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Libya and the ‘Tyranny of the Minority’

For the country’s emerging democracy not to collapse into a sham endorsement of tyrannical Islamist rule, 
brave young women and men and the global community must say ‘no’ to the continuing injustices of this group

Image Credit: Ramachandra Babu/©Gulf News
Gulf News

Great democrats, from John Adams, to Alexis de Tocqueville, to John Stuart Mill have long warned of the dangers of the ‘Tyranny of the Majority’, and how it can jeopardise the very spirit of democracy. For the last four years, and now, even under the blue flag of the United Nations, Libya continues to suffer from a catastrophic and bloody ‘Tyranny of the Minority’.

In three fair, free and monitored elections, and despite their political mobilisation vastly outstripping any of their adversaries, an Islamist minority (consisting of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and their affiliates and associates) never achieved more than 10 per cent of the popular vote. Yet, this small minority has managed through a vicious and unscrupulous combination of violence, intimidation, blackmail, bribery and the parasitic appropriation of all key functions and resources of the emerging Libyan State, to tyrannise the Libyan people for the past four years.

In the summer of 2014, frustrated at the waning electoral support for their candidates and emboldened by the move of the elected parliament, known as the House of Representatives, to a duress-free Tobruk, an alliance of Islamist militias called Fajr Libya seized Tripoli at the barrel of the gun. Then, to create a semblance of legitimacy, Fajr Libya resurrected the defunct General National Congress (GNC) with a tiny fragment of its original membership — appointing a pseudo-government with former terrorists and Daesh (self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) apologists at its head. In Morocco, this tiny fragment uses the banner of the entire GNC to make a most dubious claim to legitimacy and a most audacious claim to a 50-50 ‘Presidential Council’.

Logically, even if any such concessions were to be made, it would have to be made to the entire GNC, with all its membership, of which the Islamist fragment constitutes less than 10 per cent. In effect, by hijacking the banner of the entire GNC, the Islamist fragment has inflated its claim to any such sharing settlement ten-fold, from 5 per cent to 50 per cent!

In Algeria, an even tinier fragment of Libya’s political landscape, consisting of Islamists who never won a single seat in their communities, sit at a table in a 50-50 configuration.

For Libya’s emerging democracy not to collapse into a sham endorsement of tyrannical Islamist rule, the brave young women and men of Libya, and the international community, have to simply say ‘NO’ to the continuing injustice of this Tyranny of the Minority. The international community is demanding the speedy formation of a ‘National Unity Government’. Since the February 17 Revolution, Libya has had four years of ‘unity’ governments. These governments have been ‘inclusive’ of the major factions that were empowered by the 2011 uprising. But, these factions, forged in the fight against Muammar Gaddafi, do not represent Libya’s electorate.

Governments over the past four years have failed for two reasons. Firstly, they inherited a Libya devoid of institutions. Secondly, the results of elections did not align with the skewed power bases in the country. The former meant that governments in Libya had their hands on the wheel of a car with no engine. While, the latter meant that the formal politics of elections, parliaments and prime ministers never reflected the realpolitik of militias. Threats, hostage-takings, assassinations and blackmailing ensured that parliamentary politics was always under duress.

We are left in a dangerous position. Libya’s current negotiations are not peace talks between belligerents, although that is what some want them to be. They are not really talks to help reconcile differences between elected politicians, although that is what they started as. The current hybrid talks run the very serious risk of providing legal legitimacy to extortion, while perpetuating and blessing the Tyranny of the Minority.

The goal of the UN-sponsored dialogue was clear: To address the grievances of the political boycotters of the House of Representatives and compel them to return. The goal of peace talks is also clear, to end fighting. In all peace talks it is a given that those sitting around the table represent the warring parties and that all sides use their power on the ground to force talks in their own favour.

Before the UN presides over the creation of a government with a mandate for the next two years, we should be clear about what is happening here and mindful that we do not relapse into a government that recreates the past four years of tyranny, squander, and chaos. By welcoming belligerents into the process under the guise of national unity and reconciliation, the current talks legitimise gun-barrel diplomacy over the ballot box.

Libya cannot afford to be forced into a unity government that distorts the social fabric of the country and rewards violence with a Prime Ministership or Presidency. This is not a solution for stability, this is not even a solution to end the conflict. This is a recipe for enshrining warlordism and militia rule as the future of Libya. The Tyranny of the Minority would effectively continue, but now with the international community’s blessing.

Libya needs to rectify its democratic transition and urgently needs to fight the terrorism of Daesh and its apologists. To do this, states that were involved in the intervention in 2011 and continue to play an important role in the country should understand that a Unity Government that does not represent the people is not a solution to ending Libya’s conflict, and a dialogue among politicians is not a substitute for real peace talks among the warring factions.

The Islamist factions that seized control of Libya by force of arms and are now claiming legitimacy represent less than 10 per cent of the Libya electorate. They have never won a free and fair election. They do not represent the Libyan people.

By supporting a delegation that includes members of the Fajr Libya (a faction that the recently-released UN Security Council Panel of Experts Report holds culpable for “the implosion of the political process in Libya”), the UN is contradicting even its own legal assessment.

The Libyan people paid dearly to overcome the tyranny of one man. They have been paying even more dearly for the past four years under the Tyranny of the Minority of Islamists. They do not deserve yet another two years of such tyranny, now under the name of a ‘National Unity Government’ blessed by the United Nations.

Dr Aref Ali Nayed is the Ambassador of Libya to the United Arab Emirates, and the Chairman of the Libya Institute for Advanced Studies (LIAS.ly) and Kalam Research and Media (kalamresearch.com). The views expressed here by the author are personal and not in his capacity as Ambassador; they do not represent the views of the House of Representatives (HoR) or the Government of Libya.

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