Ministerial session on the situation in Libya


Date | 18 May, 2021

Tomorrow (18 May) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) convenes its 997th session on the situation in Libya. The session is set to be held at the level of ministers.

Algeria’s Foreign Minister, Sabri BouKadoum, who will preside over the session, will make the opening remark. The AU Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat will deliver a remark, while the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Bankole Adeoye, is expected to present a briefing to the Council. The representatives of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as Chairperson of the AU for 2020, and the Republic of Congo, as Chair of the AU High Level Committee, are also expected to make statement during the partially open segment of the session. As the country concerned, Libya’s Foreign Minister, Najla Mangouch, is also expected to provide update on the peace process and the transitional government. The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Wahida Ayari, the Head of United Nation (UN) Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), M. Jan Kubis, and a representative of the League of Arab States are also expected to deliver a statement.

PSC’s last session on Libya was held on 3 November 2020 following the breakthrough in the Libya peace process which resulted in the signing by the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (5+5 JMC)—consisting of five representatives each from the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and the self- styled Libyan National Army (LNA) – of a permanent ceasefire on 23 October 2020. The agreement envisaged the immediate identification and categorization of armed groups to carry out a disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR), as well as for urgent opening of three main roads joining the East to the West and the North to the South of the Country. It also provided for the withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries operating in Libya.

The communique of the 961st session of the PSC endorsed the permanent ceasefire agreement of 23 October 2020, and emphasised the importance of supporting the full implementation of the agreement including through the participation of AU in the applicable monitoring mechanisms. It also demanded the ‘immediate and unconditional’ departure of foreign fighters within the timeframe envisaged in the ceasefire agreement; called for the ‘unconditional and urgent closure of all illegal detention centres housing African migrants connected to the trafficking of migrants’.

Since then, Libya has registered additional major milestones towards the restoration of peace and stability in the country. In the political front, UNSMIL successfully convened the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF)- composed of 75 participants representing all regions and main political and social constituencies in Libya- from 9 to 15 November 2020 in Tunisia. The LPDF adopted a political roadmap that provided for the convening of parliamentary and presidential elections on 24 December 2021. They also agreed on the formation of a transitional government with a reformed executive authority having a three-member Presidency Council and a separate Prime Minister with two deputies.

On 6 February 2021, delegates of the LPDF elected members of the new executive authority, resulting in the election of Mohammad Younes Menfi to head the three- member Presidency Council and Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah as a Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity. A new cabinet composed of 35 members submitted by the Prime Minister was approved by the House of Representatives convened in Sirte on 10 March. The Parliament reconvened a session on 15 March in Tobruk for the swearing-in ceremony of the new government, followed by power handover ceremony in Tripoli.

Despite these major developments, the political process is not firmly secure. One illustration of remaining challenges is the postponement of a planned cabinet meeting scheduled to take place in Benghazi following prevention by civilians and armed men affiliated with LNA of an advance team for Prime Minister Dbeibah from leaving the airport following their arrival. As the Permanent Representative of Libya to the UN rightly asserted during his statement to the UN Security Council in February this year, all the tracks that Libya has been following for years are ‘essentially fragile’ in the absence of a dialogue of national reconciliation, which would ensure the sustainability of any outcome.

The legal frameworks for the convening of parliamentary and presidential elections are not yet in place. In its recent resolution on Libya (2570), UN Security Council made its expectation clear that the parliament and relevant authorities need to ‘clarify the constitutional basis for elections and the enactment of legislations’ by 1 July 2021 to allow an orderly preparation by the High National Elections Commission. Given that the time left before the 24 December date for the election is only seven months, there is a need for finalizing the outstanding legal and constitutional issues and equip the High National Elections Commission with the requisite institutional and financial resources to make the necessary preparations.

As far as the implementation of the permanent ceasefire agreement is concerned, it is worth noting that the ceasefire is holding. It is also to be recalled that initially the 5+5 JMC unanimously decided to establish a ‘Libyan- led and Libyan-owned ceasefire monitoring mechanism’ in November 2020. Subsequently, the JMC requested that the ceasefire monitoring is undertaken through the deployment of international monitors under the auspices of UNSMIL. Against this background, last month on 16 April the UN Security Council unanimously adopted 2570 on UN support for the Libyan Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism. As highlighted in resolution 2570, one possible avenue for AU to support the monitoring mechanism is through the provision of individual monitors under the auspices of UNSMIL.

