GNA Retaliates Against UN SRSG after UNSC Briefing

Reporting to the UNSC on July 30th, SRSG and Head of UNSMIL Ghassan Salame called for a ceasefire during Eid al-Adha festivities and said that “Libyans are fighting wars of others” (Credit: UNSMIL).

Reporting to the UNSC on July 30th, SRSG and Head of UNSMIL Ghassan Salame called for a ceasefire during Eid al-Adha festivities and said that “Libyans are fighting wars of others” (Credit: UNSMIL).

Ghassan Salame, the Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), was once the political protector of the Government of National Accord (GNA). Today, he finds himself the target of the loosely held coalition. Libya Desk investigates the motives behind the GNA’s rejection of SRSG Ghassan Salame.

PM Sarraj protests the SRSG’s remarks during the Security Council briefing

Attempting to identify a thread of logic behind the decisions of Libya’s politicians is usually a hopeless task, as most decisions do not stem from a greater policy strategy, but are direct reactions to domestic pressures from the orchestra of vested interests behind them. Such is the case with regards to the campaign against Salame that so far has had PM Sarraj hand a letter of protest in response to the SRSG’s last UN Security Council briefing, on July 30th 2019.

Analogously, militias, ministers and local authorities have demanded he leaves Libya, and as of most recently, have limited his travel in and out of Libya from Mitiga Airport. The decision, meant to symbolise the GNA’s frustration towards Salame for not condeming Haftar’s attacks on Mitiga Airport, means that the UN SRSG is forced to undergo the same inconveniences Libyan civilians are subject to as the airport is forced to shut down every other day.

Pictures of Mitiga Airport during the LNA air raid circulating on Twitter. The attack allegedly targeted a Turkish drone stationed in the airport.

Pictures of Mitiga Airport during the LNA air raid circulating on Twitter. The attack allegedly targeted a Turkish drone stationed in the airport.

The SRSG explained that as long as the airport continues to be used by the GNA for military purposes in the war, an attack on it cannot - by definition - constitute a war crime against a civilian facility. UNSMIL has in several occasions requested permission to visit Mitiga Airport to confirm that it was not being used for military purposes, as social media is flooded with evidence that claims otherwise, but those requests have been repeatedly denied by GNA officials.

Google images circulating on social media showing GNA military planes stationed at Mitiga Airport.

Google images circulating on social media showing GNA military planes stationed at Mitiga Airport.

GNA coalition members break under pressure

Through our wide network across Libya, Libya Desk investigated the motives behind the sudden campaign against SRSG Ghassan Salame. As the battle for Tripoli continues to escalate, one of the most evident challenges for the Tripoli-based government is that GNA coalition members are starting to balk under pressure:

  • Misrata being targeted for the first time by the LNA is a clear sign of that the “red line” once placed by the powers that be no longer exists, and Haftar has been given the green light to target the military power of Western Libya directly;

  • Zintan suffers from severe tribal divisions as the sons of tribal leaders are fighting on both sides of the battlefield;

  • Tripoli militia are increasingly disillusioned as they find themselves fighting alongside the same militias that they kicked out of Tripoli in 2014 — notably the LIFG (Libyan Islamic Fighting Group), Zintan and Misrata militias.

  • Finally and most importantly, the coalition feels betrayed by the international community. A Tripoli militia member expressed his frustration to Libya Desk after not managing to get a single meeting request with foreign embassies. A Misrata official directly reached out to a Western nation asking for an explanation following the LNA’s air raids on Misrata, directly asking the question “what happened to Misrata being a red line?”

Feeling cornered, their frustration exploded after the SRSG’s UNSC briefing.

UN SRSG Ghassan Salame briefing the UNSC about the recent escalation of violence in Libya on July 30th, 2019.

UN SRSG Ghassan Salame briefing the UNSC about the recent escalation of violence in Libya on July 30th, 2019.

Today, PM Sarraj is dealing with a barrage of threats from militias asking for Ghassan Salame’s removal. The coming days will likely see a statement by the Libyan Foreign ministry as Mr. Siala is under pressure from the Nuwasee Brigade and a handful of militia commanders to speak out against the UN official.


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