Elections and National Reconciliation, conversation with Libya’s Vice-President Abdullah Al-Lafi

By Vanessa Tomassini.

Since February, with the appointment of the new transitional unitary executive, Libya has embarked on the path of stability towards the national elections expected for 24 December 2021 which represent the global solution to its crisis. There are less than two months to this appointment with history for the Libyan people. Despite the enormous challenges, the Presidential Council of Libya has managed to achieve important results in just less than six months since it took office, especially concerning the delicate dossier of national reconciliation, the real engine of change. By overcoming differences and forgiveness, the Libyans have shown the world that they can do it. In those days, in Tunis, several leaders and political activists have sat down again around a table, as part of the initiatives aimed at facilitating dialogue and strengthening peace. On the sidelines of the meetings, we met the Vice-President of the Libyan Presidential Council, Abdullah Al-Lafi, who allowed us to take stock of the situation.

Mr. Vice-President, first of all, thank you for accepting this interview. Let’s start by talking about this initiative.

“Today’s initiative was organized by Libya Peace Makers, an organization of young Libyans who invited me here together with Libyan political activists and actors to discuss elections and the challenges we might face. The forum brings together 45 participants, including members of Parliament and the High Council of State, leaders of political parties, representatives of the dialogue committee, and other figures from different components and regions of Libya. There are also Libyan women interested in political issues and actively participating in political life in Libya. Today’s discussions have focused on the elections and the challenges that arise, and in particular how to deal with them, through solutions and mechanisms that allow Libya to get to the vote according to the established dates. Most of the inputs and responses discussed by the participants therefore address, in a very specific and detailed way, how to overcome the current challenges to get to the elections on time, or how to interface with these dates and manage everything, in full respect for the will of the Libyan people to achieve this goal. We, as the Presidential Council, have insisted that Libya go to the vote on December 24, 2021. This has been our commitment since the forum in Geneva: to lead the Libyans to elections. We firmly believe that the only solution to the Libyan crisis is to have a legitimately elected president to end all conflicts, rule the country according to the law, and solve the problems of the Libyan people. We hope to have successful elections and a new executive as early as early 2022, and that all the old institutional bodies that are no longer working properly will be replaced by new ones for the Libyans. This will also fulfill your wish for peace and stability for Libya. We hope to see you in Libya after the election of the new president and we also hope that you will be able to follow the entire electoral process step by step.”

How is the National Reconciliation proceeding?

“I was commissioned by my colleagues on the Presidential Council to take care of the reconciliation project. We were very keen, as the Presidential Council, to launch this project because the dossier of Reconciliation among Libyans is really complex and complicated to manage. International experience, in those countries that have experienced the same type of civil conflict, shows that it is impossible to proceed or achieve any political objective without a real reconciliation between the parties. After we established the Reconciliation Committee, we started a series of meetings that addressed the legal aspects of this process, as well as forums such as the recent Libyan Student Conference which brought together young people from all universities in Libya, from 39 cities; or the conference for women attended by over 140 Libyan ladies in the capital Tripoli, about four weeks ago; or the forum in Cairo with the exponents of the previous regime.”

What are the next appointments?

“Next Sunday, October 31, there will be another meeting, this time in the capital Tripoli, with at least fifty supporters of the previous regime, including politicians, thinkers and intellectuals who have not left the country. In addition, Zliten, a city about 170km east of Tripoli, will host another Reconciliation conference among over 200 social leaders from the three regions of Libya to support the Presidential Council in the National Reconciliation process. We are collecting all the proposals and ideas to be included in a national charter, which will be presented at the first conference for National Reconciliation, the date of which will be announced shortly”.

What are the main challenges and obstacles to elections and national reconciliation?

“Regarding the elections, we have a date to respect despite the challenges. The first concern that I expect is that whoever loses the elections will not respect the results. The difficulty in achieving the primary goal of Reconciliation is that Libya has gone through very special circumstances, it does not have a unified army that can control the borders and guarantee security for the entire country. We hope to be able to complete this project, as we consider Reconciliation as the change capable to rescue Libyans from the crises and suffering, they have gone through. The major obstacle to National Reconciliation is the release of prisoners in various prisons, in Tripoli, Benghazi, Misrata, Zawiya, in the south, in the Western Mountains. If these prisoners are not released, there can be no global reconciliation. The success stories of other countries that achieved reconciliation after the conflict have started with the release of prisoners as the first step, especially those who were at the opposition. The amnesty law was issued by governments for the release of these prisoners. And military institutions should be an important tool in this process.”

Why is this difficult in Libya? Amnesty law released, but armed groups refuse to release prisoners?

“There are difficulties that we are overcoming. We have achieved important successful results. When we communicated with the prisons in Misrata, Zawiya and Tripoli, we managed to free many prisoners in the past months: 120 prisoners were released in Zawiya, 79 in Tripoli and so on. All this took place on the initiative of the Presidential Council in support of the Reconciliation process.”

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