x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Africa's difficult proposal for peace in Libya

In retrospect, it was a proposal that was hardly going to allay anyone's fears. Yesterday's announcement by the South African president Jacob Zuma that Colonel Muammar Qaddafi's Libyan government has accepted an African Union peace proposal was given short shrift by the opposition forces, who called it too vague.

In retrospect, it was a proposal that was hardly going to allay anyone's fears. Yesterday's announcement by the South African president Jacob Zuma that Colonel Muammar Qaddafi's Libyan government has accepted an African Union peace proposal was given short shrift by the opposition forces, who called it too vague. Mr Zuma and three other African leaders had met Libya's president in Tripoli on Sunday, and announced a breakthrough in negotiations that might bring about a ceasefire.

While any efforts to prevent more bloodshed should be welcomed, it was likely that the AU's proposal would be faced with widespread scepticism. For a start, any peace deal needs input from the rebel council, an organisation that many countries in the West and Arab world have officially recognised as the true representatives of the Libyan people. Unsurprisingly, the rebel opposition leadership, which received the delegation without Mr Zuma yesterday in Benghazi, confirmed that there would be no agreement or ceasefire if Col Qaddafi or his sons remain in power. Given that Col Qaddafi is known to fund 15 per cent of the AU's budget, rebel leaders are bound to be sceptical of its involvement.

And there are other complications that relate to the ongoing military situation on the ground. Foreign mercenaries, from Darfur in Sudan and other neighbouring African nations, have allegedly bolstered Col Qaddafi's besieged forces from the early days of the conflict. Some migrants from sub-Saharan Africa have even claimed that they were abducted and forced to fight with Col Qaddafi's forces.

Furthermore, it is difficult to envisage a ceasefire agreement taking place without the involvement of several other parties.

On March 29, a major diplomatic effort to end the conflict in Libya took place in London and was attended by Arab League, African Union, UN, EU and Nato leaders and the foreign ministers from more than 30 nations, including the UAE Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed

After the meeting, the UN, which had orginally sanctioned the no-fly zone over Libya, announced it would be sending an envoy to Libya in a bid to secure a peaceful settlement in talks with both sides. A few days later, the UN's special mediator, Abdelilah al Khatib, admitted that the chances of a quick ceasefire looked bleak.

Meanwhile, Nato continued to conduct airstrikes against Col Qaddafi's forces in Tripoli, but faced anger from the rebel forces who claimed that not enough was being done to provide them with cover.

The endgame in Libya remains unclear. But it is increasingly apparent that a negotiated solution will be forged only when Col Qaddafi agrees to cede power.