What's In Blue

Posted Wed 28 Apr 2021

Libya: Informal Interactive Dialogue

Tomorrow morning (29 April), members of the Security Council are expected to convene in person for an informal interactive dialogue on Libya. Initiated by the “A3 plus one” (Kenya, Niger, Tunisia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), the meeting will focus on the issue of foreign fighters and mercenaries in the country. Ján Kubiš, the Special Envoy to Libya and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL); Raisedon Zenenga, UNSMIL’s Mission Coordinator; and the Permanent Representatives of Chad and Libya to the UN, are expected to brief.

On 23 October 2020, the 5+5 Joint Military Commission—consisting of five representatives each from the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF, also known as the Libyan National Army) and the internationally recognised Libyan Government of National Accord—signed a permanent ceasefire agreement. According to the terms of the agreement, the ceasefire includes the departure of foreign fighters and mercenaries from all sovereign Libyan spaces (land, sea and air) within three months starting the same day. That deadline passed on 23 January and foreign fighters and mercenaries remain in Libya.

During the Council’s latest meeting on Mali, which took place on 6 April, Niger, speaking on behalf of the A3 plus one, raised the issue of mercenaries and foreign fighters in Libya as a concern for the security of Mali and the wider Sahel region. It seems that the A3 plus one also consider this kind of foreign presence as potentially undermining the political process in Libya, including the process for parliamentary and presidential elections, due to be held on 24 December. It appears that the A3 plus one would like to discuss, during tomorrow’s meeting, possible actions that stakeholders can take to support the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, including disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) measures.

In resolution 2570 on UN support for the Libyan Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism, which was unanimously adopted on 16 April, the Council strongly urges member states to withdraw “all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya without delay”.

During the Council’s 24 March bimonthly meeting on Libya, Kubiš stated that “Libyans from all stripes and across the political spectrum are vehemently calling for all mercenaries and foreign forces to leave the country”. Council members might be interested in hearing from Kubiš and Zenenga what role UNSMIL can play to support the DDR process.

At the same meeting, the Permanent Representative of Libya emphasised that foreign forces and mercenaries should disarm and depart from the country. He stressed that they continue to constitute a threat to Libya and neighbouring countries. He may update Council members on the situation on the ground at tomorrow’s meeting.

There has been an increase in illicit mercenary activity in a number of countries on the Council’s agenda. In Libya, private entities, in support of different parties to the conflict, have been involved in deploying private military capabilities and violating, or attempting to violate, the Council’s arms embargo. The final report (S/2021/229) of the Panel of Experts assisting the 1970 Libya Sanctions Committee, which covers the period from 25 October 2019 to 24 January, describes several such activities. Those were carried out by companies based in the United Arab Emirates (which is reportedly the largest military backer of the LAAF), the Russian-based Wagner Group and the Turkey-based SADAT International Defense Consultancy (Turkey is the largest military supporter of the Libyan government).

One recent example of the potentially destabilising effect that the presence of foreign forces in Libya may have on neighbouring countries is the situation in Chad. Fighting in the country between government forces and rebels who invaded from Libya resulted in the death of Chadian President Idriss Déby on 19 April, leading to concerns about the stability of the country, which has been critical to international efforts to combat terrorist groups in the Sahel. Chad held presidential elections on 11 April, in which Déby appeared to have won a sixth term. That same day, the rebel group—the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT)—attacked from Libya, seeking to advance on Chad’s capital, N’Djamena. The group, led by Mahamat Mahdi Ali, has been fighting in Libya’s civil war since 2016.

On 20 April, the Chadian government announced that Déby had died from wounds sustained while on the frontlines about 270 kilometres north of N’Djamena. The army said a transitional military council led by Déby’s son, General Mahamat ibn Idriss Déby Itno, would take power for 18 months until elections could be held. Opposition parties decried the creation of the council as a “coup d’état” since it did not follow constitutional rules for succession, under which the speaker of the National Assembly becomes interim president. At least two people were killed and 27 injured during demonstrations on 26 April by protestors demanding civilian rule. That same day, the military appointed a civilian politician, Albert Pahimi Padacké, as transitional prime minister. Council members may want to hear from the Permanent Representative of Chad on the latest developments in the situation.