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Illegals smuggled from Libya abandon their lifejackets and rafts once they reach Europe. Photo supplied

Meanwhile back in Libya

Sometimes one wonders what the diplomats at the German Foreign Office actually do for a living. Over the last few days, the so-called Libyan Forum for Political Dialogue (LPDF) has been taking place in Tunisia under the auspices of the United Nations. This forum promises "Libyans a long-awaited chance for a permanent end to the conflict and a peaceful future in a united country," the Federal institution announced in a concise report on its website.

Published: November 14, 2020, 5:09 pm

    It sounds rather easy and relaxed, a bit like one of the countless and often politically completely insignificant meetings and conferences. A new Libyan leadership will be elected during the LPDF and a date for upcoming elections will be set. Until this election, the interim government of Libya – to be determined at the forum – will lead the country.

    Berlin’s assumption that the patronage of the UN support mission for Libya is a guarantee that the forum will be conducted openly, honestly, objectively and neutrally, is quite naïve.

    The UN support mission for Libya is being led by the US diplomat Stephanie Williams, previously US chargé d’affaires in Tripoli. She therefore has many contacts, including Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, a notorious war criminal, torturer and warlord.

    Also, Bashagha and his ministry are up to their necks in the smuggling business: The illegal boat migration from Libya to Europe is taking place under the watchful eyes of Bashagha’s Interior Ministry. Instead of stopping the smuggling organizations, people in Tripoli earn a lot from it. On top of that, Bashagha is in control of the Islamist militias, in which Salafists and mercenaries rub shoulders.

    Despite his nefarious dealings, Bashagha is being considered as a candidate for the leadership of the Libyan interim government – thanks in part to Williams.

    What does the US diplomat think about the minister? US President Theodore Roosevelt is said to have once said of Rafael Trujillo, dictator of the Dominican Republic: “He may be a bastard, but he’s our bastard.”

    In the past, Bashagha has repeatedly shown himself to be a reliable partisan of the USA in Tripoli. He even called for a US military base in the country.

    Will Stephanie Williams be able to just push through her candidates for the LPDF? In all probability, yes. The UN support mission for Libya under Williams’ command has already taken care of this: 49 of the 75 participants in the conference were appointed by the UN mission – that is, by Stephanie Williams herself.

    That is a substantial majority with which US interests can easily be enforced under the guise of the UN.

    The composition of the LPDF had already been criticized by Libyans in advance. The Supreme Council of Libyan Tribes and Cities disapproved of the list of participants for the LPDF. This is an expression of a “policy of marginalization and favoritism”. In addition, the list is teeming with radical Islamic representatives from the Muslim Brotherhood.

    The forum seems to have been conceived to prevent what Libya needs most: stability, law, order. These much needed three pillars are especially in the interest of Germany. A Libyan government should be preventing illegal boat migration to Europe, breaking up human smuggling rings – and not actively promoting it. But Libya seems far from being able to achieve that today.

    At the moment it seems as if the US is busy composing a new Libyan government of chaos, right before the eyes of Europe. Such policies could put Europe under even more migratory pressure.

    Washington, on the other hand, will surely be signing some lucrative deals with Tripoli. It’s an old American habit often witnessed in Europe: Secure the profits,  while “outsourcing” the risks to the Europeans.

    Washington doesn’t care whether the new government is supported by the Libyan population or whether Bashagha – as happened this summer – simply mows down some demonstrators. The deluge of asylum applications will end up in Germany, not in the USA.

    Actually, therefore, one would expect the Federal Foreign Office to be slightly more vigilant and critical.

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