United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres officially announced the appointment of Abdoulaye Bathily as his Special Representative for Libya and head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
The United Nations (UN) thus made official the appointment of the veteran Senegalese diplomat as its new envoy for Libya, after obtaining the approval of the Security Council powers and despite the fact that the country's Government of National Unity, led by Abdul Hamid Dbeibé, had raised disagreements.
The Senegalese diplomat succeeds Slovakian Jan Kubis, who previously served as special envoy and head of UNSMIL, and to whom António Guterres expressed gratitude for his services.
Abdoulaye Bathily brings to this position more than 40 years of experience in politics and international relations with the Senegalese government, African continental entities and the UN itself. In 2021, he also served as an independent expert for the strategic review of UNSMIL.
He previously served as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) (2013-2014), and also as Special Representative for Central Africa and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) in Gabon (2014-2016). In 2018, he was appointed Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for Madagascar and in 2019 as Independent Expert for the Strategic Review of the UN Office for West Africa.
Abdoulaye Bathily held several ministerial positions in the Government of Senegal, most notably as Senior Minister in the Office of the President in charge of African Affairs (2012-2013), Minister of Energy and Hydraulics (2000-2001) and Minister of Environment and Protection of Nature (1993-1998). He was also elected to the National Assembly in 1998 and served as Vice-President from 2001 to 2006. He was also elected Member of Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (2002-2006).
Bathily has a strong academic background, having taught history for more than 30 years at the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Senegal; he has also lectured at universities around the world. The Senegalese diplomat holds a PhD in Philosophy and History from the University of Birmingham in the UK, as well as a PhD from Cheikh Anta Diop University.
The Senegalese politician thus takes over a post that was vacant following the resignation in November last year of Jan Kubis after there were many divisions within the UN Security Council to fill the vacancy. During these months it was Stephanie Williams who acted as special adviser for Libya due to the departure of her superior Jan Kubis, but her departure from that post at the end of July reactivated the search for a UN special envoy for the North African country.
The National Unity Government led by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibé raised 'objections' to Bathily's appointment despite the positive stance of UN Security Council countries, calling for greater say in determining who should head the UN's political mission in Libya.
The situation in Libya is delicate as there is still no date for presidential and parliamentary elections, which were set for last December but were postponed without a fixed date due to disagreements between the eastern bloc in Tobruk and the Tripoli-based political power of the Dbeibé government. Abdul Hamid Dbeibé was appointed acting prime minister in 2021 following the agreement reached by the warring parties in Libya to carry out a democratic transition aimed at holding elections at the end of that year, but these were suspended because the necessary conditions were not met, and after the passing of the months came the Tobruk parliament's decision on 10 February to appoint Fathi Bashagha as the new prime minister, which was opposed by forces loyal to Dbeibé.
Since then, there has been a political confrontation between the parties and armed clashes also between militias due to the discrepancies between Dbeibé's and Bashagha's sides, which hinders the democratic transition in Libya.
The North African country remains mired in a major crisis following the fall of Muammar al-Gaddafi's regime, which led to a civil war in 2014 between Eastern and Western factions that has been going on for years. On the one hand, the National Unity Government of former Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, based in Tripoli and supported from outside by Turkey, Qatar and Italy, and, on the other, the Libyan National Army led by Marshal Khalifa Haftar, which received external support from countries such as Russia, France and the United Arab Emirates and is allied with the Eastern government in Tobruk, clashed. The battle in Libya took on an international dimension with several nations interested in Libya's geostrategic situation and its oil resources.
Subsequently, talks for peace and a democratic process were held in countries such as Morocco, which acted as mediators, and agreement was reached to appoint the interim government led by Abdul Hamid Dbeibé. But the inability to hold elections at the end of last year led to a period of instability and to the Tobruk parliament appointing Fathi Bashagha as an alternative prime minister on the understanding that Dbeibé's term in power had ended because of the latter's refusal to resign and leave Tripoli.
Of course, Abdoulaye Bathily's task ahead of him is quite difficult and, for the time being, there is no clear way out for a democratic transition in Libya and the holding of elections that would finally establish an executive legitimately elected by the citizens of Tripoli.