In respect of the ceasefire agreement as well, challenges abound. First, despite the fact that the three-month deadline for the withdrawal of foreign fighters ended on 23 January, foreign fighters and mercenaries continue to be present in the country. It is to be recalled that the PSC, during its 957th and 961st sessions, requested ‘immediate and unconditional’ withdrawal of all foreign fighters and further warned to ‘name and shame’ all those that are sponsoring foreign fighters. Second, illicit flow of arms in breach of the UNSC arms embargo remains a major problem. As a recent report of the UN Panel of Experts on violations of the UN arms embargo observed, the continuing flouting the embargo has rendered it ‘totally ineffective’. PSC members are expected to deliberate on this issue from the perspective of the serious ramifications of the continuing presence of foreign fighters and the illicit flow of arms to the peace and stability of the region against the backdrop of recent developments in Chad.

Third, the different armed groups and militias that the conflict generated still keep a tight grip over the areas they control; and it remains unclear how far the new government could assert control over them. The recent brief seizure by militias in Tripoli of a hotel that serves as headquarter for the interim government, allegedly because of their unhappiness with the choice of a new chief of intelligence agency, is illustrative of the threat that militia groups continue to pose for the transitional government and the peace process in Libya. Finally, the reopening of the coastal roads is not yet fully realized.

The economic front also showed a steady progress as well, benefiting from successes registered in the security and political sector. Libya’s oil production continues to surge. The output has significantly risen to 1.3 million barrels per day from the low of 228,000 prior to September 2020. It is expected that production capacity would increase to reach a target of 1.45 million b/d at the end of this year. This is critical in reviving Libya’s shattered economy given the importance of the sector to the economy which accounts for 60 percent of aggregate economic output. Further economic reforms including the unification of the Board of Directors of the Libyan Central Bank, the unification of exchange rate, devaluation of the Libyan dinar, the presentation of a unified 2021 budget for the interim government have been also undertaken.

The PSC is also expected to deliberate on the human rights and humanitarian conditions in Libya, particularly in the context of African migrants and refugees. The death of African migrants while crossing the Mediterranean continued unabated. In the latest tragedy, more than 130 migrants lost their lives after a shipwreck off the Libyan coast. According to the UN migration agency (IOM), 557 deaths were recorded on the Central Mediterranean Sea route this year, which nearly tripled compared to the same period last year. Alarmed by the spike of deaths in this route, the two UN agencies (IOM and UNHCR) recently called on the international community to take urgent steps including the ‘reactivation of search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean, enhanced coordination with all rescue actors, ending returns to unsafe ports, and establishing a safe and predictable disembarkation mechanism’ to avoid further loss of life.

In tomorrow’s session, the PSC is also expected to follow up on its request at its 961st session for the ‘unconditional and urgent closure of all illegal detention centres’. Migrants and refugees are held in captives both at official and unofficial detention centres in harsh and life- threatening conditions, subjecting them to serious human right violations including torture, rape, sexual exploitation, and forced labour. They are also targeted by trafficking organizations, armed groups and militias operating in Libya as part of their criminal networks to generate income through engaging in human trafficking. In the light of these persisting challenges, the PSC is expected to receive update from the AU Commission on the outcome of the conclusion of a two-day working visit to Libya by the AU Commission Chairperson along with the Commissioner of Political Affairs, Peace and Security and the Commissioner of Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development in April last month.

