UN envoy on Libya warns conflict could trigger chaos

Fghters loyal to the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) during clashes with forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar, in Espiaa, about 40 kilometers south of Tripoli last month. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 04 September 2019

UN envoy on Libya warns conflict could trigger chaos

  • Ghassan Salame says Libyans feel abandoned by international community
  • Salame warned that the war could escalate and plunge 'entire region into chaos'

United Nations: The UN special envoy to Libya warned Wednesday that without action by the Security Council, the country’s war could escalate if outside patrons step up support for the warring sides.
“Many Libyans feel abandoned by part of the international community and exploited by others,” Ghassan Salame said by video link with the council.
“Without the unequivocal support of this council and the broader international community for an immediate end to the Libyan conflict, I believe we are faced with two highly unpalatable scenarios,” Salame added.
One is “persistent and protracted low intensity conflict,” he said.
The other is increased support for either warring side by their outside patrons.
This, he said, would lead to “a sharp escalation that will assuredly plunge the entire region into chaos.”
“The idea that war should be given a chance and that a military solution is at all possible is quite simply a chimera,” said Salame, who has often complained that the council is not united on the Libyan conflict and that some members support one or the other of the warring sides.
Libya has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising in which president Muammar Qaddafi was killed.
Strongman Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army launched an offensive on April 4 to conquer the capital, Tripoli.
His soldiers are fighting those of the Government of National Accord led by Fayed Al-Sarraj.
A member of Lawyers for Justice in Libya, Marwa Mohamed, also told the council there was no clear message on Libya from the international community.
During discussions on the conflict, several countries, such as Kuwait, South Africa, Indonesia and Germany, complained about what they called interference in that country’s affairs and repeated violations in the past five months of an arms embargo imposed on Libya in 2011.
Major powers such as the US, Russia, France and Britain avoided giving speeches Wednesday, saving their turns for a closed door session to be held after the public one.


Arabs reject use of religion to gain power, poll suggests

Updated 23 min 40 sec ago

Arabs reject use of religion to gain power, poll suggests

  • Use of religion for political gain is rejected by 58 percent of respondents in a YouGov poll
  • Experts believe there is now more awareness of the tactics of religion-based political parties

DUBAI: Across the Arab world, an increasing number of citizens disagree with the “use of religion for political gain,” according to a recent YouGov survey.

As part of its partnership with the Arab Strategy Forum, Arab News commissioned a survey of the views and concerns of Arabs today and their projections for the future of the region.

A total of 3,079 Arabic speakers were surveyed, aged 18 and above and living across 18 countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Results revealed that 43 percent strongly disagree with the “use of religion for political gain,” while 15 percent “somewhat disagree.” By contrast, 7 percent strongly agree and 8 percent “somewhat agree.”

Another 14 percent “neither agree nor disagree” with the “use of religion for political gain.”

The combined average, however, unambiguously opposes the idea — at 58 percent. “The cases of Lebanon and Iraq shows a streak of anti-sectarianism rather than that of anti-religion per se,” said Dr. Albadr Al-Shateri, politics professor at the National Defense College in Abu Dhabi.

“Religious beliefs are deep-seated in these societies, so the advent of Western-style secularism in the region is doubtful. Even the most secular country in the Middle East, Turkey, turned out to have religious inclinations when it voted in an Islamist party” more than a decade ago. 

As long as people have little trust in political institutions, they will revert to their primary social institutions, notably religion, family and tribe, Al-Shateri told Arab News.

Dr. Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a former chairman of the Arab Council for Social Sciences, said that the YouGov findings suggest that the days of using religion for political gain are over.

“We are seeing more and more awareness that religion-based political parties are not so genuine in their religious preaching,” he told Arab News.

“People are becoming aware that those who preach freedom, equality, democracy and women’s empowerment using religious discourse are no longer believable.”

Significant numbers disagreed with the statement in Iraq and Kuwait (74 percent), as well as in Lebanon (73 percent), Libya (75 percent), Sudan (79 percent), and Syria and Yemen (71 percent). 

“Ultimately, it’s a question of credibility of politicians,” said Nadim Shehadi, an associate fellow at Chatham House, adding that “the credibility of political establishments is on the decrease globally because they are failing to deliver.”

He said that there is a general sense globally that political establishments are corrupt and not credible, which he partly pins on shifts in generational issues.

“Your grandparents’ concerns were probably more nationalistic,” he told Arab News.

“The generation of your parents were more about religion and, frankly, the new generation is more concerned about gender issues than anything else.

“Nationalism is totally irrelevant to them and religion far less.”

According to Shehadi, exploitation of religion no longer stirs up the young generation as they have different concerns. “They are on a different planet from politicians,” he said.

“Politicians are addressing issues that are very different from what the new generation is concerned with.”

With unrest continuing in several Arab countries, including Iraq and Lebanon, Abdulla sees it as a second round of the so-called Arab Spring, this time gripping Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon and Iraq.

“What is clear is that this second round is much more peaceful, focused and has already delivered a great deal,” he said.

“In Sudan, we have seen a very peaceful transition that was done to the satisfaction of the Sudanese people, and transition to democracy is going smoothly.

“In Algeria, it’s settling down and an election is coming up with some opposing it. But none of these two cases have witnessed the violence that engulfed Libya and Syria.”

That said, the future will depend on how governments and societies respond to the demands of the youth, according to Al-Shateri.

“The region faces many problems. However, the underlying cause is the lack of good governance. The concept of good governance has its provenance in Arab and Islamic traditions; it is not the equivalent of Westminster-style government necessarily.

“It is based on accountability, justice, equality, rule of law, ombudsmanship and the right to petition the government.”

Al-Shateri said Lebanon, Algeria, Iran and Iraq are examples of countries that have failed to provide these conditions, adding that the same was the case in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Syria when the Arab Spring uprisings began in 2011.

If regional countries achieve good governance, Al-Shateri expects many improvements in society, the economy and governance. “Short of that, the region will languish in backwardness, underdevelopment and conflict,” he said.