How December 17 Unfolded In Libya
17 December 2017– the ‘nominal’ date for the expiry of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), where the Government of National Accord (GNA) was to become null and void – has now come and gone. In the lead up UN envoy Ghassan Salame was adamant that 17 December was only another day in the political process. The steady progress led by Salame in ensuring the LPA carries forward beyond the date and his efforts in cementing political arrangements to reunify sovereign institutions seems to be bearing fruit despite attempts to disrupt the process. While there was no outright outbreak of conflict on the 17th, it was still full of rhetoric and included an incident of violence that may undermine recent progress.
During a televised announcement the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Field Marshal Khalifa Hafter, declared he no longer recognized the LPA or any institutions derived from it. Interestingly he endorsed ‘elections’ as the only legitimate expression of the Libyan people’s will governing future politics, stating:
“We declare our categorical rejection of the submission of the Libyan National Army to any party whatever its source of legitimacy unless it is elected by the Libyan people.”
Ghassan Salame also released statement that day. The UN envoy called for all Libyan parties not to destroy the political process:
“I have also heard from Libyans, across the country, that they are fed up with violence and living in fear. They hope for a political solution, for reconciliation and for harmony. They see the political process as the only path to the stability and the unity of their country. Thus, I urge all parties to heed their voices and refrain from any actions that could undermine the political process”
The day concluded with Misrata’s municipal mayor Mohammed Eshtewi being fatally shot after he left the Misrata airport when returning from Turkey. The incident has rocked Misrata and threatens to destabilize internal dynamics between its factions. Eshtewi, a key figure in the reconciliation process, was expected to lead a delegation of Misratan’s to Zintan on 18 December to reinforce military reunification efforts with the LNA. His death is a major blow to this process.
As these example highlight not all groups agree with, and some events conspire against, the Libyan political process. However, the LPA and UN roadmap must remain on track beyond 17 December despite various factions attempting to use the date as grounds for a new round of violence and conflict over power and resources.