The expected outcome of the session is a communique. The PSC is expected to congratulate Mohammad Menfi and Abdul Hamid Dbeiba for their appointment as President and Prime Minister, respectively, and hail the smooth transfer of power to the new interim government as set out in the political roadmap adopted by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum. As far as the political process is concerned, the PSC is likely to avail the support of the AU for facilitating and supporting a national reconciliation process in Libya. On the preparation for elections slated for 24 December, the PSC may urge relevant authorities to take action regarding outstanding legal and constitutional issues and the provision of institutional and financial resources to the Elections Commission necessary for the convening of the elections on time and to this end may request the AU Commission to initiate electoral support to enable the Libyan authorities finalize relevant legal and institutional preparations for the convening of the elections. On illegal detention centres and the treatment of migrants, apart from reiterating its call for the closure of these illegal centres that expose migrants to grave violations, the PSC may welcome the agreement the AU delegation of the recent visit to Libya reached with the interim government to reactivate the process of dignified and voluntary repatriation and resettlement of African migrants. On the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, the PSC may welcome the adoption of resolution 2570 by the UN Security Council on the Ceasefire monitoring arrangements in Libya, and express its readiness to support the Ceasefire monitoring mechanism including through the provision of individual monitors under the auspice of UNSMIL. With respect to the continuing presence of foreign fighters and mercenaries, the PSC may express its deep concern about the lack of progress for their withdrawal and reiterate its demand for their immediate and unconditional withdrawal. In this respect, the PSC may call on the AU Commission to initiate the establishment of a joint mechanism that oversees and verifies the speedy withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya. The PSC may also call on the UNSC to ensure the enforcement of the arms embargo and institute sanctions against those flouting the embargo. The PSC may also endorse the call, in the joint statement of the recent meeting of the Libyan Quartet, for the ‘sustained implementation of measures to fully identify and dismantle’ armed groups and militias, and ‘ensure the subsequent reintegration of those individuals meeting the requirements into national institutions’.

Consideration of the Situation in Libya


Date | 3 November, 2020

Tomorrow (3 November) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to consider the situation in Libya. The session is expected to take place through VTC.

AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui and the Special Representative of the AU Commission Chairperson for Libya expected to brief the PSC. The Representative of Libya is also anticipated to make a statement. The United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU) and the European Union (EU) are also expected to address the Council.

This is the first time that the PSC considers the situation in Libya since its February session on the situation in Libya held at a level of Heads of State and Government. Tomorrow’s session has come after the warring parties in Libya, the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and the self-styled Libya National Army headed by the renegade General Khalifa Haftar, signed a permanent ceasefire on 23 October after talks in Geneva under the facilitation of the UN Support Mission to Libya (UNSMIL).

It is to be recalled that in an attempt to avert further escalation of military confrontation among the rival external backers of the LNA and the GNA, Germany hosted an international conference aimed at establishing the conditions that enable the UNSMIL facilitate peace talks between Libya’s warring parties. The Berlin Conference that concluded with the adoption of a communique which outlined a peace plan organized around the six baskets: ceasefire, arms embargo, political process, security, economic and financial, international humanitarian law and human rights law matters.

Despite the official support expressed to the outcome of the Berlin Conference and the commencement of indirect talks for ceasefire in early February, the fighting continued unabated. The LNA imposed a blockade on the export of oil in Libya, seeking to deprive the GNA of its major source of revenue and further expanding the economic woes of the country. In the ensuing months, fighting continued unabated with the direct participation of the foreign backers of the two warring parties (UAE and Russia on the side of LNA and Turkey on the side of GNA).

It was only after the LNA lost the campaign to seize Tripoli in May and a stalemate emerged in June with the frontline of the fighting shifting to the strategic city of Sirte and major backers of Haftar, notably Russia and to a lesser extent UAE, accepting Haftar’s loss, that a terrain more favourable to the peace process has emerged. In the following months, diplomatic efforts have gained new momentum with the US playing a more active role taking advantage of the stalemate and the Speaker of the Tobruk based LNA aligned House of Representative (HoR), Aguila Saleh, assuming increasingly prominent diplomatic role. Signalling a path for signing of a ceasefire, in August Prime Minister Serraj and Speaker of the HoR Saleh issued separate statements calling for a ceasefire, the lifting of the oil blockade and a return to the political process.

In the fourth round of talks in Geneva in October, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission met face to face for the first time. This round culminated in the signing of a permanent ceasefire. According to the terms of the agreement, the ceasefire includes the departure of foreign fighters and mercenaries from all sovereign Libyan spaces (land, sea and air) within three months starting the same day. Calling for immediate suspension of foreign military training, including the departure of respective training personnel and disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of armed elements, the agreement also expresses the intention to set up a monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the agreement.

