17 February 2016

Libya: Challenges Ahead for New Libyan Governement

Five years after the uprising tha outsted dictator Moamer Kadhafi, many Libyans have lost hope of seeing the rule of law return to a divided country threatened by jihadist expansion. A UN-backed council of rival Libyan factions announced the formation of the revised cabinet, after a previous government was rejected last month in a blow to peace efforts.

The Islamic State armed group has exploited the chaos engulfing the oil-rich North African nation since the 2011 revolution to gain a foothold and expand its influence.

International attempts to end the chaos in Libya took a step forward on Monday as a new national unity government was proposed to lawmakers.

Already, divisions have emerged within the presidency council, and two of the nine-member council have not signed up to the latest proposal.

Shibani Abuhamud, Libya's ambassador to France says though that the one positive outcome is the fact that this government sends a message of national conciliation, since some of the proposed ministers used to work for the old regime.

"The fact that some ministers have worked for a long time with the old regime, it means that no one speaks anymore about this bad law of political exclusion," Shibani Abuhamud told RFI.

"This government is a national unity government, and it represents the whole Libyan society. Also, there is the fact that many members of the government are good compared to what was proposed before, so there are many reasons to believe this government is promising."

However, political analysts are not as hopeful.

"This is a weak government, in a very complex situation in which a lot of people have an interest in not having a unity government in Libya and to take office, this government needs to have the approval of the House of representatives in Tobruk... which has already turned down the previous propositions, which has already shown its inefficency," Mattia Toaldo, a policy fellow for the European Council on Foreign Relations who focuses on Libya, told RFI.

"They will have a hard time even get this list approved and then once they get it approved, they'll need to move to Tripoli, which is a very complicated task. Once they're in Tripoli, then even more complicated tasks will begin. So they should be praised for their courage but we shouldn't think that we're anywhere near the solution."

The new government will have to take on several major tasks and set some priorities.

Libya's ambassador, Shibani Abuhamud, lists at least five of them. First of all, bringing back the government to the capital, Tripoli. Then there will be the issue of the humanitarian crisis within the country, as well as bringing back some of the refugees.

He also says a new national dialogue will have to be brought to the table, one that would include every separate factions.

"People who were against the revolution were excluded from these discussions, because they were not part of this recent political division so we have to start another dialogue, a wider dialogue, to integrate all the people in this dialogue, a national dialogue to have a broader national conciliation" he told RFI.

And of course, the question of how to fight the Islamic State armed group.

That remains one of the main issues. The Islamic State armed group has been getting stronger in the region. Some think that it's only natural for world powers to be concerned with IS because it affects them directly.

But Mattia Toaldo thinks that if the foreign states get too involved, Libyans could think they are "off the hook".

"They're thinking, ok, the West will deal with this issue, so we can continue squabbling," he said.

"I think we should push the Libyans to come up with a solution of their own, a fight of their own, with some help from the West but the strategy and the political response should come from the Libyans, it should not be Western made. I think if properly pushed, encouraged and, in a way, forced to do this it could happen because a number of factions in Libya have an interest in fighting IS because IS is already fighting them."

But it also seems that logistically, Libya cannot take on IS alone, it will need some sort of outside support if they want to push back IS at their borders.

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