Libya gets a unity government, minus the unity

There are over a million words in the English language, and we outright pilfer vocabulary from other languages all the time. Can’t we do better than calling this a “unity government”?

Libya’s Presidential Council announced a new government on Tuesday aimed at uniting the country’s warring factions, though two of its nine members rejected it in a sign of continuing divisions over its U.N.-backed plan for a political transition.

Western powers hope the new government will deliver stability to Libya and tackle a growing threat from Islamic State militants, but critics say the agreement was forced through too quickly and does not evenly represent the country’s groups and factions.

So a “unity” government that doesn’t have the support of a little over a fifth of the country’s interim Presidency Council, which itself might not really represent anybody even if all its members were in total agreement. This is not off to a great start, you know?

But wait, there’s more:

In December, blocs from Libya’s rival parliaments signed a U.N.-brokered deal to form the unity government and established a Unity Presidential Council. The Tunisia-based council includes representatives from the rival parliaments and governments, as well as delegates from other factions. But other members of both the two main factions have rejected the U.N. plan.

Oh, right, the Presidency Council, headed by would-be Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, is supposed to represent the various factions making up Libya’s two rival parliaments. But members of both parliaments have already said they won’t abide by the UN deal upon which this new government was formed. I’m feeling the unity, aren’t you?

There’s also the tiny problem that, even if you got both parliaments to go along with a unity deal, there’s nothing to say that the armed forces working for those parliaments would also go along. Among the biggest obstacles to putting the country back together is the fact that the Tobruk government’s top military commander, Khalifa Haftar, cannot possibly serve as army chief in a new government if there’s going to be any prayer of getting the Tripoli government on board. But Haftar is probably the single most powerful man in Libya at the moment (which, let me be clear, isn’t saying all that much), so he’s not going anywhere that he doesn’t want to go. In fact, the Minister of Defense-designate in this new unity government, Mahdi al-Barghathi, is actually one of Haftar’s subordinates. MMMMM, yeah, this is good stuff.

Another fun complication is the fact that Sarraj’s new government is a sprawling mess that would surely be unable to govern the country, if it ever even gets the chance to try:

Sarraj had been expected to appoint a 10-member Cabinet but came under pressure and increased the number of portfolios.

“If Sarraj succumbed to pressure to expand the government, what would happen if he tried to enter Tripoli,” asked Abdullah al-Amodi from the western city of Zintan, where most armed groups support Libya’s eastern, internationally-recognized parliament.

Sarraj also split some portfolios, distributing the sections among different tribes, political groups and regions. Instead of one foreign minister, he designated three diplomats for the job – one to head the foreign ministry, another for Arab and African affairs and a third one for international relations.

This makes sense, though, since this government’s main purpose is to try to appease the country’s warring factions, and any governing it might ever get done would be icing on the cake.

Unfortunately, Libya is still missing the cake.

P.S.: It’s worth noting that, par for the course, the United States isn’t exactly helping. In our need to Do Something about ISIS, which is only going to be removed from Libya if and when the civil war actually ends, our government has taken to working closely with a number of factional forces: Haftar’s group in Benghazi, another group in Zintan that’s sort of aligned with him, and forces in Misrata, which aren’t aligned with either Tobruk or Tripoli. Empowering these militias (or gangs, call them what you want) actually diminishes the chances of settling the war and putting the country back together, which means that this policy is entirely self-defeating as a means to defeating ISIS, but, uh, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

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Author: DWD

writer, blogger, lover, fighter

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