For tomorrow’s session, one of the major issues of interest for the PSC is the chances of success of the ceasefire agreement. There are positive signs. One of the major positive outcomes of the ceasefire agreement is the lifting of the blockade of oil export. Control over the oil fields and its revenues have been at the center of the struggle between adversaries racing for influence. The lifting of the oil blockade plays a key role in reviving the national economy, which will trickle down to the livelihoods of the ordinary citizens. The resumption of commercial flight from Libya to Benghazi after a hiatus of more than a year is also widely seen as a positive gesture.

While these are positive signs, they do not guarantee success. Indeed, in the face of the entrenched polarization of the parties and opposed interests of the external actors involved in the conflict, it is no exaggeration to say that the agreement stands on shaky grounds. It is difficult to see how some of the elements of the agreement notably that which calls for the expulsion of all foreign fighters from Libya in three months can be realistically implemented. Not surprisingly given its decisive role in ending Haftar’s military campaign for controlling Tripoli, Turkey expressed doubt on whether the parties will successfully heed the terms of the agreement. UAE, whose supply of weaponry and deployment of air power in support of the LNA was a major factor in escalating the conflict and precipitating the direct involvement of rival powers in the Libya conflict, is also a major factor.

In the context of the stalemate, one of the concerns for Libya is the risk of its de facto division, threatening the territorial integrity of the country.

A further complicating factor is the real risk of internal fragmentation on both sides to the conflict. Although Sarraj’s announcement of his plan to resign by end of October has since been retracted pending agreement on a negotiated new government, it has unleashed internal rivalries among those vying for succeeding him. In the Eastern front, Haftar’s diminishing clout due to blows from the Tripoli offensive is met by the rise of Aguila Saleh, the president of the opposition parliament based in the East. The recent move by the EU to delist him from the sanction blacklist has further reinforced Saleh’s power position in the Eastern bloc.

In the context of the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, one development that is of particular interest for the PSC is the fifth-round meeting of the JMC that is expected to take place on 2-4 November in Libya for the first time.

Another development that would be of interest for tomorrow’s session include the first in-person meeting of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), which is scheduled to take place on 9 November in Tunisia. This political track of the Berlin Conference outcome seeks to ‘generate consensus on a unified governance framework, and arrangements that will lead to the holding of national elections in the shortest possible timeframe in order to restore Libya’s sovereignty and the democratic legitimacy of Libyan institutions.’ A virtual meeting has been already kicked off in October.

Although its influence remains to be limited, the AU has continued its engagement on the situation in Libya both on its own and as one of the participants in the UNSMIL led peace process. It is to be recalled that the decision of the February 2020 AU Summit, Assembly/AU/Dec.792(XXXIII), provided for the establishment of a Contact Group, chaired by the Republic of Congo, deriving from the Members of the AU High Level Committee on Libya, and any other country the Chair of the Contact Group may wish to add, to provide political leadership, as well promote coordination of international efforts in the search for a solution to the Libyan crisis. Since then, the Contact Group met twice. The first meeting, held on 11-12 March in Oyo, the Republic of Congo with the participation of South Africa, Algeria, Chad and Egypt, decided to convene the Inter- Libyan National Reconciliation Conference, in July 2020, at the AU Headquarters, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in conformity with the decision of the AU Assembly adopted in 2018, although this did not materialize due, among others, the COVID19 pandemic. Most notably, it reiterated condemnation of foreign interference, the violation of the arms embargo, the presence, deployment and utilisation of foreign fighters on Libyan soil, saying that ‘such continued interference’ was ‘motivated by national interests and looting of Libyan natural resources.’

The second meeting of the Contact Group took place on 19 May. The Group ‘condemned the numerous violations of the International Humanitarian Law that could constitute war crimes, such as the attacks on hospitals and vital facilities, the persistent indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas and the impediments to humanitarian access. It called upon all the parties to the conflict to comply with the obligations imposed by the International Humanitarian Law and to take the necessary measures to prevent and immediately put an end all those acts.’

The PSC at its 929th session expressed particular concern over the continued fighting in Libya, which, it said, ‘has undermined efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic and is also aggravating an already precarious socio-economic situation in the country, as well as worsening the plight of migrants and asylum-seekers’.

