Government of National Accord

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Government of National Accord
حكومة الوفاق الوطني
Government of National Accord Seal.jpg
Provisional government overview
Formed 2016
Jurisdiction Libya
Headquarters Tripoli
Minister responsible

The Government of National Accord (Arabic: حكومة الوفاق الوطني‎) is an interim government for Libya that was formed under the terms of the Libyan Political Agreement, a United Nations-led initiative, signed on 17 December 2015.[1] The agreement has been unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Security Council which has welcomed the formation of a Presidency Council for Libya and recognized that the Government of National Accord is the sole legitimate executive authority in Libya.[2] On 31 December 2015, Chairman of the Libyan House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh Issa declared his support for the Libyan Political Agreement.[3] Ever since, the General National Congress has criticized the unity government on multiple fronts as biased in favor of its rivals, the House of Representatives (Libya).[4]

The Government of National Accord has 17 ministers and is led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. The first meeting of the cabinet of the Government of National Accord took place on 2 January 2016 in Tunis.[5] A full cabinet consisting of 18 ministers was announced in January 2016.[6]

The Prime Minister of the GNA, Fayez al-Sarraj, and six other members of the Presidential Council and proposed cabinet arrived in Tripoli on 30 March 2016.[7] The following day, it was reported that the GNA has taken control of the prime ministerial offices.[8]

Since March 2016, conflict between the two rival governments, the Libyan House of Representatives and the General National Congress (GNC), has intensified.[9] Despite previously supporting it, the Libyan House of Representatives withdrew its recognition of the GNA by voting against it in the summer of 2016 and becoming their rival for governing the country.[10] Despite being backed by only parts of the GNC and without formal approval from the Libyan House of Representatives, who have called for new elections to be held by February 2018,[11] the GNA is still recognized by the United Nations as Libya’s legitimate government.

So far, the GNA has struggled to assert its authority and has been largely unsuccessful in unifying Libya as expected. The ultimate viability of the Government of National Accord is uncertain given that the country still remains greatly divided across political, tribal and ideological lines.[12]

Background[edit]

Ever since a NATO operation toppled long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 during the Libyan Civil War,[13] Libya has experienced a period of intense turmoil and instability. With the absence of a stable government, Libya has also become a breeding ground for armed militias and Islamist groups who have capitalized on the lawless environment to operate in and recruit fighters from the country.[14] Immediately after Gaddafi’s death in 2011, a rebel leadership council known as the National Transitional Council took control of the country until the General National Congress was democratically elected in 2012.[15]

Division under the GNC[edit]

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This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Libya

Following the 2012 creation of the GNC, several factions have expressed concern with its actions. While the majority of elected officials in the GNC were moderate or liberal, the elected president, Nouri Abusahmain, as well as a strong minority of officials represented Islamist parties, like the martyrs bloc and the Justice and Construction Party, causing unrest among liberals and exasperating political divides in Libya.[16] Further decisions to impose exclusionary rules that prevent those who served under Gaddafi from holding office in the GNC, to impose sharia law,[17] and to extend the mandate of the GNC another year, postponing general elections also caused dissent towards the GNC.[18] On February 14, 2014, Khalifa Haftar called for the dissolution of the GNC, and creation of a president's council that could better organize a constitution and free elections and in May he led a militia offensive called Operation Dignity which seized control Tripoli.[19]

On June 25, 2014, elections were held for the new Libya legislative body, the Council of Deputies or Libyan House of Representatives, even as Haftar's militia continued its campaign with attacks in Benghazi.[20] Moderate and liberal groups became the majority of the Libyan House of Representatives, but because of low turnouts (estimated as low as 18% of the electorate), Islamist groups rejected the results. Meanwhile Islamist militias began attacks and bombings in major cities, including the assassination of Salwa Bughaighis, a women's rights activist, in Benghazi and a car bombing in al-Bayda.[21] Islamist militias soon seized control of Misrata and created its own campaign, called Operation Libya Dawn. This led the Libyan House of Representatives to flee from Tripoli to Tobruk.[22]

The results of these conflicts were a renewed civil war and a divided Libyan government, with anti-Islamist groups in Tripoli, Islamist groups in Misrata, and the internationally backed Libyan House of Representatives relocated to Tobruk. As this civil war continued, efforts to create a new national unity government began.

