Since the fall of former leader Moammar Gaddafi in 2011, the South of Libya has been marked with instability and insecurity. Chadian, Soudanese, and Libyan opposition groups were able to take opportunity of this situation.
The current state of play reminds us of the dire conditions that most Libyan citizens face on a day-to-day basis. Since 2011, many governments have tried to bring back security and stability to the South, without success. But, in early 2019, the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar, was able to take control of the region. Nevertheless, the LNA failed into putting a limit to war, kidnappings and abuses that were exerted by some armed groups on citizens that live around Sebha and other regions of the South.
Security problems were also part of the reasons why some tribal leaders and notables asked for the constitution of a local body under the name of “The Government of the Fezzan Region”. They aimed at allowing this ruling institution to fulfill the peoples’ basic needs and to address their main demands.
To better understand this situation, we interviewed Ahmad al-Farjani, founder of the movement for a “Government of the Fezzan Region”.
Ahmad Farjani, could you first explain to us what the goals of this new government that you plan to announce are?
Our goals are clear: we want to secure the whole territory of the Fezzan region by freeing it from any of the Tubu groups that work in alliance with the Islamic State. Let me remind you here that this threatening situation has only been rendered possible after the LNA entered the region and led a war on both Chadian Tubus and Chadian opposition groups that had settled in the Fezzan region. Besides, we also want to give back to the citizens of the South all their civil, economic, social, and political rights. We will work on it, even if the price for that has to be the closure of strategic points such as those used for importing goods and those that connect the Fezzan to the eastern and the western parts of the country. We are not threatening anybody, especially since we do believe that we all form part of a one and only Libyan population. But we believe that the Fezzan region can provide a solution for Libya. This is especially true now that we can see the number of people from the East and the West that have paid the price for the ongoing situation. Many people have promoted policies and strategies that were focused on their political personal gains and on taking power with the use of armed force.
Are there any local or foreign actors that agree with your project for a “Government of the Fezzan”?
Sure, people of the South in the region expect the Fezzan region to find a solution to both its problems and the problems of Libya as a whole. We have no contacts with people based outside of Libya, but we are in touch with important people from outside of the Fezzan region.
Are you also defending this idea of a southern government due to the weakness of former governments?
Of course. Weaknesses, blunders, power struggles, the incapacity of the eastern and the western government alike to address people’s needs and demands, as well as the dysfunctions in terms of providing services and guaranteeing security, all motivated the people of the Fezzan to think of alternatives such as the one that we are bringing today. People are acting out of pure dignity, and, by the way, this is the reason why they have given this initiative the name of “The Proud Fezzan Government”.
Some people believe that this government will fail, especially since the security and military situation are already taken care of by an eastern-affiliated body.
By no means do we stand with or against any of the conflicting parties, especially if those ones do fulfill their mission, starting with the taking care of the security situation. That said, it is only after the LNA came in the South that the Islamic State became able to benefit from an alliance with the Tubus and to spread to the region. Before that, there was no presence for the Islamic State in the South. Add to that the “eastern-affiliated structure” that you are referring to clearly has no existence on the ground; we are talking here about a label only, a name, with no real consistency. It is true that the LNA has reached out to the South and has achieved there the mission that it had in mind, but directly after that it withdrew due to circumstances that are hard to understand, while the people of the Fezzan region again faced killings and displacements.
Where do elites and tribes stand with regards to your project? Have you been in touch with any of their representatives?
We do know that many members of the tribes and elites want such a project to take ground. But we haven’t gotten in touch with them yet. Our project for a new government is very recent, while we are still in the process of creating committees that will make proposals to address the needs of all the people of the Fezzan region. We also hope that the creation of a new government will be received positively by the people, but what we hear on this matter is extremely positive.
Can you be more specific and give us examples of some of the founding principles of your project?
Sure. First of all, we believe that we have the right to claim a government for the Fezzan region that will guarantee our security while preserving our rights.
Two: the day warring parties from the East and the West agree with each other, we will stand with both of them, the way we will stand with Libya as a whole. We are not separatists, but we do want to obtain our rights, far from the ongoing conflict in the north.
Our slogan is clear: as I mentioned before, we are with the idea of setting down a “Proud Fezzan Government”.
Lastly, what do you think of the fact that former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has joined your movement?
This is simply not true. Our movement is by no means in touch with politicians such as Ali Zeidan.
Interview conducted by Mohammed Sreit
Eight years after the Arab uprisings, Libya shows no signs of recovering from the plethora of problems in which it became entangled. With the official fall of Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011, despite many difficulties, the country could have still headed towards a better future. But disagreements, rivalries, and struggles for power took over, as exemplified by the early April 2019 battle for Tripoli. Currently, Libya is experiencing one of the worst crises in its history, ruled by insecurity, underdevelopment, humanitarian crises, trafficking of all sorts (human, drugs, weapons, and goods), political and sociopolitical fragmentation, and the absence of a strong government.
The dire situation in Libya is defined by another serious reality: the rule of militias. In the field of security, paramilitary actors are the backbone of the country; but because they are not organized as a part of a regular armythey have become one of the main sources of disorder and insecurity in Libya. With recent events, militias from the west did indeed gather under one umbrella with the aim of protecting Tripoli; however, this move does not aim to safeguard governmental institutions and the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA). In reality, militias are acting first and foremost in their own interests.
