The United Nations special envoy for Libya, Jan Kubis, abruptly tendered his resignation from his post as the top international troubleshooter in the North African country, leaving a diplomatic vacuum just weeks before Tripoli’s controversial presidential and parliamentary elections, said Foreign Policy Magazine.
The announcement deals a blow to the international community’s efforts to stabilise Libya and facilitate elections in a bid to end a decade of chaos and violence.
The move comes after world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and US Vice-President Kamala Harris pressed the Libyans to proceed with “free, fair, inclusive and credible presidential and parliamentary elections” on December 24.
“The international community is putting all its eggs in this election, so it needs to go well,” said Thomas Hill, an expert on North Africa issues with the US Institute of Peace. “Having [Kubis] drop out now could be an indication that things are falling apart behind the scenes.”
The UN Security Council, riven by big-power divisions between the United States and Russia, has been struggling for nearly two years to maintain consistent UN leadership in Libya. The country has been plagued by civil war, corruption, and political disunity since the US -led NATO intervention in 2011, which resulted in the fall of Muammar al-Gaddafi, who was executed in the streets by militias.
Since Gaddafi’s ouster more than a decade ago, Libya’s warring parties have failed to form a stable government, sometimes violently jousting for power despite Western and UN efforts to steady the oil-rich country. After the dust settled from the Libyan dictator’s fall, the internationally recognised Government of National Accord was left with little effective control beyond the capital of Tripoli, and it was besieged by warlords in eastern Libya who set up a rival government.
In March 2020, Ghassan Salame, a veteran UN troubleshooter, resigned from the top UN post, citing ill health and frustration with the role that key member states, including Turkey and Russia, played in fueling the conflict. The effort to find a replacement who could garner support from the UN Security Council’s big powers, as well as African countries, played out over nine months, as one after another potential candidate got vetoed by a divided council. Kubis, a Slovakian diplomat who had previously served as the top UN official in Lebanon, was appointed to the post in January. It remains unclear why Kubis, who operates out of Geneva, decided to resign, and it is unclear who will come next; the UN Security Council could shift the role to a UN special representative in Tripoli.
A fragile UN-brokered cease-fire in June 2020 ended over a year of conflict that left hundreds of civilians dead and thousands more displaced.