Libya’s Civil Society Criticises UNSMIL’s Political Dialogue for Over-Representation of Islamists – Al Marsad

The last minute announcement by UNSMIL of the names of the 75 participants that will take part in the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) in Tunisia drew widespread criticism from the Libyan public, influential figures, organisations, and also the country’s social fabric—the tribal councils. The preponderance of unknown and Islamist figures raises serious question marks on the nature and purpose of the UNSMIL process and whether it would lead to further instability in Libya.

(Libya, 3 November 2020) – The two most influential social fabric components, or tribal councils, notably the Supreme Council of Sheikhs and Notables of Libya and the Supreme Council of the Libyan Tribes and Cities, issued separate statements last week and  dismissed the LPDF due to poor UNSMIL planning and unrepresentative set of participants.

Over the last 5 years Libyans have demanded greater transparency and accountability from UNSMIL, and more clarity on its processes but it seems UNSMIL is not interested in listening to any criticism. It issued the list of names of the participants on the eve of the first zoom LPDF meeting but failed to provide details of the institutions and political experiences they represented. 

Al-Marsad’s team noticed a number of figures connected directly to the Muslim Brotherhood, or its political front, the Justice and Construction Party, or its ally, the National Front, or those who consider themselves “independent” but have been allied to Islamist interests. Below is an infograph that shows why the Libyan public was alarmed by the composition of the LPDF given that Islamist parties had not mustered enough votes in the last elections of 2014, so why give them such a disproportionate number at a forum that will discuss the future of democracy in Libya?

Infographic on some leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, its Justice and Construction Party arm, their allies, or those nominated by Khaled al-Mishri for UNSMIL’s dialogue in Tunisia on resolving the “Libyan crisis”, scheduled early next month:

Al-Marsad also noticed, among the 75 names, individuals who had little connection to Libya, or expertise, or represented any key constituencies. One expatriate female participant living in the UK, for example, who runs a legal advocacy group known as Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) had little or no influence in Libya’s civil society and whose organisation was heavily funded by the German Foreign Federal Office and the Dutch government and was close to UNSMIL. And yet bigger and more influential women’s voices do exist in Libya, heading large organisations, but their participation is not to be found at UNSMIL’s LPDF.

In order to help the reader understand the convoluted process being pushed by UNSMIL, which in effect is simply another version for the disastrous Skhirat plan, we produced this visual graphic. The graphic explains the two paths Libya can take: one where legitimacy rests with the Libyan public, and rightly so according to the UN’s own Charter, or it rests with UNSMIL.

Two Ways to Solve the Legitimacy Crisis | Al-Marsad Infographic


Last week, the Supreme Council of Sheikhs and Notables of Libya sent a letter to Stephanie Williams, Acting Special-Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (A/SRSG) for Libya and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), regarding the political track dialogue to be held in the Tunisian capital, demanding her, inter alia, to choose from the list of 14 candidates for prime minister approved by The House of Representatives (HoR) voted in 2015, and UNSMIL completely disregarded it.

The Council congratulated Williams on the success achieved due to the efforts of UNSMIL in the 5+5 dialogue in Geneva relevant to the military track. It commended the spirit of responsibility of the participants in the dialogue, which testified to the keenness to reach an agreement that would achieve progress in laying the foundations of stability and security in the country and take it out of its current tragic situation.

Libya’s sheikhs aligned themselves with the desire of the Libyan people not to start a new interim period demanding UNSMIL to channel its plans and efforts to hold presidential and parliamentary elections with no need for another interim period rejected by the Libyans.

The letter reiterated the need for engaging tribal leaders and social elites warning that the disregard of these leaders will render the outcomes of all future dialogues, regardless of the progress made therein, subject to rejection by the Libyan tribes. This would reflect negatively on the convictions of the Libyan tribes that derive their trust in the tribal sheiks and elites from previous experiences in terms of the efficacy, dynamism, and effect of these leaders in addition to the lack of citizens’ confidence in those who only represent themselves, as the letter put it.

