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Research Report

Libya’s Political Transition:: The Challenges of Mediation

Copyright Date: Dec. 1, 2014
Pages: 24

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. [i]-[i])
  2. (pp. [ii]-[iii])
  3. (pp. 1-1)
  4. (pp. 1-2)

    The various uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa in early 2011 left few countries untouched. Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s abrupt departure into exile in Saudi Arabia on January 15th and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s removal on February 11th left the region asking who would be next. Emboldened by the surrounding strife, Libyans also took to the streets, first in Benghazi on February 15th and then, in later days, in many towns including the capital Tripoli.

    The demonstrators asked for Qaddafi to step down and called for long-promised reforms that would bring the country back into...

  5. (pp. 2-5)

    Al-Khatib was first approached by the UN secretary-general on March 3, 2011, to become the UN Special Envoy for Libya. He accepted the position on a $1/year contract, being officially appointed on March 7th, after a telephone conversation between the secretary-general and Libya’s foreign minister, Moussa Koussa. He knew the assignment would be tough, but a challenge worth attempting because he felt that events in Libya would impact the course of the wider Arab Spring and its reform demands across the region, which al-Khatib supported. At the same time, he saw Libya, like Syria today, as one of those conflicts...

  6. (pp. 5-8)

    As seen earlier, South Africa only supported Resolution 1973 on the basis that it mentioned the AU mediation effort. Indeed, for many AU member states, Libya was seen as an African country, and therefore, the AU deserved the lead role in mediating an end to the conflict. But other concerns existed too. A prolonged crisis in Libya could destabilize the Sahel region (as subsequently transpired), not the Middle East. Also, Qaddafi’s historical support for liberation and decolonization movements across Africa and his debt relief and support for the AU and some of its member states were all strong arguments for...

  7. (pp. 8-9)

    The NTC in Benghazi was consistent throughout the conflict that any negotiation with Tripoli had to first and foremost address the question of Qaddafi’s departure. From its perspective, the “legitimate demands of the Libyan people” in Resolution 1973 meant the removal of Qaddafi, period, and this was all it wished to negotiate.

    The NTC members thought if Qaddafi remained in Libya, then he would influence the process and outwit everyone. Another widely shared imperative was fear of the man and his family and collective outrage with Qaddafi’s response to the uprising. The NTC leadership also had to navigate strong views...

  8. (pp. 9-13)

    Historically, the UN had been instrumental in the creation of the modern Libyan state. Under a post-World War II UN General Assembly resolution, UN official Adrian Pelt had overseen a transitional period from 1949 to 1951 in which Libyans wrote a federal constitution incorporating the three regions of Cyrenaica, Fezzan, and Tripolitania into one country,35 seemingly a positive experience for most Libyans, before independence in 1951. As a consequence, and in the context of distrust more broadly of bilateral agendas, the NTC looked to the UN to play a key role in Libya’s imminent political transition.

    In addition to al-Khatib,...

  9. (pp. 13-13)

    Scholars have argued for an international stabilization or peacekeeping force in Libya, given the current pervasive insecurity across the country and the inability of the Libyans to generate legitimacy with any of their transitional structures and institutions.51 There are various angles on this question. For example, the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine also includes a responsibility to rebuild.52 If NATO and a number of bilateral states so assiduously pursued regime change in Libya behind a civilian protection mandate, then could they not have done more under the same doctrine to provide security after the fall of Tripoli?

    Setting aside the debate...

  10. (pp. 13-14)

    The situation until the first elections in mid-2012 and, indeed, the end of that year had long-term observers cautiously optimistic that Libya might experience a successful return to constitutional government.55 The Libyan population and their leaders were also optimistic (and adamant) that Libyans would lead the transition process.

    In the local disputes that emerged through 2011 and even 2012, the Libyans were able to respond quite effectively. The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD), which was assisting the Libyan authorities in mediating conflicts after the revolution, noted in mid-2012 that where the “Libyans have made it clear that national ownership of...

  11. (pp. 14-19)

    The international response to the Libyan crisis was framed by geography since Libya is at the crossroads of Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. The different responses also showed that Libya was in the crosshairs of unresolved debates about civilian protection, humanitarian intervention, and normative responses to regime change. Certainly, these debates are context driven. In the circumstances of the Arab Spring, it was widely believed that Qaddafi’s fall was imminent as had happened with Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.

    Qaddafi’s violent response and his alarming speech on February 22, 2011, galvanized Libyan diplomats in...

  12. (pp. 20-20)