Libya is not ready for a political solution | Ranj Alaaldin | guardian.co.uk
Muammar Gaddafi’s foreign minister is in Tunisia today to discuss a possible settlement to the ongoing conflict in Libya. A settlement should be welcomed, but it has to begin with the departure of Gaddafi and his inner circle from Libya.
The problem is that there can be no way forward with Gaddafi still in place – which is why South African president Jacob Zuma has already failed twice to end the conflict through a political settlement. There have been similar difficulties in Yemen where Arab Gulf states have sought – and so far failed – to implement a “transition” plan that does not require President Saleh’s immediate resignation.
A recent proposal relating to Libya from the International Crisis Group suffers from the same flaw. The ICG envisages a two-phase road to peace where, firstly, peacekeeping forces are deployed so as to facilitate talks and allow for humanitarian assistance and, secondly, where a mutual declaration of a ceasefire leads to negotiations between the regime and the opposition Interim National Council (INC).
The ICG argues that preserving Gaddafi and his inner circle is necessary, to ensure there is someone with the authority to deliver a ceasefire. The problem, however, is what to do if Gaddafi proves unable or unwilling to deliver a ceasefire. The ICG’s extensive report has no suggestions for dealing with this rather likely eventuality.
The ICG seems to want to keep Gaddafi, to avoid “political chaos and collapse into a kind of warlordism”. But that would only happen if the entire political and security apparatus in the country were disbanded, as in post-2003 Iraq. There is nothing to suggest that the INC, once in power, would embark upon such a course.
Another report, from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), calls for a transitional “face-saving process” that would see Gaddafi hand power over to one of his sons, who would then hand power over to a regime insider, who would then establish an interim “unity” government with loyalist representation.
Unlike the ICG, RUSI at least maintains the option to resume hostilities and enforce resolution 1973 should the regime fail to abide by any settlement terms. However, once military operations are halted it is going to be extremely difficult to restart them.
If this “face-saving” approach were adopted, the debate would switch from a simple issue of whether Gaddafi should go to the never-ending question of whether Gaddafi has had enough time to comply. The problem is principally one of determining when and whether a brutal, authoritarian regime has failed to keep its promises. Halting overt military action by the regime is only one part of the problem.
No international peacekeeping force will be able to shut down Gaddafi’s secret police, who are likely to continue their killings and torture in prison cells and far-flung compounds that the outside world will never know about.
Nor would the international community be in a position to do much about the repression of opponents and the detention of hundreds if not thousands of Free Libya activists, journalists and human-rights defenders.
In other words, a policing role will not be feasible or sustainable. But there is something abhorrent about encouraging power-sharing between a dictator and a democratic, revolutionary force just when the former, an established force for instability that has proven it cannot be trusted, is gradually being defeated by the military, and while defections from inside the regime are continuing.
It is vitally important that any ceasefire or political settlement gives no reason for Gaddafi to believe the international resolve for defeating him is diminishing. Equally, there must be no reason for the people of Libya to fear that the vicious dictator will ever be in a position to exact revenge upon them.