Libya’s chief diplomat says the transitional government is working to hold long-awaited elections later this year, but security and political and economic stability are necessary for a peaceful transition to a new government.
Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush’s comments came during an interview with The Associated Press (AP) late Friday in Tripoli’s capital. She spoke one day after the Libyan government hosted a high-level conference aimed at resolving the country’s most difficult issues ahead of the elections in late December.
“In order to achieve a peaceful transition, attention must be paid to security and military matters and to driving the economy of Libya,” she said.
Libya still faces a number of obstacles before its people can go to the polls, including unresolved issues over its electoral laws, occasional clashes between armed groups serving the government and the deep rift between the country’s east and west, separated by nearly a decade of civil war.
Hoping for the presidential election, scheduled for December 24, will declare their candidacies in the coming days and there are signs that some people who rose to prominence during the war were able to participate. Mangoush said she hoped Libyans would accept the result of the vote, which, if held, would be the country’s first election since 2014.
Parliamentary elections have been rescheduled by lawmakers early next year.
Mangoush said Thursday’s conference, attended by Western, regional and UN representatives, was a push to implement the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign forces from the oil-rich country before the presidential and parliamentary votes were held.
“The conference has a great and very deep symbolism for all Libyans,” she said, adding that it was “the biggest indication that Libya is recovering.”
Libya has been engulfed in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising overthrew longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi in 2011. He was captured and killed by an armed group two months later. The oil-rich country was divided for several years between rival governments, one based in the capital Tripoli and the other in the eastern part of the country. Each side was supported by various foreign powers and militias.
After months of UN-backed negotiations, an interim government was appointed in February to lead the country to elections. When the countdown to the vote begins, differences between Libyan rivals reappear, putting the whole reconciliation process in jeopardy.
In September, Libya’s East-based Putist general Khalifa Haftar announced that he was stepping down as leader of a self-proclaimed Libyan army for the next three months – the clearest indication yet that he could run for president in December. Should he run, he would be one of the foremost, but his candidacy would likely provoke controversy in western Libya and Tripoli, his opponent’s stronghold.
Thousands of mercenaries, foreign fighters and other foreign forces are still in Libya a year after a ceasefire agreement was reached that they would resign within three months, which has not happened.
A ten-member joint military commission with five representatives from each side of the conflict in Libya reached an initial agreement earlier this month on the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries. The UN has also begun deploying monitors to observe the ceasefire.
The UN Special Envoy for Libya, Jan Kubis, warned last month that failure to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on December 24 could renew divisions and conflict and discourage efforts to unite the oil-rich country.
Mangoush said Libya was marching towards a “peaceful path and a secure path”, but warned that achieving a peaceful transition required “security, political and economic stability.”
She said Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah’s transitional government supports a “fair and comprehensive” vote at the end of the year, although “there is a lot of serious work to be done ahead of the election.”
“We are all waiting for it to happen in time, God willing, and for the Libyans to accept its results,” she said.