In a statement on 8 June, AU Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, called upon the ‘warring parties to ensure strict compliance with international humanitarian law’ and called ‘upon the Security Council to apply sanctions as provided for in various resolutions on the arms embargo’. In a statement issued on 23 October welcoming the signing of a permanent ceasefire, Mahamat expressed AU’s ‘readiness to assist in the implementation of the ceasefire and to contribute to create the necessary conditions for the resumption of dialogue between all Libyan stakeholders for a durable solution.’

A major issue of interest for PSC members in tomorrow’s session would be how the AU could ‘assist in the implementation of the ceasefire’ that Mahamat indicated. This is linked to one of the outcomes of the February 2020 summit decision on Libya which called for the dispatching of a military reconnaissance mission to Libya jointly with the UN and the announcement, by Chergui when declaring the establishment of an Inter-Departmental Taskforce on Libya on 17 February, as a follow up to this decision that the Peace Support Operations Division (PSOD) was charged to begin preparations for the deployment of a multidimensional mission once a ceasefire agreement is reached between the Libyan parties.

The other issue that may be of interest for PSC members is the follow up to the AU Assembly decision 792 for the to upgrade to the level of mission the current AU Liaison Office in Libya, and to equip it with the necessary political, diplomatic and military capacity, with a view to ensuring greater contribution and participation of the AU in the efforts. In this respect one notable development has been the offer of the UN Secretary General, within the framework of the AU-UN Framework Partnership for Peace and Security, to host the African Union Mission within UNSMIL, which the AU Contact Group on Libya welcomed.

In the course of the fighting, various violations of international human rights and humanitarian law have been perpetrated.

The expected outcome of the session is a communiqué. The PSC is expected to welcome the signing of the ceasefire between GNA and LNA under the framework of 5+5 Joint Military Commission and call upon the parties to honour the terms of the agreement. The PSC may also commend the positive steps taken by the parties in terms of the resumption of oil production and commercial flights between Tripoli and Benghazi and encourage their continued constructive engagements. The PSC may express its strong support for the successful convening of the upcoming in-person meeting of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in Tunis, on November 9. The PSC may further reiterate its strong desire to assume a central role in resolving the Libyan crisis and encourage the AU to enhance active participation in the various tracks of the Libya peace process. It may also welcome the launching of the AU Contact Group on Libya and the two meetings that the Group held. In terms of the concrete role that the AU may play, the PSC may request the AU Commission to submit to the PSC proposals on how the AU can directly support implementation of the ceasefire agreement including as a follow up to the Assembly decision 792 and the assignment given to PSOD upon the establishment of the Inter-Departmental Taskforce on Libya to make preparation for deployment of a multidimensional mission for supporting implementation of ceasefire. The PSC may also reiterate its call on external actors involved in the conflict in Libya to desist from their destructive role and respect the independence and territorial integrity of Libya. In the light of the dire humanitarian condition and perpetration of numerous violations which may amount to war crimes, the PSC may also consider to establish a mechanism for monitoring and reporting on compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law standards for the protection of civilians in Libya.

PSC Heads of State and Government session on Libya and the Sahel


Date | 8 February, 2020

Tomorrow (8 February) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene a meeting at the Heads of State and Government level on the situations in Libya and the Sahel.
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat and the Commissioner for Peace and Security, Smail Cergui, are expected to brief the Council. President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, is expected to deliver a statement on behalf of the A3. Also expected to deliver a statement is President of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso, the Chair of the AU High Level Ad Hoc Committee on Libya.

The fighting in Libya that intensified following the launch of an offensive by the opposition militia Libyan National Army (LNA) led by General Khalifa Haftar against the internationally recognized Tripoli based Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj has worsened an already dire security situation in the country. Fragmentation of the country among warring factions has increased. Flow of weapons has spiked despite a UN Security Council arms embargo.

Various reports show that over 218 civilians have been killed and over 289 civilians have been injured due to the ongoing conflict from attacks that use indiscriminate weaponry, being directly targeted, or being casualties to Explosive Remnants of War in conflict-affected areas including Tripoli and Murzuq. As a result of the renewed fighting, 2019 represented the highest level of displacement since 2014-2015, with a 305 per cent increase in new displacement from 2018.

Further compounding the situation and even making the resolution of the conflict in Libya nearly impossible is the intensification of regional and global rivalry and proxy war on Libya. Over the years, the Libyan conflict has increasingly transformed into a proxy war where a number of countries in the region and global powers have made the country a theatre for advancing their competing political, ideological and economic interests in the country by sending financial, political and military support for the warring parties in Libya.

