Looking from afar, the recent Libyan peace process looked rather promising and hence offering Libyans a long awaited chance to go home and live peacefully while rebuilding a country in ruins after close to 5 years of a civil war.
That, in practice, did not and could not have happened as the process ignored many local realities for this dream to become true.
For one, Muammar Gadhafi did not leave behind a united country with an administration that could keep the country afloat and offer a platform for reform and a new start. Rather, he left behind a divided nation run through a tribal system based on regional power clusters with different cultural backgrounds and all yearning for central power and a bigger share of oil revenues.
This dysfunctional social and political system worsened after the revolution of 2011 and with 52 million arm pieces available in the country and 8 months of a bloody war against the forces of the regime in place at the time, the power struggle turned into a long, violent struggle for power under the cover of “religious beliefs and factions”. Several foreign countries from the Middle East and the West fueled this war for different reasons. The result now is a divided nation with hundreds of militias controlling bits of the country under different religious shades and different political tendencies with two parliaments each claiming legitimacy with a self-proclaimed liberator in the middle (by the name of Khalifa Haftar) using an independent army (mostly mercenaries) to capture power and destroy any peace process on the way.
Then, there are a lot of rich Libyan businessmen (with hundreds of millions of dollars) who live abroad financing different fighting groups (very often giving money to both sides of the fight at once) just to keep the current situation of disorder going so that they can make more money from cheap oil and high costs of imports (from food items to weapons).
The question then is: how can a peace process be developed and put in place?
The answer does certainly not lie with the current approach of letting all of these groups continue to operate freely and irresponsibly.
For a start, oil sales should be stopped immediately and all the money that was stolen and flown out of Libya during the last days of Kaddafi’s regime and immediately after Kaddafi’s fall should be frozen so that there are no more “war barons financing militias”.
Second, all fighting should be stopped and a truce should be declared for at least 3 months so that a national and true peace convention can be organized in the island of Djerba. The island of Djerba is an ideal location for this peace convention because it is in the South of Tunisia and 160 km away from the Libyan border and not thousands of kilometers away.
The discussions should be televised and broadcast live so that all Libyans can watch and exercise their rights and pressure those who represent them to move forward and not back off at each step of the way.
The MENA region and particularly Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt have the most to gain from such an outcome. They should therefore be at the fore front of monitoring this process and these discussions and impose the truce during the peace negotiation process while asking all foreign forces to refrain from intervening and encouraging the war.
Libya has become a training ground for terrorist groups hitting mainly Tunisia and Algeria. If they successfully create chaos in Tunisia, these groups threaten to cause disorder in Egypt and Europe in the long run. The economies of the Maghreb countries have been hit very hard by these terrorist attacks since 2012. They cannot allow the status quo to continue as it is right now. By 2017, Tunisia’s economy will be in ruins if it continues on this trend with very few tourists and almost no foreign investments.
We know for a fact that Libyans are not violent by nature. The tribal system that Kaddafi nourished during his 42 years in power and used to rein over this country (by dividing and conquering them) can now be put to good use. Leaders of the Maghreb countries should encourage heads of tribes (sheikhs, one might say) to come together and negotiate a government of unity under the watch of their people in place where they will feel secure and at ease and not necessarily behind closed doors in Geneva.
Unless the tribal leaders use their wisdom to sit together and agree on a government of unity all other efforts will fail to the greatest loss of the Libyan people and their neighbors.
(Image Credit: AP)