Creation of the GNA[edit]

Efforts to mend divisions in Libya began in early 2015. On January 15, 2015, Operation Dignity forces agreed to a ceasefire with Operation Libya Dawn, while the Tobruk government agreed to talks with the Libya Dawn backed GNC, but several key members of Libya Dawn and its GNC government did not attend the planned talks in Geneva.[23] Throughout the first half of 2015, the United Nations facilitated talks between factions to draft a plans for a unity government that would bring an end to the civil war, but those proposals met resistance from all factions, with a fourth draft being rejected by the Libyan House of Representatives on June 9.[24]

After continued talks throughout the remainder of 2015, a peace agreement between the two factions was signed on December 17 in Skhirat, Morocco.[25] The agreement created a Presidential Council and the High Council of State and established the Government of National Accord. Despite bipartisan support of the agreement, both factions also had members who did not support the deal and it was feared that well-armed militias would not comply to deal.[26] After an endorsement by the United Nations Security Council, the GNA was almost immediately recognized by the international community as Libya’s legitimate government.[27] Federica Mogherini, the EU foreign policy chief, called the agreement an “essential step” and said that only a unity government would be equipped to “end political divisions, defeat terrorism, and address the numerous security, humanitarian, and economic challenges the country faces."[28]

The GNA held its first meeting in Tunis on January 8, 2016,[5] had nominated ministers to all positions by February and received a vote of confidence from the Libyan House of Representatives in on March 12, 2016.[29] On March 30, 2016, the Government of National Accord moved its Presidential Council to Tripoli despite threats from militant groups in the city. The Presidential Council is currently operating out of a naval base in the city.[30] Support for the GNA has since continued to grow. Elders from the Tuareg and Toubou peoples have expressed support for the GNA.[31]

Conflict with the Tobruk government[edit]

Despite the early deals that were made, the Tobruk-based Libyan House of Representatives voted against approving the GNA during the summer of 2016 and became their rival for governing Libya.[32] In the early months of 2017, cooperation between the two governments broke down completely. In February, a meeting between Field Marshal Khalifa Hafter and Prime Minister Sarraj took place in Cairo, but despite Egyptian and Russian pressure the two sides were unable to come to an agreement.[33] In March, the pro-GNA Benghazi Defense Brigades seized control of the oil facilities in the Gulf of Sidra region from the eastern parliament's Libyan National Army, which had captured them back in September 2016. The LNA launched a counterattack and the Tobruk government demanded the GNA to condemn their acts. The Libyan House of Representatives later withdrew its recognition of the GNA and called for new elections to be held by early 2018.[34][35]

During early 2017, the GNA still lacked popular support due to its weak military force and inability to control Tripoli. However, in late April and early May a meeting occurred between Prime Minister Sarraj and Field Marshal Haftar in Abu Dhabi. They met for two hours and sources suggest that their meeting was positive, with the premier later stating that they both agreed on the need for a peaceful solution.[36] Reportedly the meeting materialized thanks to pressure on Haftar by the UAE. They also agreed to form a new Presidential Council as part of a power-sharing agreement and hold elections in March 2018.[37][38]

Key documents[edit]

Libyan Political Agreement[edit]

The Government of National Accord is codified in the Libyan Political Agreement signed on 17 December 2015 at a conference in Shkirat, Morocco. This agreement has been unanimously endorsed by the United Nations Security Council which has recognized that the Government of National Accord is the sole legitimate government of Libya.[2][39] The Libyan Political agreement gives executive authority to the GNA, while leaving legislative authority to the House of Representatives as it was following the June 2014 elections. It also establishes the High Council of State, a consultative body independent of the GNA.

