In the middle of the World Peace Forum, which begins this Thursday, November 11, French President Emmanuel Macron is hosting a new international summit dedicated to Libya tomorrow.
French President Emmanuel Macron is organizing his own conference on Libya this Friday, November 12. The leaders of some twenty states, present in Paris for the World Peace Forum, which began today, will join him. Among them, the American Vice-President Kamala Harris, the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, the outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel or the Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), António Guterres.
According to our information, the President of Niger Mohamed Bazoum, his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the head of the Chadian junta Mahamat Déby are also expected. Indispensable guests for Emmanuel Macron, who is looking, on the occasion of this summit, for allies.
President of the African Union (AU) High Level Committee on Libya, Congolese President Denis Sassou N'Guesso also arrived in Paris this Thursday morning. He will probably be the only head of state there to campaign for an African solution in Libya. While in October, Jean-Yves Le Drian affirmed that “all the countries in the neighborhood of Libya” would be invited, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declined the invitation. For several days, he has refused to take Emmanuel Macron on the phone.
The Congolese head of state will therefore have to be persuasive. Because if Paris has decided to organize this umpteenth conference, a month and a half before the Libyan presidential election, it is on the contrary to try to put a stop to African mediation, accelerate the election agenda and try to put Europe forward in this complex issue. However, since the failure of the Berlin II summit and the Geneva Forum, European influence in Libya has shown its limits. Will this conference, which Jean-Yves Le Drian announces "co-chaired with Italy and Germany and closely associating the United Nations" be a new fiasco?
Between France and Libya, a story of disenchantment
Paris wants in any case to pull out of the game. France and Libya have had tense diplomatic relations for several decades. French support for Chad during the Chad-Libyan crisis in the early 1980s, Franco-American support for Hissène Habré's coup d'état, contested by Libya, or even the French initiative, via the president François Mitterrand, to blacklist the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, made the links between Tripoli and Paris very fragile.
Admittedly, the beginning of friendship between Gaddafi and French President Nicolas Sarkozy has raised hopes of an improvement in Franco-Libyan relations. It must be said that the financing of the French electoral campaign, on the one hand, and the sale of arms and a nuclear agreement on the other, had enabled Paris and Tripoli to move forward, for a few months, hand in hand. hand. But Nicolas Sarkozy was not long in betraying Gaddafi. In 2011, France was the first country to recognize the National Transitional Council, while Paris actively participated in the hunt against the former Guide to the Revolution.
Under the presidency of François Hollande, France seemed to lose control over the Libyan dossier, torn between support for Fayez el-Sarraj, close to Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, and support for Khalifa Haftar, under pressure from Jean-Yves Le Drian, then Minister of Defense. Since the end of the civil war, François Hollande's successor, Emmanuel Macron, has been sidelined and Libyan leaders have preferred to turn to more reliable allies, such as Turkey or Russia.
"France did not respect the sovereignty of Libya" ... and now?
It was not until the announcement of the separation between Wagner's Russian paramilitaries and the forces of Khalifa Haftar, as well as the presidential candidacy, supported by the West, of the Libyan marshal that Emmanuel Macron finally found relays in Libya. The conditions are favorable for a strong comeback of Paris: the electoral law just promulgated was dictated by Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and executed by Aguila Salah, ally of the Marshal Haftar and close to Morocco.
Blessed bread for the Elysee Palace, especially since Jean-Yves le Drian has since become Minister of Foreign Affairs and can therefore openly support the one he has always defended, Marshal Haftar. The latter is now one of the favorites at the polls and, for President Emmanuel Macron, making the right choice is important to show that France counts geopolitically. And even if the French head of state knows that Haftar will not manage to govern the country, his presence in eastern Libya allows Paris to guarantee privileged access to the French precinct - Niger, Chad and Sudan - via the Mediterranean.
For Paris, it is also a way of gaining control over an ex-ally of Russia, of putting pressure on Turkey, which is well established commercially and militarily in western Libya, and of gaining access to Libyan resources. most coveted: oil. If, as stated Emmanuel Macron last September, France "did not respect the sovereignty of Libya", the new posture of France does not seem to take into account the aspirations of the Libyan people.
What can Africa do?
On the African side, the position remains unchanged: the Libyan political transition can only take place after the withdrawal of the foreign forces present in Libya. What French interference does not necessarily encourage. The consequences could be disastrous: Libya must organize elections expeditiously, which risk giving rise to post-election violence across the country.
It is on this point that the African Union, which will be represented by Denis Sassou N'Guesso, should support. The Congolese president should try to make his counterparts aware of the risks Libya will face. To do this, the chairman of the AU High Level Committee on Libya will be able to recall that, in 2014, the civil war benefited terrorist groups, which grew stronger in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, and have seen their influence grow in Africa.
Many observers believe that without the 2014 Libyan civil war, jihadist terrorism in Africa would still be confined to the Chad Basin. Now, the terrorist nebula extends from southern Libya to the Gulf of Guinea in the south, and to the Red Sea in the east of the continent.
The West's appetite on this issue risks destabilizing Libya once again. The Congolese president, however, worked on his case: he obtained the support of the Libyan Presidential Council, following Mohammed el-Menfi's working visit to Brazzaville in July. He can also boast of having obtained promises from the North African Ibadi community, whose historic leader Farhat Jaâbiri affirmed his support for Denis Sassou N'Guesso last June. Finally, the Congolese head of state is highly respected on the international scene and is one of the only African presidents to be hermetic to French pressure.
The Congo had, moreover, previously participated in the Algerian initiative, within the framework of the summit of neighbors of Libya. Sassou N'Guesso knows that he has precious Algerian support while being able to spare Moroccan and Egyptian sensibilities.
Libya on the verge of implosion?
It remains to be seen whether the rivalry between the various Libyan factions will allow the transition to go through to the end. Because even if the presidential election is confirmed, the role of the international community should not stop the day after December 24. It seems impossible that the announcement of the results will go smoothly and it is not the 5 + 5 commission, marginalized by the forces of eastern Libya, nor even the UN or the European Union that will make it possible to bring lasting peace.
Africa therefore has a real role to play, as Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune reminded us. The latter will be absent from the Paris summit, angry with Emmanuel Macron. “It's not about me, it's a national issue. No Algerian would accept my contact with those who insulted us, ”explains the Algerian president. Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra announced that “Algeria will be represented”, without specifying how.
On the Libyan side, the atmosphere is also deleterious. The dispute between the government of Abdel Hamid Dbeibah (GNU) and the Presidential Council of el-Menfi, after the suspension of Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush, has pushed Libya a little more into the crisis. Consequence: the Prime Minister will run as a candidate in the next election. In addition to the two other declared candidates, Khalifa Haftar and Fathi Bachagha, one should not minimize the ambitions of Saif al-Islam Gadhafi and the representative of the Muslim Brotherhood Khaled al-Michri. A puzzle for the international community. Because each candidate is supported by at least one armed faction. An explosive context, and Paris seems unable to calm the situation, especially by openly supporting Marshal Haftar and closing the door to other candidates.