MUNYAGA: Will Kikwete help Libya stop pouncing on Gaddafi’s carcass?
By Mboneko Munyaga, Arusha, Tanzania
The January 2016 African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, appointed retired Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete the organization’s Special Envoy to Libya in hopes to restore peace and stability in the North African country, which has been ravaged by civil war for the last five years.
Dr. Kikwete, a seasoned diplomat who was Tanzania’s Foreign Minister from 1995 to 2005, replaced former Djibouti Prime Minister, Dileita Mohamed Dileita who held the post since 2014.
Dr. Kikwete’s appointment, along with naming a five-member high level contact group of former Heads of State, was seen as Africa’s genuine desire to resolve the Libyan crisis that concerns all Africa.
But the assignment will no doubt both test and stretch Kikwete’s skills although he is a man immensely gifted with the power to listen to even the most annoying nonsense. However, few in the world will actually envy him given the complexity of the Libyan question and the powerful behind – the- scenes interests fanning the winds of mayhem as the rest of the world plays the stability feeble.
Long after calm in Tunisia and Egypt, it can rightly be said Libya is still the ongoing casualty of the 2011 Arab Spring Revolution that claimed Mummar Gaddafi as its most high profile victim. NATO powers invaded Libya ostensibly to stop Gaddafi from killing his people senselessly but what happened after Gaddafi himself was captured and killed on October 20th, 2011 is modern history’s most tragic case of the disintegration of a state.
Currently, Libya is like a case of eagles pouncing on a carcass. Four years after the death of Gaddafi, the country is deeply fractured with two governments, a self-styled one in the traditional capital, Tripoli and the internationally recognized one in Tobruk, east of the country. In reality though, the ongoing civil war, the country’s second, is a conflict between four rival organisations, all seeking to control the spoils left by the death of Gaddafi.
The first is the internationally recognized government of the Council of Deputies that was elected democratically in 2014. It is also known as the “Tobruk government” but internationally known formally as the “Libyan Government.” It enjoys deep loyalty of the Libyan Army under the command of General Officer Khalifa Haftar, who has emerged as one of the strongest persons in post Gaddafi Libya. It is also supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The second is the Tripoli based new General National Congress (GNC) led by the Muslim Brotherhood, backed by a coalition of four other groupings known as the “Libya Dawn.” It is helped by Qatar, Sudan, and Turkey. There is also the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries that wants to see Libya governed by Islamic Sharia Law. Finally, there is the unrecognized government in Tripoli of former Prime Minister, Omar Al-Hassi, who refused to be sacked in March 2015 by the GNC.
There are also two smaller organizations seeking to control small parts of Libya: the Tuareg militias of Ghat, controlling desert areas in the southwest and local forces in Misrata district, controlling the towns of Bani Walid and Tawergha. Sometimes the groups change sides too. So, Dr. Kikwete shall have to navigate very tricky waters and carry out plenty of shuttle diplomacy to several capitals of the world, which of course, he enjoys a lot.
However, Dr. Kikwete was appointed as part of the AU efforts to complement and give impetus to United Nations efforts to broker lasting peace for Libya. In that regard, he will have limited room to maneuver new initiatives except to reinforce the work of the UN. Last December the UN brought together the various factions to sign a peace deal that the international community hopes shall lead to lasting peace and stability in Libya.
The document, signed in Skhirat, Morocco underpins the formation of a government of national unity led by a nine-member presidential council. Some warring factions did not sign it, complaining that it was an externally imposed deal and that they preferred the Libyans themselves to solve their problems. The UN in turn has threatened sanctions against those who won’t play along but for the Libyans, that is just like a useless scarecrow.
International powerful play and economic interests are also major factors. Libya has the 10th largest proven oil reserves in the world, the revenues from which Gaddafi had made to benefit his slightly more than six million people in his unique brand of “direct democracy”, in which power was said to issue from grassroots communities. Also, the government actually paid each citizen a “salary” making Libya post Income Per Capita of more than US dollars 11,000 for the largely nomadic population.
However, oil production has since dropped to about half only of the former 1.6 million barrels a day that Libya used to produce before 2011 and the country is now said to be running out of cash. Therefore, it is hard to tell what the Libyans are fighting for and that shall indeed, be Kikwete’s biggest burden.
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