Is there an efficient way to compel militias to disarm and/or put themselves under the rule of an official governmental army? In reality, no. Strategies and efforts to disarm militias or circumscribe their role have all failed up to now. Militias and their leaders are fully aware that the political vacuum and prevailing uncertainties in Libya give them further power and influence; consequently, the end of their rule is not yet foreseeable.
This does not mean that the way forward to achieving stabilization – including through the disarmament of militias – would be out of reach; there is no doubt that stabilization will be achieved one day, and militias disarmed by then. Yet to achieve that, Libya’s regional, national and local specificities must be well-understood, and the way forward to solving the country’s core problems must be defined accurately.
This article will look at the strategies required to address Libya’s most pressing issues and challenges. After placing Libya in its regional context, it will discuss the main dynamics prevailing from a security point of view. The last part will be dedicated to the points that need to be quickly and seriously addressed if Libya is to move forward. (Continue reading)
- Electronic payment is part of our top priorities
- The only obstacle to unification is the Tripoli-based Governor of the Central Bank of Libya
- The Governor of the Central Bank of Libya in Tripoli is supported by both the Presidential Council and the High Council of State
Many economists agree on the fact that the banking sector in Libya has yet to improve. The level of the Libyan banking sector is very low compared to what prevails in most countries of the world.
Looking at the reasons for such bad performance, observers tend to think that political divisions are the reason number one for this situation, along with the absence of an efficient legal framework.
To understand better where things stand, Stractegia had this exclusive interview in Benghazi with Ali Hebri, the eastern-based governor of the Central Bank of Libya. Hebri was attending the “Second meeting for the development of the banking sector in Libya”.
Stractegia- Governor Ali Hebri, first of all, what can you tell us about this “Second meeting for the development of the banking sector in Libya”?
Ali Hebri- This is the second official meeting that aims at helping Libya reform its banking sector and operate a transition towards modernity. The first meeting was organized in Tunisia last year, where a great number of Libyan and non-Libyan specialists of the banking sector talked about what Libya was going through. We thought that it was important that the second edition of this meeting be organized in Libya; our choice fell on Benghazi, and the fact is that the number of participants as well as the level of the debates prove how successful this initiative is.
I remember that last year, many high-level speakers participated to the meeting in Tunis; among them were very good specialists of the Libyan banking sector as well as key representatives of the Government of National Accord (GNA), such as the Minister of Planification, Dr Taher al-Juhaymi. The very interesting discussions and debates that they had altogether were part of the reasons why we thought it was important to organize a follow-up edition of this meeting in Libya directly. It is important that Libyans with different backgrounds have an opportunity to talk about the realities and the challenges of the banking sector.
Stractegia- What are the main topics that participants to this second edition are currently discussing?
Ali Hebri- There are two main topics: the first one is related to electronic payments and how people could make use of credit cards and phone services for their transactions. This field needs companies to be willing to act as financial intermediaries; that way, they could help reducing the consequences for the current liquidity crisis by being an interface between consumers and sellers. The way ahead to achieving that is part of the discussions between participants to this meeting.
Second, how can we get banks to support projects that aim at fostering economic development in Libya, be it at the financial, the logistical or the technical level? This topic has also generated very interesting discussions, and the fact is that some participants to this meeting have already committed to concrete and binding steps and decisions.
Stractegia- What can you tell us about the obstacles that still stand against the unification of the Central Bank of Libya?
Ali Hebri- There is only one obstacle to the unification of the Central Bank of Libya: it is Sadiq al-Kabir. The House of Representatives has dismissed him and replaced him with Mohammed Shukri, a highly-qualified person who originates from Western Libya; if Shukri was confirmed officially as the new Tripoli-based governor of the Central Bank of Libya, this would put an end to divisions.
That said, I prefer not to expand on this topic since what I really care about is seeing the prospects for having a unified banking sector.
Stractegia- But what are the reasons that are getting Sadiq al-Kabir to put obstacles to unification?
Ali Hebri- I don’t know what the reasons are. All I know is that al-Kabir’s presence in Western Libya and his proximity to actors involved directly in the Libyan conflict are making things harder.
Talking about possible solutions, some key institutions are meant to have a positive contribution there: the Presidential Council, the High Council of State, and even the Libyan Banks Association. Libya’s interest should be above anything else.
Stractegia- Are there any countries that favor one of the actors at the expense of the other?
Ali Hebri- There are no examples of this. All what we hear about this is nonsense. The reality is that the Tripoli-based governor of the Central Bank of Libya is backed by two main actors: the Presidential Council and the High Council of State.
Stractegia- What can you tell us about the Tunis meeting that was organized recently with the objective of unifying the Central Bank of Libya?
Ali Hebri- The two central banks participated to the Tunis meeting, but they did not discuss anything related to unification. The talks only touched upon one thing: determining the office that will be responsible for overviewing both the activity and the spending of the two central banks. Add to this that the eastern-based Central Bank of Libya decided to create an ad hoc committee that will be responsible for drafting financial reports. This committee will give its recommendations taking into account international standards, and it will also work on having closer relations with the Tripoli-based Central Bank of Libya, ahead of a unification in the future.
Interview conducted by Mohammed Sreit