L’Onu si prepara ad inviare una squadra di protezione per la sua missione a Tripoli, una mossa che sta innescando delle polemiche in alcuni ambienti libici…
La comunità internazionale é sempre più allarmata per la situazione di disordine interno della Libia. La preoccupazione si è manifestata concretamente la scorsa settimana con l’approvazione, da parte del Consiglio di Sicurezza dell’ONU, di una richiesta presentata dal Segretario generale Ban Ki-Moon, di inviare forze internazionali per proteggere il personale della missione di sostegno delle Nazioni Unite in Libia (UNSMIL).
The Security Council’s president for November, Liu Jieyi, who is also China’s ambassador to the UN, announced that on Wednesday 27 November, the council would send a 235-member special force to Libya to ensure the safety of UN staff and premises because of its lack of confidence in the ability of Libyan security forces to perform this function.
In his earlier letter to the Security Council, Ban Ki-Moon had written that UN staff in Libya are “at high risk of attack” due to worsening tensions and “the lack of reliable national security forces”, necessitating action to provide protection and security for them. The UN secretary-general said that in addition to safeguarding UN premises and staff and assisting in the evacuation of UN personnel and other foreign subjects in Libya, if necessary, a UN protection force could offer necessary support in the face of any attack carried out by extremists opposed to the presence of foreigners in Libya.
In view of the concern and anger that the announcement triggered among some political quarters in Libya, UN officials felt compelled to clarify the nature and purposes of the international security team. The Security Council approval of the request to send a force into Libya was not final, but rather an approval in principle, a UNSMIL statement said. It stressed that the scope of the force’s mission would not extend beyond the walls of the UN premises in Tripoli and that the UN would send an official letter to Libyan authorities notifying them of all the measures that require their necessary approval in accordance with relevant international customs and principles. The statement made no reference to the UN secretary-general’s letter, published by Agence France-Presse, and, specifically, to that portion suggesting that the UN security force could contribute to deterring attacks by extremists.
The Libyan Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation felt compelled to issue a similar clarification. A statement published on the ministry’s website confirmed that the functions of the security team would not extend beyond the walls of UNSMIL premises and that the UN’s request to send a special force falls under the provisions of an agreement previously signed between Libya and UNSMIL. The statement pointed out that other diplomatic missions in Libya have also been granted similar treatment regarding the security and protection of their facilities and personnel.
In like manner, the director of the Foreign Ministry’s press and information bureau stressed that the functions of the UN security team would not extend beyond its assigned tasks and that under the agreement between Libya and the UN, the UN had a right to provide security for its mission in Libya if it feels it necessary.
Libyan security affairs expert Abdallah Masoud was among those who felt that there little cause for concern. “For the UN to send a team to protect its premises is not out of the ordinary,” he told Al-Ahram Weekly. “Foreign embassies also have the right to bring in guard teams from their home countries, on the condition that their tasks and activities do not breach international rules and conventions.”
Masoud pointed out that Libya had little choice in the matter as it still fell under the provisions of Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Nevertheless, he stressed that the UN guards would have to remain inside the premises, should wear civilian dress and should not be drawn from UN peacekeeping forces. He cautioned that if the guards were deployed outside of the premises they were charged with protecting, this would be interpreted as the beginning of another UN intervention in Libya and meet with stiff resistance on the part of Libyans opposed to any foreign security presence in their country.
Eissa Al-Tuweigar, former minister of planning in the interim government, took the occasion to hone in on the performance of UNSMIL itself. The UN mission has not fulfilled many of the tasks that brought it Libya, he said in an interview with the Weekly. While it did help with General National Council (GNC) elections, it was unable to help the GNC keep to the roadmap laid out by the Constitutional Declaration issued in August 2011 by the former Interim National Assembly. Nor could it help the government take the appropriate decisions with regard to how to manage the transitional phase.
Al-Tuweigar holds that UNSMIL and its tasks need to be reviewed. The mission “must provide real services that benefit the people. There is no need for large premises and so many guards,” he said, adding that it might be possible to dispense with UNSMIL altogether if Libyan officials decided to do so.
Like Masoud, Al-Tuweigar was concerned that Libyans might regard the arrival of a UN guard team as a form of foreign intervention, which would jeopardise national security. Nevertheless, he believes that the UN will study the matter closely before proceeding further.
It would appear that Libyan authorities have more than the arrival of a UN guard team to worry about. In a separate development last week, Prime Minister Zeidan announced that the government was under severe economic strains, may not be able to pay civil servant salaries, and might have to borrow in order to meet its financial obligations. He attributed the cash shortage to the 20 per cent drop in oil revenues due to a blockade of oil exporting ports in the central coastal area by advocates of a federalist system in Cyrenaica.
In a press conference earlier this week, Zeidan issued a stern warning to those responsible for the blockade of the oil ports and vowed that his government would “strike with an iron fist” anyone who approaches the oil fields. Backed by a strong current of popular sentiment that is increasingly worried by the growing power of the militias, Zeidan may have a chance to seize control of the ports from the militias and solve the economic crisis.
It therefore comes as no surprise that Libyan Army Chief of General Staffs Abdel-Salam Jadallah Al-Obeidi followed through on Zeidan’s warning with an appeal to the strikers in the oil facilities to end their sit-in unconditionally so that oil could flow into the ports again, enabling the economy to recover.
“The national welfare requires compromise so as to furnish the opportunity for the peaceful transition of authority without a political and security vacuum,” he said.
At the same time, he warned that Libya’s “social fabric, political life and economy were on a precipitous slope” and — referring to the militia threat — cautioned that “the world, which helped Libya during the fight for liberation, would not stand by with its hands tied as it watches the security coup in Libya.”
Meanwhile, in Benghazi, the largest city in eastern Libya, which is rich in oil and natural gas, army forces clashed with a militia group that, according to local residents, belonged to the jihadist Ansar Al-Sharia organisation. It was reported that four died and dozens were wounded in the battle.
On a more encouraging note, the first phase of municipal elections ever to be held in the country kicked off in Beida, Shahat, Al-Marj and Obari. Calm and order prevailed in these cities as citizens cast their votes for the first popularly elected municipal councils after the 17 February 2011 Revolution.