UN expected to approve Senegal’s Bathily as Libya envoy

Previous UN special representative, Jan Kubis, resigned in November after 10 months in the job

The entrance to the Red Castle near Martyrs' Square in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. August 29, 2022. AFP
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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has nominated Abdoulaye Bathily to be the new UN envoy to Libya, while France’s UN ambassador said on Thursday he thinks the Security Council will approve the former Senegalese minister and UN diplomat, which would end a contentious nine-month search.

The previous UN special representative, Jan Kubis, resigned on November 23 after 10 months in the job, and several candidates proposed by Mr Guterres were rejected by council members, Libya or neighbouring countries.

In December, Mr Guterres appointed veteran American diplomat Stephanie Williams, a former UN deputy special representative in Libya, as his special adviser — a job that did not require council approval.

She left at the end of July. So, the mission has had no leader as Libyans grapple with a constitutional and political crisis.

UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo said on Tuesday that failure to resolve Libya’s political crisis and hold delayed elections poses a growing threat in the country, pointing to violent clashes a few days ago that killed at least 42 people and injured 159 others, according to Libyan authorities.

Libya has been in chaos since a Nato-backed uprising toppled and killed long-time dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. The oil-rich county has for years been split between rival administrations, each backed by rogue militias and foreign governments.

The current stalemate grew out of the failure to hold elections in December and the refusal of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who led a transitional government, to step down. In response, the country’s east-based parliament appointed a rival prime minister, Fathi Bashagha, who has for months sought to install his government in Tripoli.

French ambassador Nicolas De Riviere was asked at a news conference whether Mr Dbeibah’s opposition to Mr Bathily would be a problem in trying to end Libya’s political crisis. “I don’t think so, no,” he said.

Mr De Riviere said the leadership of the UN mission for Libya over the past two years “has been chaotic” and it is time for the UN to have someone to lead it “and to pick up the baton of the negotiations over Libya”.

He said France fully supports the secretary general’s nomination of Mr Bathily, a former UN special representative for Central Africa.

“I think it will be accepted,” Mr De Riviere said. “What’s important now is to get to the next phase, and I think that all the parties in Libya will co-operate with him, and the sooner they do that the better.”

Updated: September 02, 2022, 9:27 AM