A delegation of Libyan tribal and women leaders from the National Movement for Libya (Movement) concluded its visit to the United States today by calling on the UN to take a balanced approach to the Libyan peace process that respects the demographics of the country and strengthens cooperation with tribes and representatives of cities and civil society. The delegation delivered that message in a series of strategic meetings this week in New York and Washington, including with UN officials, UN Security Council member states, the U.S. State Department and others.
WASHINGTON – The Movement was formed to address the acute need for reconciliation, stability and the prevention of radicalization in rural tribal regions, which have often been overlooked in the peace process. “Libya is a tribal society,” said Sheikh Faraj Al-Obeidi, leader of the eastern Obaidat tribe and president of the Movement. “There are cities and modern civil society, but ignoring tribes means you don’t understand Libya. That has been unfortunately the case in many peace efforts.”
Tribal leaders asked the UN Security Council to examine whether the UN Support Mission in Libya has taken a balanced approach and how to ensure broader political participation in the future. They also called upon the Trump Administration to examine the situation. “We are confident that our message was heard and that Libyans will have better opportunities in the future to participate in their nation’s transition to peace and stability,” said Sheikh Faraj.
The Movement consists of tribal groups that both supported and opposed Gaddafi during the revolution. These groups have reconciled with the help of facilitators and reformed their structures to fully involve women. The delegation of tribal and women leaders was sponsored by the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers and the Libya Institute for Advanced Studies, with the support of Finn Church Aid.
“When states fail, traditional structures offer ways to rebuild legitimacy,” said Antti Pentikäinen, Executive Director of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers. “It requires skill and integrating tribal structures with woman, youth and municipal structures. The question now is whether Libyans will get to choose their own path or get sidetracked by militias, which often lead to repeatedly failing political processes.”
The Movement is committed to working with all Libyans in order to maintain the social fabric and overcome obstacles to lasting peace and reconciliation. Most importantly, the tribal elders believe that the political will of the Libyan people must be respected by all sides: “It will always be up to the Libyan people to choose their leaders,” said Sheikh Faraj.