According to the original document, the Libyan Political Agreement is founded on four main principles: “Ensuring the democratic rights of the Libyan people, the need for a consensual government based on the principle of the separation of powers, oversight and balance between them, as well as the need to empower state institutions like the Government of National Accord so that they can address the serious challenges ahead, respect for the Libyan judiciary and its independence."[40]

Declaration of Principles[edit]

During the same time that the Libyan Political Agreement was signed, the two rival parliaments, the Libyan House of Representatives and the GNC, signed a Declaration of Principles between them in Tunis aimed at bringing about a national unity government. Despite occurring parallel to the Libyan Political Agreement, this new deal was separate to the U.N.-led agreement, a peace-process that has struggled to prove acceptable to either the GNC or the Libyan House of Representatives. This new declaration involved establishing a 10-person committee, 5 from each side, that together would select an interim Prime Minister and two Deputies with full legislative elections taking place within two years.[41]

Given that the GNC has refused to put forward candidates for a unity government under the U.N. process, this new deal was seen as a reaction and domestic response to the pressure exerted from the international community insisting that the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord was the only way forward in Libya.[42] Many Libyans saw the U.N. process as a top-down agreement forced on them. With no signs of the U.N. incorporating this new deal into its peace process, U.N. special envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, said the agreement was a good first step and insisted that the U.N.-backed Libyan Political Agreement represents the only means of uniting the country and requires a “rapid endorsement” by both sides.[42]

Key actors[edit]

House of Representatives[edit]

Democratically elected in 2014, the Libyan House of Representatives was Libya’s internationally recognized government prior to the creation of the GNA. Backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, the House of Representatives is also supported by the Libyan National Army and its leader, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who is behind the government’s refusal to approve of the GNA.

Haftar has been steadily gaining power in Libya since the launch of his successful military campaign against jihadist and Islamist groups in Libya in 2014 and his successful seizure of four vital oil export terminals from the Petroleum Facilities Guard in Eastern Libya which have increased the country’s oil production to its highest level in years.[43]

Unlike his opponents in the GNA who have been steadily losing legitimacy, Haftar maintains a large and growing influence over the country, especially in the East.[44] With the House of Representatives having withdrawn its recognition of the GNA, some security experts argue that if any potential changes to the Libyan Political Agreement do not meet Haftar's demands, it is unlikely that the unification process will succeed.[45] Given Haftar's growing legitimacy in the country, the international community has indeed recognized that his participation is essential in establishing a viable government in Libya with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson having urged for his inclusion in any government in the future.[9]

General National Congress[edit]

When elected in 2012 to replace the National Transitional Council, the GNC was made up of a majority of moderate officials with only the President, Nouri Abusahmain, and a few other officials representing Islamist parties. Many factions of the GNC later broke away from the group as they grew concerned with the government’s actions especially as violence, caused by Islamist militias supported by leaders of the group, began to escalate. Currently, the GNC is backed by hardline Islamist groups and militias in Tripoli and Misrata, with little foreign support.[46]

Egypt[edit]

Leader of the Libyan National Army, Haftar's refusal to negotiate with GNA Prime Minister al-Sarraj in February 2017 has disappointed the Egyptian government, who has supported his role of governing Libya.[28] President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has been strongly pushing for a settlement between the Libyan House of Representatives and the GNA in order to end the civil war and contain the spread of the Islamist and jihadist movement it has created. Egypt has expressed concerns that a continuation of the conflict will give Islamic groups in Libya, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, greater influence in the country. Apart from supplying Tobruk’s government with significant arms deals, for Egypt, having the Eastern part of Libya under the role of a leader friendly to the country, in this case Haftar, would create a buffer zone with ISIS and any opposition to Sisi's government in Cairo.[43]

Russia[edit]

