Libyans’ expectations were high, and candidates began to express interest in participating in the elections scheduled for December this year.
After the rebel military commander Khalifa Haftar’s eastern Tobruk government launched military operations against the capital Tripoli, these operations were postponed for three years.
New temporary National Unity Government (GNU) is a provisional government agency that was sworn in on March 15. Its mission is to lead the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in the presidential and parliamentary elections later this year.
Although many Libyans are eager to vote, the country’s ethnic minorities may be ignored in the election process.
These include the Amazighs, Tuaregs and Tebs. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) cannot provide the exact number of stateless persons in the country, but the proportion of undocumented persons remains high. Many people have no access to citizenship or other forms of documents that enable them to vote on elections and possible constitutions.
By the time Libya became independent in 1951, many non-Arab nomadic communities had settled in the country. But unlike the Libyan Arabs, many of these minorities are affected by discriminatory laws that prevent them from entering society.
Mohamed Asunusi, a member of the National Tebu Parliament, said: “After Libya became independent, the government took measures to register and issue civil documents to the Libyan people… But hardly any effort was made to reach Tebu in the desert. As a result, many Tebu still had nothing file.”
After the International Criminal Court ruled that the mineral-rich Auzou zone in the south should be returned to Chad, some people were also deprived of their Libyan citizenship. The former leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi (Muammar Gaddafi) issued a decree stating that any documents published in the zone should be revoked, so many Tebs have been unable to obtain documents since.
Human rights barriers
Similarly, the Tuareg tribe faces discrimination in civil rights.
Soon after the election date was set, the Tuareg Tribal Committee met with the Speaker of the House of Representatives Agila Saleh to discuss solutions to what they called “human rights barriers.” [Tuareg] The family lives among those who hold temporary records at the Citizenship Administration.” Holding temporary records is common among Tuaregs, which means they cannot obtain full citizenship rights.
When the revolution broke out in 2011, Gaddafi recruited Tuareg soldiers by providing them with Libyan documents. According to the World Directory of National Minorities and Indigenous Peoples, these promises have never been fulfilled. To this day, there are approximately 14,000 Tuaregs without official documents.
These official documents, such as the “family handbook”, are important proof of citizenship, and it is often difficult to apply for in nomadic communities. Valerie Stocker, a researcher at the European Institute for Peace, said: “Persons with undetermined legal status cannot currently participate in formal political life because they are not eligible to vote or participate in elections.
In a statement, the Supreme Council of Libyan Tribes and Cities welcomed the GNU headed by Abdul Hamid Debyba and stated that the election was an “important step in the unification of Libya.” However, they also called on the interim government to include the country’s ethnic minorities in the future election process.
Similar concerns were expressed before the 2012 elections in Libya. To solve this problem, a decree was issued that stipulates that individuals can use other forms of documents (including driver’s license or national ID card) to register to vote.
Despite this, various human rights organizations claim that some minority voters have been disqualified from voting because they are not “Libyan citizens.” Stoke recorded the disqualification of more than 1,000 Teb voters in the southeastern part of Kufra, some of whom were denied voting because of Teb’s name.
Although Tuareg activists opposed the election commission before the 2019 municipal elections, this did not take effect in time. Southern towns, such as Ubari, located in the southwestern part of the Sabha constituency, where the Tuareg and Teb communities are located, were ignored in the election process.
Therefore, many people worry that the Libyan minority will once again be excluded from the voting process due to the lack of documents proving their “Libyan ancestry.”
In a statement earlier this month, the 51 members of HoR urged the approval of the draft constitution, deeming it necessary to ensure security and stability before the election.
Last week, the Amazigh, Tuareg, and Teb tribes rejected a referendum on the draft constitution, calling it “illegal.”
The 17-member Constitution Drafting Agency (CDA) includes two members from each of the three minority communities and requires at least one member of each group to pass on documents. However, this was until the Amazighs withdrew from the CDA.
Since then, the Supreme Council of Amazigh has called on the United Nations Support Group for Libya (UNSMIL) to work hard to protect the rights of its group, instead seeking to amend the 1951 Constitution.
In the past, the committee has expressed “very uneasy…mainly because the regulations on decentralization did not give them the autonomy that some people hoped for”. The constitution is also known as “blind centralism” and assigns Tripoli the responsibility for making decisions on these community issues. Teb’s Sultan Ahmed Hakimusa also condemned the constitution, calling it a “racist referendum”.
No “meaningful public communication”
However, some members of the Drafting Committee believed that this was a starting point for minority rights and a major improvement over the 1969 Constitution, which defined Libya as an “Arab country” and Arabic as its “only official language”.
Therefore, citizenship remains a controversial topic in Libya. As Stoker said, “Although various aspects of it are frequently mentioned in the media and social media platforms and in the statements of state officials, there is no meaningful public communication or dialogue on this issue.”
Organizations such as La Lil-Tamiz continue to campaign to expose racism against minorities that will ultimately prevent them from integrating into society.
But as the election approaches, ensuring the participation of non-Arab minorities in Libya in the political process becomes crucial.
After years of brutal civil wars that split the country, the elections are aimed at creating a sense of national unity. Observers say that in post-revolutionary Libya, unless the entire population of the country-including its minorities-changes from statelessness to voting rights, national unity cannot be achieved in Libya.