Post-Intervention Libya Mission & Nepal

(This article can also be found on www.gorkhapatra.org.np)

The protests against the regime of Colonel Qaddafi have not subsided. These protests are also a part of broader pro-democracy movement spreading in North Africa and the Middle East. Whereas the long-standing autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt have been toppled, Qaddafi still looks defiant to relinquish power. UN-sanctioned NATO-led military action to enforce a no-fly zone in Libya continues. With Qaddafi’s obstinacy to stick to power, crisis is slowly becoming protracted.

The conflict in Libya has impacted on the security of the people both national and foreigners. Libya  hosts a large number of foreign workers who have been trapped in war between Qaddafi loyalists and his opponents. A few hundred Nepali workers were among them when the government of Nepal was struggling hard to ensure their safe evacuation last February. Such evacuation of foreign nationals is still going on. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) recently rescued migrant workers from Libya had harrowing tales to narrate.

It may be several months before situation in Libya gets stabilized as ceasefire has not been agreed yet. Nevertheless, the international community and the UN, in particular, have started consultations with the formation of International Contact Group. Such group was formed in March during London Conference. This process of multilateral efforts to formulate policies to cater to political, economic and humanitarian needs of the country has now moved further after Qatar hosted the first meeting of International Contact Group on April 13. Additionally, Arab League cosponsored Cairo Conference a day later focusing on common strategies for future planning of Libya.

The UN Secretary-General who attended all those meetings has pleaded for galvanizing international support to help Libya meet present humanitarian need and plan for future reconstruction once fighting stops. This task of rebuilding war-torn Libya will follow peacemaking and peace building as seen in similar situations elsewhere. Diplomatic endeavors are continuing to restore peace by brokering ceasefire between the parties to conflict. Advance planning for launching peacekeeping activities is considered essential.

This was exactly the point the UN Chief was stressing both in Doha meeting of the International Contact Group and Cairo Conference. At this stage Ban seems to concentrate on appeals to the international community to provide necessary funds to urgently respond to humanitarian crisis in Libya. On a more optimistic note he recently made an announcement of an agreement reached between his representative and the Libyan government for allowing UN’s humanitarian presence in the country.

In post-intervention Libya NATO’s continued presence and assumption of peacekeeping roles does not look feasible. Already suspicion is strong that western countries under the U.S. leadership are waging war against Libya, another Muslim country to be invaded after Iraq, for controlling its oil resources. An endorsement from the UN Security Council resolution 1973 has not prevented critics to paint the Libyan intervention as a ploy of western colonialism. Non-participation of Arab army in NATO coalition forces has lent credence to such allegation.

Considered to be an innovation of the UN, peacekeeping missions have been deployed in different situations for more than six decades. These peacekeeping activities were confined to maintaining peace agreements until the end of Cold War. Then peacekeeping missions were intended to deal with inter-State conflicts. But over the years such missions have undergone sea change both in their composition and the mandates to be accomplished. Assuming multi-dimensional roles the UN Peacekeeping Missions have been asked in recent years even to deal with intra-State conflicts. The revised mandates have rendered the UN missions more challenging.

The prospective stabilization mission in Libya may resemble the complex operations like Haiti, the Sudan, among others. The tasks to be performed by the future mission in Libya will likely include maintaining ceasefire and policing in urban areas etc. Examples in other countries which previously were enmeshed in civil war show that internal security is one of the most pressing problems to be tackled by peacekeeping mission. Institution-building and organizing elections are generally required in post-conflict situations. Libya may not be an exception in this regard.

Long and persistent involvement of Nepal in various UN Peacekeeping Missions has earned her international recognition. Furthermore, continued participation by Nepal Army, Nepal Police and Armed Police has served our interests by enhancing professionalism of our security personnel. Contribution to UN Peacekeeping has generated enough revenues to the government in the form of payment due to Contingent-Owned Equipment.

The arrangement of Contingent-Owned Equipment (COE) is in vogue in UN Peacekeeping for decades. Its purpose is to lessen the burden of logistics on the UN. But disappointingly Nepal Police has been  criticised for failing to meet the UN standards in the Sudan mission where their military equipment has been found obsolete. Institution of government enquiry in this connection is a welcome move though the news that such investigation has not progressed satisfactorily becomes still worrisome.

Even the excellent performance records of Nepal Army in UN Peacekeeping have been marred by occasional incidents. The most prominent is government inability to punish the military officer as per national laws who is alleged to have violated human rights by the UN. The allegation was so serious that he was disgracefully returned back to Nepal before completing his tenure in UN mission. A few weeks earlier the Nepalese representative in New York was reported grumbling before the UN for denying due positions to nominated Nepal Army officers. The hard reality, nonetheless, is that such discomfort is hardly paid any attention by the UN when its allegation of human rights violation against our army officer is not disproved.

As one of the most experienced troop and police contributors to the UN currently sending more than 4,000 peacekeepers to various missions spread over continents, Nepal needs to make a critical review of her participation in UN Peacekeeping. This is imperative for Nepal to overcome the past mistakes, if any. With proper review she will be better prepared to respond promptly when opportunities of contribution to future missions become available. Libya is certainly one prospective mission that may be launched in the foreseeable future.

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