Despite being opposed to the move by NATO to topple ex-leader Muammar Gaddafi, Russia did not block the UN resolution calling for an intervention in Libya in 2011. Since then, Russia has frequently used Libya as an example of Western failures in the Middle East. The Russian Government has affirmed that it intends to play a role in restoring a strong regime in the country.[47] Days ahead of al-Sarraj's visit to Russia in March 2017, Putin's spokesman said, “Russia is interested in Libya finally becoming a working state after this barbaric intervention that was conducted from outside, that led to catastrophic consequences from the point of view of the Libyan state and the future of the Libyan people. That is why we are interested in the swift development of a durable power in Libya that can begin the process of restoring and recreating the state.”[48] Russia has also recently met with al-Sarraj's rival factions where earlier last year, Haftar also paid a visit to Russia.

United States[edit]

The United States, together with the European Union was one of the first parties to recognize and welcome the GNA as Libya's new unity government. At the December 24, 2015 United Nations Security Council meeting, Ambassador Samantha Power said that "The United States urges all Libyans to unite behind the Libyan Political Agreement, and to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the formation of the GNA by working together toward peace, stability, and the rule of law.”[27] The U.S. also issued a joint statement with the EU that described the new body as the “only legitimate government in Libya”.[49] This came before an admission by ex-U.S. President Barack Obama in April 2016 that the “worst mistake” of his presidency was the failure to prepare for an aftermath of Gaddafi’s overthrow.[50]

Since 2015, the U.S. has carried out three air strikes in Libya in what it called a sustained air campaign that would help local anti-Islamic State forces fight the group.[51] While there were plans in early 2016 to send 6,000 troops from a number of NATO countries, such as France and the United Kingdom, to train these local troops in fighting IS-affiliated groups, the GNA was reluctant to allow such a presence.[49] In December 2016, U.S. Special Envoy to Libya, Jonathan Winer, told Congress that the United States remained at the forefront of efforts to “broaden support” for the GNA.[52]

Algeria and Tunisia[edit]

Unlike other regional powers, Algeria and Tunisia have not built a network of proxies in Libya but have instead been vocal supporters of reconciliation and a political solution while closely coordinating with each other to contain the spillover from the Islamic State's presence in Libya.[43]

Islamic State[edit]

In October 2014, the Islamic Youth Shura Council (IYSC) declared that Derna, a small town on the northeastern coast and some 720 km (450 miles) from Tripoli, had become the first Libyan town to join the global caliphate.[53] In late 2014, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi recognised the presence of ISIS in Libya, declaring three wilayats: Barqa (eastern Libya), with Derna as its base; Tarablus (Tripoli), with Sirte as its base; and Fezzan (southwestern Libya).[54]

As another rival to the GNA and made up of foreign fighters, defectors from local jihadi groups and local returnees from Syria, the Islamic State was driven from its first headquarters in Derna in 2015 by anti-Haftar forces and began establishing a new base in Sirte. Sirte became the Islamic State's stronghold in Libya until May 2016 when a coalition of Misrata-dominated forces loyal to the GNA known as Bunyan al-Marsous (BAM) declared war on the Islamic State there.[43] On April 2, 2016, these Misrata-based militias had declared their loyalty to the GNA in order to legitimize themselves as a military force fighting for the country’s internationally backed government. The BAM operation in May was accompanied by over 400 U.S. air strikes over a six-month period.[55][54] On December 6, 2016, the Libyan National Army aligned with the GNA to capture Sirte with victory being declared that month. While the Islamic State lost Sirte, it is believed that many of its fighters remain in Libya operating sleeper cells in Tripoli and other cities and towns across the country.[43]

U.S. Special Envoy to Libya, Jonathan Winer, warned the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs on November 30, 2016 that the Islamic State could cause more trouble in Libya. “If Libyans choose to fight each other instead of uniting, they risk increasing the probability that ISIL and other violent extremists in its mould will be back," he said.[56]

Structure and Ministers[edit]

The Government of National Accord under the Libyan Political Agreement comprises a Cabinet of Ministers and a Presidential Council. The Presidential Council, made up of nine members and chaired by the Prime Minister, acts collectively as head of state and supreme commander of the armed forces, appointing thus the country’s military leadership. According to the agreement, the Presidential Council presides over the Cabinet of Ministers, also based in Tripoli, and also appoints its members.[54]

