Stalled, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya is looking for a new lease of life. The UN envoy to Libya, Jan Kubis, would like to recruit a number 2. But will that change anything?
Last January, the appointment to the vacant post of UN envoy for Libya had given rise to a real imbroglio. The candidacy of the former Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ramtane Lamamra, reappointed to his post since the ministerial reshuffle, indeed seemed to be recorded. The United Nations and the African Union had given their agreement and everything seemed to be complete. But António Guterres, secretary general of the UN, had finally proposed the appointment of Slovak Jan Kubis, ex-special coordinator for Lebanon. At the time, diplomatic sources mentioned a veto of the EUnited Arab Emirates and Morocco, but also Washington, against the designation of Lamamra.
The replacement of Lebanese Ghassan Salamé, who resigned in March 2020, was the subject of a series of negotiations. As a result, the post of UN special envoy to Libya had been vacant for almost a year. And the negotiations between the various parties active in Libya had given rise to the publication of several names for the post:former Ghanaian minister Hanna Serwaa Tetteh seemed a good start to take up the case. But the United States would have opposed it. Washington then proposed to divide the function in two, by creating the positions of coordinator of the small UN mission and emissary in charge of political negotiations. The UN Security Council then opted for Bulgarian Nickolay Mladenov. The latter had refused and Kubis therefore took the post.
A facade of optimism
But there is something special about the post of UN special envoy to Libya. In 2019, during a meeting with Ghassan Salamé, the diplomat seemed tired, physically but also morally. The situation seemed at a standstill in Libya at the time and the Lebanese told us about the slowness of negotiations between the different parties. A few months later, he resigned. Officially for medical reasons. Off the record, relatives of the emissary explained that the rivalries between international mediators had overcome the optimism of the Lebanese, who was facing an insurmountable wall. Foreign interference and the sluggishness of discussions between the Haftar clan and the Fayez el-Sarraj government had also worked against him.
The Slovak Jan Kubis has therefore arrived in minefield. But the recent director of security reform for the UN mission in Libya was optimistic when he took up his post and in the months that followed: “Since I took up my responsibilities at the beginning of February, a succession of Libya has shown that once seemingly insurmountable divisions can be overcome with determined political will and responsiveness to the demands and aspirations of the Libyan people, ”he said in March.
The failures of UNSMIL
The double mission of the Slovak diplomat, in addition to the talks and the maintenance of the ceasefire, promises to be difficult. Kubis is indeed in charge of the disarmament-reintegration (DDR) process and the reform of security institutions (SSR). Despite a facade of optimism, the Slovak seems today to face another problem: the difficulty of recruiting a head of the security reform service. Lebanese Salim Raad has held this post since 2013. In 2017, members of civil society called for his dismissal. Raad had held on.
But the Lebanese's lack of results should get the better of him. Especially since, in Germany during the Berlin II conference, the results of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) were not convincing. So much so that several stakeholders in the Libyan dossier are already asking for the postponement of the elections scheduled for December. The UNSMIL "has imperceptibly been transformed into supervision over Libya, without clear legal bases", deplores the researcher Moncef Djaziri who also deplores the lack of results of the Mission.
A playing card for the African Union
Several objectives of UNSMIL were not achieved, such as the reunification of the army, the non-recognition by Marshal Haftar of the army command attached to the Presidential Council of Mohamed el-Menfi or even the appointment of a Minister of Defense. This last point shows that even within current institutions, disagreement is pervasive. The President, the Prime Minister and the head of the House of Representatives are indeed in disagreement. At last, while a departure of foreign forces Turkish, Russian, Syrian, Sudanese or even Chadian has been promised, nothing has progressed in this regard.
So many unfulfilled objectives which show to what extent the mission of the Slovak diplomat is blocked. It's been more than a month since Jan Kubis started looking for his new number 2. We have seen it with his own appointment: finding a personality who achieves consensus is almost an impossible mission. And if this research is successful, it will first of all be necessary to reach an agreement between the United States, the Emirates and even Morocco.
This status quo of UNSMIL shows the limits of the current search for solutions in Libya. And leaves the door open to the African Union, so far too little consulted on the Libyan issue. The return of Ramtane Lamamra to his post as Minister of Foreign Affairs in Algeria shows the will of certain countries to accelerate the establishment of an African solution to the Libyan conflict. This file would be one of the priorities of Algiers. But also from Brazzaville. Congolese President Denis Sassou N'Guesso, also president of the African Union High-Level Committee on Libya, has increased the number of meetings in recent weeks, and seems to be doing everything to give back a prominent place to the AU in this a file that got bogged down under the aegis of the United Nations.