On the one hand Al-Sarraj’s administration is recognized and backed by the UN and other actors including the US, Turkey, Italy and Qatar. While Egypt and UAE are aiming at curbing the spread of GNA’s faction affiliated with Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar and Turkey are supporters. On the hand Russia, France, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan have provided support to Haftar. Mercenaries, which are considered to be affiliated with Russia, are involved in the fighting in support of the LNA.

The rivalry over the control for the country’s oil reserves among warring parties has also exacerbated the dire security situation. On 8 January, the two major actors in the conflict Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan initiated a truce in Libya commencing on 12 January. Although an attempt was made to bring both Haftar and al-Sarraj together to sign the ceasefire, this was not successful given that Haftar left Moscow without signing the agreement.

On 19 January, a high-level conference was convened in Berlin in an attempt to contain the heavy external interference in Libya. The Berlin Conference, in which the AU Commission Chairperson and the Foreign Minister of Congo participated, ended with the conference conclusions articulating the six baskets including: ceasefire, arms embargo, political process, security, economic and financial, international humanitarian law and human rights law matters. As part of the follow up process Serraj and Haftar have each nominated five representatives to be part of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission, which was proposed by UN Support Mission to Libya (UNSMIL) towards the operationalization of the conclusions.

In the midst of this highly complex external actors’ involvement, the AU continues to urge for restraint of foreign powers and for a stronger African led political process. The AU PSC during its ministerial meeting held on 27 September 2019, has stressed the need ‘for an effective and urgent involvement of the AU in the search for a lasting political solution to the crisis in Libya’. The Council also supported and reiterated the decision of the AU High Level Committee on Libya, taken at its meeting of 8 July 2019, on the appointment of a joint African Union/United Nations Envoy for Libya towards ensuring a more robust, coordinated and AU led peace process.

Tomorrow’s session may further reiterate the importance of AU’s role in resolving the crisis. The session also follows the recently concluded 8th meeting of the AU High Level Ad Hoc Committee on Libya, held in Brazzaville, on 30 January. Three African Heads of State including the Chair of the Committee and the host of the meeting President Denis Sassou Nguesso, Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, Chairperson of the PSC for February, and Mohamed Ould Ghazouani of Mauritania were in attendance. The committee decided to convene an inter-Libyan Reconciliation Conference in consultation with Libyan parties, neighbouring countries and the United Nations. The committee condemned the continued external interference in Libya, although commitments were made during the Berlin conference, which was held ten days earlier.

Despite the effort by Germany in bringing the various stakeholders, there are still sharp divisions. Although Germany urged for a UNSC resolution supporting the outcome of the Berlin conference, the divergent position within UNSC, particularly between the US and Russia prevented the adoption of a binding document. Moreover, the UNSMIL in a statement released on 25 January indicated the continuation of ‘transfer of foreign fighters, weapons, ammunition and advanced systems to the parties by member states, including several who participated in the Berlin Conference’.

The situation in the Sahel

The second agenda item that is expected to be discussed is the situation in the Sahel. Perhaps more than any other part of the continent, where the sound of the guns has become loudest is the violence region of the Sahel. The number of violent incidents in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger has increased sharply. In geographic scope as well, the violence in the Sahel has during 2019 spread across the region. As the UN Chief Representative for West Africa said in a briefing to the UN Security Council on 8 January 2020, this geographic expansion of terrorist attacks ‘is increasingly threatening West African coastal States’.

The other layer of violence that has also become recurrent and increasingly lethal in the region is inter-communal clashes. One of the key aspects to this security threat is the adverse effect of climate change and the failure of governments to put in place mitigating measures, thereby creating a situation for rivalry over increasingly depleting scarce resources to erupt into violent conflicts.

Over the course of 2019, fighting and terrorist attacks in Mali forced more than 80,000 people flee their homes. Burkina Faso witnessed the most surge in violence in 2019, the number of people displaced increased by tenfold to over 560,000, with the figure predicted to skyrocket to 900,000 people by April 2020. Across the three affected countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, since the start of 2019, more than 670,000 children have been forced to flee their homes. According to UNICEF, between April 2017 and December 2019, the three countries witnessed a six-fold increase in school closures due to violence.