The Cabinet of the Government of National Accord, which acts as the government's executive branch, has 17 ministers and is led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and two Deputy Prime Ministers, Ahmed Maiteeq and Musa Al-Koni. Ministers in the cabinet need to be unanimously approved by the Prime Minister and his deputies and ministers can likewise only be removed with a unanimous decision of the Prime Minister and his deputies.[57]

The Government of National Accord is granted a one year term from the date the Libyan House of Representatives grants it a vote of confidence, but this term will be automatically extended an additional year if a new constitution is not completed and implemented during the term. The GNA can also be dissolved by a vote of no confidence from the Libyan House of Representatives , or by the death, vacancy, or resignation of the Prime Minister.[57]

The following ministers were proposed on January 2016:[5][6][58]

Incumbent Office Former allegiance Website Since Until
Fayez al-Sarraj Prime Minister of Libya www.pm.gov.ly 5 April 2016
Ahmed Maiteeq[59] Deputy Prime Minister 30 March 2016
Musa Al-Koni[60] Deputy Prime Minister 30 March 2016 2 January 2017[61]
Fathi Al-Mijabri[59] Deputy Prime Minister
Fakhr Muftah Bufernah Minister of Finance www.mof.gov.ly 30 June 2016[62]
Juma Abdullah Drissi Minister of Justice www.aladel.gov.ly 30 June 2016[62]
Omar Bashir Al-Taher Minister of Health www.health.gov.ly
Al-Aref al-Khoga Minister of Interior Libya Dawn www.moi.gov.ly May, 2014 2 January 2017
Mohamed Khalifa Al-Azzabi Minister of Education www.edu.gov.ly
Mohamed Taha Siala Minister of Foreign Affairs www.foreign.gov.ly January, 2016
Al-Mahdi Al-Barghathi Minister of Defense Libyan House of Representatives www.defense.gov.ly January, 2016
Al-Hadi Al-Taher Al-Juhaimi Planning Minister www.planning.gov.ly 2 January 2016[63]
Faida Mansour El-Shafi Minister of Social Affairs www.socialaffairs.gov.ly
Abdulmutaleb Ahmed Abu Farwa Minister of Economy & Industry www.industry.gov.ly 30 June 2016[62]
Ali Galma Mohamed Minister of Labour www.labour.gov.ly 27 January 2017[64]
Asma Mustafa Usta Minister of State for Women’s Affairs and Development
Muhannad Said Younis Minister of State for Martyrs, Wounded and Missing
Iman Mohammed Ben Younes Minister of State for Institutional Reform
Abdeljawad Faraj Al-Obaidi Minister of State for National Reconciliation 30 June 2016[62]
Yousef Abubakr Jalalah Minister of State for Migrants and Displaced

Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj was born into a prominent local family, whose father, Mustafa Sarraj was also involved in politics and described by Al-Jazeera as "one of the founders of the modern state of Libya after its independence from Italy".[54] After Gaddafi’s fall in 2011, Fayez al-Sarraj became a member of the National Dialogue Commission, which worked to establish national consensus and unity in Libya. His nomination as Prime Minister was seen as a compromise between the rival parties as he is not affiliated to any party involved in the power struggle.[65]

Deputy Prime Minister, Ahmed Maiteeq, served as Prime Minister for a short time and in the GNA represents the city of Misrata, which is the biggest political and military backer of the GNA. Misrata’s militias were crucial in Gaddafi’s downfall and have taken the lead in the fight against ISIS in Sirte.[54] Misrata's militias and the Libyan National Army are the two most relevant military forces in the country.

