LPA process. He notes that the HoR has an integral role to play in Libya's democratic transition. The HoR under the terms of the LPA becomes the sole legislative body of the GNA. The GNA has been operating all along without a legislature. Somehow by hook or by crook the GNA must find a way to bring the HoR or more likely some of the members on board.
Kobler had praise for international organizations such as the Arab League for supporting the GNA. In the case of the Arab League and some of its members such as the UAE and Egypt they support Haftar as well.
Kobler ends by emphasizing six points necessary for Libya to exit from what he calls the current state of chaos. He claims: "First, that the Libyan Political Agreement, endorsed by the House of Representatives on 25 January, remains the sole legitimate framework for managing the remainder of Libya’s political transition until a permanent constitution is adopted."
Yet on January 25th this year Reuters reports: " Libya's internationally recognized parliament voted on Monday to reject a unity government proposed under a United Nations-backed plan to resolve the country's political crisis and armed conflict." Whatever, Kobler meant to say what he does say is not true.
Second, that the House of Representatives remains the institution to endorse and swear in the Government of National Accord. The HoR also needs to vote an amendment to the constitutional declaration of 2011. The GNA has long been operating without a formal vote of confidence from the HoR. The ministries have been operating as well without being sworn in. The real problem for the GNA is that the HoR is the legislature of the GNA. The GNA has been operating without a legislature.
The fifth point that Kobler makes is that the PC is the sole legitimate recipient of international security assistance in its capacity of commander in chief. This statement is certain to anger Khalifa Haftar, commander in chief, of the Libyan National Army and his supporters. Haftar loyalists want him to remain as commander in chief of the army in the new government and Section 8 of the LPA which makes the PC commander in chief to be deleted.
Sixth, averting hostilities between different security actors fighting against the Islamic state "requires an inclusive interim security arrangement, including temporary command and control arrangements for the army" However, at present there are mostly just various militia with various degrees of loyalty to the GNA.
A regular GNA army is something to be formed rather than existing. Since Kobler's statement Solid Structure has entered the IS stronghold of Sirte and the Petroleum Facilities Guard is advancing from the east as well.
While Khalifa Haftar announced weeks ago that he was marching to free Sirte, he has yet to take part in the battle for Sirte. He is busy attacking Derna with Operation Volcano and in Benghazi.
Forces of the Al-Bunyan Al-Marsoos (Solid Structure) had clashed with IS forces at Al-Gardabiya air base just outside of Sirte on Friday.
It has now been confirmed by numerous sources that that the base has been captured as of today. Spokesperson for the brigades, Mohamed Al-Gasri, said that capture of the base was significant strategically as it cut off supply routes to the IS and trapped them in the city.
Three fighters from the brigades were killed and five wounded in the fighting on Saturday.
The base is about 20 kilometers or 12 miles from Sirte. A tweet gives a larger casualty count: "#Libya | At least 4 killed & 16 injured from #GNA Forces after clashes with #IS to retake Al-Qardabiya Airport #Sirte #PT".
IS gained control of Sirte last year and also took control of the air base. The population of Sirte is about 80,000 but it is thought that most have fled. Al-Gasri said that residents who remain would be given a chance to escape before the brigades advanced into residential areas. It remains to be seen if IS will allow them to escape or use them as human shields. Al-Gasri said: "We are concerned now because Daesh (Islamic State) militants are hiding among civilians inside the city."
Al-Gasri claimed that the brigades are operated solely by Libyan senior military leaders and soldiers and denied that there are foreign forces or military experts helping them. This contradicts other reports that claim that UK special forces helped destroy IS suicide vehicles. There are also reports that they are torturing IS by playing loud Bollywood music. Al-Gasri also said that at least 700 IS fighters had been killed since the start of the operation against them.
He asked that the UN arms embargo be lifted so that the brigades could be supplied with more weapons and ammunition. He said that such articles as Night Vision Devices, demining and mine-detecting devices, as well as bullet-proof armour was needed. A recent report also says that the brigades now hold Abu Hadi, Arrawagha, road and Checkpoint 40 which along with seizure of the air base is pushing IS into the city itself.
On the eastern front, the Petroleum Facilities Guard(PFG)which supports the GNA has taken two towns recently. The towns are near the eastern border of territory held by IS. IS is said to have retreated to Harawa just 50 kilometers or 30 miles from Sirte.
The PFG is said to be advancing toward the town.
General Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan National Army associated with the rival government of the House of Representatives(HoR) announced weeks ago that he was marching to liberate Sirte but so far has not had any clashes with them. He could attack from the east and south. Such an attack would be disastrous for the IS which is hard put to defend itself on the two fronts already in operation.
The armed men who had been protesting outside the HoR actually tried to storm the building, firing shots into the air, and shouting demands that al-Thinni resign. The government spokesperson said that the men were financed by "corrupted political financiers" linked to powerful local tribal leaders. He did not elaborate or give any more specific information. The session was postponed until next week.
Earlier on local TV, Faraj Akhatabia, a member of the dominant Obiedi tribe in Tobruk, threatened Al-Thinni: “This prime minister must resign, if he doesn’t I will smash his head. Either he leaves or we won’t let the house of representatives stay in Tobruk.” An anonymous security adviser to the government linked the threat to Hassan Tatanaki, a prominent businessman and oil magnate who also belongs to the Obiedi tribe and owns the TV station on which Ahkatabia made the threat. Apparently, Tatanaki wanted to be appointed foreign minister but so far Al-Thinni has not done so. The Tobruk government faces threats not just from the Islamic State and its rivals in the GNC but from local tribes who are unhappy with its performance and are demanding a greater share of power.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.
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