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 jeopardize 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 free, fair and monitored elections, and despite superior political organization, an Islamist minority consisting of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, their affiliates and associates never achieved more than 10 percent of the popular vote.
They have never won an election. They do not represent the Libyan people. 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 tyrannize the Libyan people for the past four years.
Before the U.N. 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 don’t 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 legitimize gun-barrel diplomacy over the ballot box.
Libya cannot afford to be forced into a unity government with a prime ministership or presidency that distorts the social fabric of the country and rewards violence. 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.
In summer 2014, frustrated at the waning electoral support of their candidates and emboldened by the move to Tobruk of the duly elected parliament known as the House of Representatives, an alliance of Islamist militias called Fajr Libya seized Tripoli at the barrel of the gun. Then, to create an illusion 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 jihadis and ISIS apologists at its head.
At the United Nations Support Mission in Libya talks in Morocco to decide the future of Libya, this tiny fragment uses the banner of the entire GNC to make a most dubious claim of legitimacy to the international community, and a most audacious demand for a 50-50 “presidential council” to ultimately govern the country.
Logically, even if any such concession were to be made, it would have be made to the entire GNC, with all its membership, of which the Islamist fragment constitutes less than 10 percent. In effect by hijacking the banner of the entire GNC, the Islamist fragment has inflated their claim to any such sharing settlement 10-fold, from 5 percent to 50 percent.
To prevent Libya’s emerging democracy from collapsing into a sham endorsement of tyrannical Islamist rule, the people of Libya and the international community must 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” in Libya. However, Libya has had four years of “unity” governments. These governments have been inclusive of the major factions that were empowered by the 2011 uprising. These factions, forged in the fight against Moammar Gadhafi, do not represent Libya’s electorate.
Libyan “unity” governments over the past four years have failed for two reasons. First, they inherited a Libya devoid of government institutions. Second, the results of elections did not serve to realign 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. The latter meant that the formal politics of elections, parliaments and prime ministers never reflected the realpolitik of militias. Threats, hostage-takings, assassinations and blackmail, 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, though that is what some want them to be. They are not talks to help reconcile differences between elected politicians, although that’s how they started. The current hybrid talks run the very serious risk of providing legal legitimacy to extortion, while perpetuating and blessing the small minority of Islamist sympathizers.
The goal of the U.N.-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 favor.
Libya needs to rectify its democratic transition and urgently needs to fight the terrorism of the Islamic State 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 so-called “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.
By supporting a delegation that includes members of the Fajr Libya, a faction the recently released U.N. Security Council Panel of Experts Report holds culpable for “the implosion of the political process in Libya,” the U.N. 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 U.N.
• Aref Ali Nayed is the ambassador of Libya to the United Arab Emirates and is the chairman of the Libya Institute for Advanced Studies and of Kalam Research and Media. The views expressed are personal and they do not represent the views of the House of Representatives or the government of Libya.