The Central Bank of Libya and the National Oil Corporation (NOC), also based in Tripoli, have both pledged loyalty to the Presidential Council of the GNA even though the NOC has had good working relations with Haftar and his Libyan National Army after it seized eastern oil ports from Islamists. The government in Tobruk has also established its own Central Bank and its own Oil Corporation even though they are not recognized internationally.[54]

Calls for a Possible Renegotiation of the Libyan Political Agreement[edit]

On December 6, 2016, the UN special envoy to Libya Martin Kobler hinted before the United Nations Security Council meeting at the possibility of renegotiating the Libyan Political Agreement, which he said is “not set in stone”. He later said that the agreement “stands firm, but stuck”.[66]

Western powers have become increasingly concerned that if infighting between the different political factions continues and the GNA is not recognized soon by the GNC, further turmoil will evolve and allow the Islamic State and other Islamist groups to gain further territory in the country.

A report published by the International Crisis Group in November 2016 has said that the Libyan Political Agreement has failed to calm the turbulence and warned that the country may descend into a "free-fall" if the country's peace process is not "reset".[67] “The accord’s roadmap, the idea that a caretaker government accommodating the two parliaments and their allies could establish a new political order and reintegrate militias, can no longer be implemented without change," said the report.[67]

Since its inception, the GNA has also been criticized domestically for focusing little on national reconciliation and improving the lives of the population and instead focusing on maintaining broad international support.[68] Critics pushing for a negotiation of the Libyan Political Agreement are calling for changes in the setup of the GNA itself and the future role of Haftar in the government. Haftar's role in the new government remains one of the most contentious points in the Agreement.[45] Haftar enjoys wide public support for successfully combating Islamists in eastern Libya, liberating four key oil ports from Islamist control and bringing relative security to Benghazi. Haftar supporters argue that dismissing him from any future government would not bring peace to the country while bringing him into the government can help the GNA seek a compromise with the Libyan House of Representatives that backs him.

Criticism[edit]

Since its December 2015 inception, the GNA has made little progress in unifying the country and has proved ineffective in areas such as national security, the economy, and most importantly, the overall governance of Libya.

A number of media outlets have expressed doubt that the GNA will ever be able to assert itself as a true authority figure and garner support from its citizens, as various militias continue to hold vast control in Libya.[69]

Negative perception[edit]

Martin Kobler, Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and one of the organizers of the GNA, publicly challenged the government via Twitter just months after its installment.[70] In June 2016, Kobler tweeted "Worried about the continued power cuts in large parts of tripoli. Urge #Gna to tackle energy supply for the population."[71] In February 2017, Kobler acknowledged the GNA’s shortcomings and said there was a growing consensus to reconfigure the Presidential Council.[72]

In November 2016, writing in Foreign Affairs, Emadeddin Zahri Muntasser of the Libyan American Public Affairs Council and lobbyist for the General National Congress, said "the GNA’s days are numbered. Very soon, Libyans might have to find yet another path."[71]

In a November 2016 piece titled "A Western-backed deal to salvage Libya is falling apart", The Economist wrote, "The latest peace accord has merely reconfigured the conflict, not solved it." Specifically, it noted that:[69]

"The GNA, for its part, has done little to win over the public. Services are sporadic at best, while the economy is teetering […] Prices have soared. The government is months behind on paying salaries."

Additionally, the GNA received a no confidence vote from the House of Representatives based in Tobruk. Out of 101 total deputies, only one person voted in favor of GNA.[73] The government and General Haftar – backed by Parliament – have feuded since GNA’s inception, creating an even more unstable political arena since Gaddafi’s fall.[74][75]

Leadership resignations[edit]

In January 2017, Deputy Prime Minister of GNA, Musa al-Koni, formally resigned, stating the government had "failed to tackle urgent problems arising from years of conflict and political disarray", Reuters reported. Specifically, al-Koni stated:[76]

"I announce my resignation due to the failure of the Presidential Council, because it holds responsibility for the killing, kidnapping, and rape that happened over the past year."

In an August 2017 article, The National pointed out that nine of the original presidency members have subsequently quit since GNA took power, including the ministers for justice, reconciliation and finance.[77][71]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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