The instability in Libya has contributed to the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel and the Lake Chad region. The ECOWAS extra-ordinary Summit held on 14 September 2019 has also underlined the effect of the crisis in Libya in the region by labelling it as the ‘hotbed for terrorism in West Africa’. Towards preventing and combatting terrorism the Summit adopted a priority action plan for 2020-2024 on selected priority areas.

In addition to the activities of terrorist groups in the region, the PSC may also discuss on the kind of peace and security tools required to effectively address the crisis in the Sahel beyond and above the use of conventional military response and peacekeeping response, which has faltered to deliver contain the situation. President Macron and the G5 Sahel Heads of the State held a meeting in Pau on 13 January. While they agreed on “new political, strategic and operational framework” that is anchored in four pillars: the fight against terrorism, capacity building for states forces in the region, restoring state authority and development assistance, much of the focus remains on reinforcing military responses with France announcing to increase its military presence in the Sahel by adding 600 troops to its existing 4500 in Mali and the four other countries in the region.

Such security heavy approaches that have been dominant delivered little result. If anything, such approaches have worsened the situation. There is a need for national actors of affected countries and regional bodies to assume leading responsibility and foregrounding political and
governance efforts including by addressing the lacklustre implementation of the 2015 peace agreement in Mali.
The PSC may recall its previous 863rd session on the Sahel, which decided to undertake a joint field mission with the European Union Political and Security Committee (EUPSC), to assess the situation and to provide support. In order to provide political and diplomatic support to countries in the region particularly in light of the grave security situation endured by the countries and to assess the presence of various actors the PSC may consider undertaking a mission to the Sahel region. This may also be timely if it takes place ahead of the expiry of the G5 mandate in April 2020.

The expected outcome is a communiqué. The PSC may reiterate its concern over the deteriorating security situation in Libya and its conviction that political process, rather than armed fighting, is the only solution to the conflict. It may propose based on its longstanding plan the establishment of truce and ceasefire and an AU led ceasefire monitoring mechanism based on the African Standby Force. The PSC may welcome the outcome of the Brazzaville meeting of the High-Level Committee on Libya and the planned inter-Libyan reconciliation forum. In order to address the external rivalry aggravating the crisis, it may call on the UNSC to assume its responsibilities by enforcing the arms embargo as called for in the outcome of the Berlin Conference. Apart from reiterating the appointment of an AU-UN Envoy on Libya for elevating the role of the AU and pursuing these policy objectives, the PSC may call for the AU to be a co- convener of the international follow up committee on Libya.

On the Sahel the PSC may note that response to the crisis in the Sahel should not be limited to military operations and may call on members states in the region to foster political dialogue and negotiation as means to reach a lasting peace in the region. It may also welcome the action plan adopted during the Extraordinary Summit of ECOWAS on combating and eradicating terrorism. Given the dire humanitarian crisis unfolding in the region, the PSC may call for the convening by the AU of a high-level conference on the humanitarian situation.

Briefing on the situation in Libya


Date | 17 October, 2018

Tomorrow (17 October) the Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to convene a briefing session on the situation in Libya. The AU Commission through the Peace and Security Department and Chairperson’s Special Representative for Libya, Mrs. Wahida Ayari are expected to brief the PSC. Congo as Chair of the AU High Representative Committee and the other members of the Committee are expected to make statement. The UN, as the body that is leading the international effort for finding a political solution to the crisis in Libya, is also expected to provide updates to the PSC. Libya will also make statements.

Although this was not on the agenda of the initial program of the PSC, the Chair of the Month, Congo, being the Chair of the AU High Level Committee on Libya, it was no surprise that Libya was put on the agenda of the PSC. The session is expected to assess the prevailing security situation in the country, developments in the political process, including the plan for holding of national elections, and the situation of migrants in Libya.

In terms of the security situation, it would be of interest for the PSC to be informed of the state of the security situation in Libya in all its dimensions. Overall, the security situation in Libya remains dire. The continued existence of rival armed groups fighting over the control over various parts of the country continues to result in major incidents of fighting. Last month, armed groups launched an offensive against Tripoli maintained in bid to oust Tripoli-based militias and pressure Prime Minister Faiez Serraj to step down. At least 115 people, half of whom civilians in residential areas, were killed since fighting erupted late August.