The letter proposed that UNSMIL should refer to the to the decisions of the House of Representatives (HoR) on the selection of the proposes names is another option UNSMIL should consider in selecting those planned to participate in the dialogue sessions if it does not consider the first option related to the leaders of the Libyan tribes, which will have negative repercussions, as argued.

Libya’s sheikhs and notables concluded by saying, “The HoR held a session on August 30-31, 2015 in which it issued a letter that included the proposed names for the Presidential Council addressed to Mr. Bernardino León on 02/09/2015 (Ref. RMN.1015.106). That session was valid and quorate and its decision should be the reference in selecting the Presidential Council and the participants in the dialogue.”


Supreme Council for Libyan Tribes and Cities also issued a statement on the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum that the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) intends to hold in the Tunisian capital, Tunis. It dismisses LPDF for poor UNSMIL planning and unrepresentative formation

The statement saluted the members of the Libyan tribes and cities refusing or opposing the poor preparations ominous of another failure of the political process, which would take the country to another dark period.

It expresses its surprise of not learning from past mistakes, not rectifying the route of the political process, and not engaging in a truly effective and transparent dialogue that would put an end to the suffering of the Libyan people.

In its statement, the Council also affirmed 10 points and observations it made regarding political dialogue, which it summarized as follows:

1- The Council reminds all stakeholders that political dialogue has been one of its documented pillars in its literature since the meetings of al-Azizia and Salouq so far.
2- The Council denounces the method adopted by the UNSMIL in terms of exclusion, marginalization, favoritism, and lack of serious interest in the real effective Libyan parties that have solid social and political bases in the country.
3- The Council has noted the hegemony of the Islamist organizations and their allies on the list of invited participants while excluding the real national parties and the influential social segments.
4- The UNSMIL’s selection of extremists, and even notorious terrorists or their supporters, to be on the list, is a flagrant disregard to the sacrifices of the Libyan people in the face of terrorism. This also applies to the invitation of some figures that live abroad and have no social or political basis inside Libya.
5- The Council denounces the method of the UNSMIL for the adoption of resolutions within the LPDF as being designed to be in favour of the terrorist organizations and their allies, which constitute the majority of the invited participants.
6- Through this method, the UNSMIL has turned itself into a guardian of the Libyan people that has the final say on the LPDF resolutions.
7- The Council asserts that giving broad powers to the so-called LPDF and turning it into an alternative institution contravenes the concept and values of democracy. The UNSMIL has invited a bunch of people without clear criteria to hold a conference that would choose for the Libyan people a government against their will, a matter that would prolong the Libyan crisis.
8- The UNSMIL did not stipulate the removal of all political figures that are currently at the foreground of the political scene. It would rather recycle the same despite the fact that they have been the reason for the exacerbating suffering of the Libyan people due to their rivalries over positions, personal gains, and power.
9- The Council announces its categorical opposition to this disgraceful approach in selecting the representatives of the Libyan people and rejects the convention of Tunisia’s conference in the first place and the figures invited by the UNSMIL. It asserts that this LPDF is illegitimate and thus its outcomes will be invalid.
10- The Council renews its call for political dialogue under sincere and neutral sponsorship. It calls on the good powers in the world, notably the African Union and the brotherly and friendly countries, especially our neighbors Tunisia, Egypt, and Algeria, to support the Libyan people in their chronic crises and understand their position. It also calls on the Libyan people to stand as one in the face of any manipulation of their fate by rejecting the schemes that aim to hijack their will and undermine the sovereignty of their country.


The acting Head of UNSMIL, Stephanie Williams, refused any criticism. In an interview with Al-Wasat she said UNSMIL will not allow “the political class or the status quo forces” to obstruct dialogue. She denied the LPDF granted representatives of political Islam were over-represented in the dialogue forum and that this is “unrealistic”, stressing that the forum brought together all components of the Libyan people, and that there is a diverse representation in this dialogue.

According to the Islamist Arraed website: “Williams pointed out that there are many wrong labels and a kind of ‘propaganda’ by people who do not live in Libya, playing an old game to divide the Libyans and sow sedition due to multiple agendas, some of which are under the table, as she put it.”

However, Al-Marsad’s infograph clearly shows the over-representation of Islamists in the LPDF.

© Al Marsad English (2020)



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