Apart from existing patterns of violent confrontation among rival groups, increasingly, struggle all armed actors in Libya to refrain from any attempt to disrupt oil installations, production and exports’.

Inter-communal violence has also become a major source of insecurity. In recent times, such conflicts have particularly affected Southern Libya. The situation also manifests the proliferation of not only armed groups but also criminal activities affecting in particular Southern Libya. Further compounding the wide presence and circulation of weapons in the country is also continuing trends of supply of weapons into the country. The presence of terrorist groups is another manifestation of the complex and dire security situation in the country.

On the political front, despite the fact that a UN initiative led to a Libyan Political Agreement in December 2015 and a so-called Government of National Accord (GNA), bringing together two warring “governments,” deep divisions remain between the parties in Libya, specifically between the competing Tripoli-based and UN-supported Presidency Council and the eastern Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR).
Attempts have been underway for reaching consensus between the rival bodies on forming a new executive authority to reach an agreement on limited amendments to the Libyan Political Agreement. However, with these two components of the GNA competing for authority and legitimacy, in effect there remain two rival authorities in the country, with no single group commanding preponderance national clout. As the fighting during August and September showed, Tripoli and Tripoli-based UN-backed Govt of National Accord remain contested and even armed under attack.

In the mean time, there remains a plan for the convening of elections in the country. Although progress on technical preparations has been reported particularly in terms of voter registration, the feasibility of the convening of elections within a set timeline in the absence of changes in the prevailing conditions remains uncertain.

Multilateral actors are pushing for a process of inclusive national dialogue. The AU Commission Chairperson in his 1 July press statement called for the organization of an inclusive dialogue to promote reconciliation and address peacefully all issues at hand. Following their meeting on 23 September in New York, participants of the third AU- EU-UN trilateral meeting ‘agreed to work in close cooperation with the Libyan actors on the principle of the organization of a peace and reconciliation conference as a prelude to the conduct of peaceful and transparent legislative and presidential elections.’

With respect to the situation of migrants, it is of interest for PSC members to note that the situation remains dire. According to a report of the UN Secretary-General, despite the effort of Libya to close some detention centers ‘migrants, including children, continued to be vulnerable to unlawful deprivation of liberty and arbitrary detention in official and unofficial places of detention, torture, abduction for ransom, extortion, forced labour and unlawful killing. Perpetrators included State officials, armed groups, smugglers, traffickers and criminal gangs.’

Apart from the large number of migrants present in Libya, the measures being taken by European countries for steaming the flow of migrants seems to worsen the situation of refugees and migrants in Libya. This is due to a greater number of interceptions at sea, the growing closure of the Mediterranean Sea for migrant departures and the refusal of countries to provide rescue support for migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean. The grave danger facing migrants became evident when no rescue support was extended to 600 migrants stranded on the sea. In a statement he issued on this incident, AU Commission Chairperson stated ‘European Union Member States must demonstrate their commitment to our shared commitments to address the immediate safety and human rights of all migrants within and across borders, while tackling the underlying causes driving illegal migration’.

During this meeting, the PSC may echo the call of the fifth meeting of the AU High-Level Meeting on Libya held in Addis Ababa, in April 2018 urging all regional and international actors to stop arms supply in line with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Equally important is also the need for countries to cease support for and official contact with parallel institutions in Libya. The PSC could also express support for the political process spearheaded by the UN including inter- community reconciliation efforts and restate the emphasis of the AU High-Level meeting on the imperative of engaging in an inclusive AU-UN proposed national reconciliation conference for resolving the Libyan crisis.

With respect to the plight of migrants, the PSC could call on Libyan authorities and European countries to comply with human rights obligations, including in interactions with persons in need of assistance at sea and cooperation with other vessels engaged in rescue operations. It could reiterate the call of the UN Secretary-General that for states to refrain from returning to Libya any third-country nationals intercepted at sea and should ensure that those in need of international protection are able to access fair and effective asylum procedures and from contributing— through their search and rescue coordination efforts, their provision of material support or otherwise — to bringing about a course of events by which individuals are transferred to places where they face risks of torture, ill- treatment or other serious human rights violations or are denied access to international protection if needed.