Jean-Yves Ollivier: "Peace must be made by the Libyans themselves”

Our press articles

Jean-Yves Ollivier: "Peace must be made by the Libyans themselves”

Jean-Yves Ollivier: "Peace must be made by the Libyans themselves”

Interview by François Soudan and Jihâd Gillon


What is your precise role in the Libyan dossier?

The Brazzaville Foundation, which I established, brings together a range of eminent personalities who work for peace. As its Chairman, I am assisted by the members of our Advisory Board. We are not there to make peace but rather to facilitate and create the conditions for making a Iasting peace.

You are a businessman. Are you interested in the Libyan market?

I contributed to the ending of apartheid but I never had business dealings in South Africa from the day Mandela was freed. My motivation is simple: I love what I do. If I can create the conditions which enable peace to be achieved, I feel an obligation to act. And doing so gives me great satisfaction. That is enough for me. However, if at some point in the future opportunities were to present themselves in Libya, why should I not pursue them?

The first stage of your initiative took place in Dakar in May with the organisation of a meeting involving various Libyan parties. What was the aim?

First, the meeting's agenda was determined by those who took part. Our goal is to try to achieve Libyan reconciliation based on certain fundamental principles which all those who took part in Dakar had already agreed including a single, unified State, a civilian government, an army answerable to the civilian government, an independent judiciary, elections. Reconciliation requires an inter-Libyan dialogue which is open and without  bitterness and hatred. The past has to be put to one side in order to look to the future.

When you organised a meeting in Turkey between Abdelhakim Belhaj and Bechir Saleh, the opposite ends of the Libyan ideological spectrum, what did you hope to achieve?

In this type of meeting the aim is to define points of convergence and leave to one side all the differences. This meeting was heavily criticised by the supporters of each man but it enabled agreement to be reached on the principles which served as a basis for Dakar 1. I then asked them to help me arrange the inter-Libyan meeting in Dakar. Belhaj and Saleh have been the two driving forces behind the Dakar meeting.

Is Marshal Haftar an indispensable element in the peace process?

The Marshal is one of those on whom peace depends, that is evident. But our Foundation cannot determine whether one Libyan is more representative than another - it is not for us to judge. Marshall Haftar is Libyan, represents a segment of Libyan opinion and has the right to take part in the Dakar meeting (to which he was invited) but neither more, nor less, than Belhaj, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi or other Libyans.

You have called Saif al-Isalm Gadhafi "a symbol of reconciliation".  That sounds like backing for including Gadhafi supporters in the Libyan game?

I am not a Gadhafi supporter, I simply consider that one cannot leave those who are called Gadhafi supporters out of the Libyan equation. All have the right to have their voices heard, even those who were Gadhafi supporters. They should not be reduced to silence as at Skhirat. That Saif al-Islam should regain his ability to act, which is what I wish, would be a good symbol of reconciliation.

How important is Gadhafi-ism in the Libyan political landscape?

It is most significant among exiled Libyans, those who have fled the country for fear of repression. Estimates suggest that they number several hundred thousands. But there are also internal exiles, those who have sought refuge among sympathetic tribes. It is also a factor among those nostalgic for the past in a country which currently suffers shortages of water and electricity and where insecurity reigns. Even among those who have always opposed Gadhafi, there is a recognition that, despite everything, he left an inheritance which has a part to play in Libya's future. There is not an absolute rejection.

What are your hopes for Dakar 2?

Dakar 1 demonstrated that Libyans from all sides can sit down around the same table. There were important absentees, it's true. But Marshall Haftar nevertheless sent two delegates, although they did not take part because they did not wish to sit down with certain other individuals.  Today there are signs that make me optimistic regarding participation at Dakar 2. Dakar 1 was a success, a step towards Dakar 2, which will itself be another step in the right direction. There is no expectation that Dakar 2 will definitively resolve the Libyan problem. But we are moving forward.

How should crimes committed during the war be judged and how to resolve the thorny question of the "blood price" sought by different protagonists?

In my view the most responsible methodology would involve a moratorium, as in Spain and Chile: judgement on crimes committed by one or other party would be postponed for 20 years. That would have the advantage of calming the situation down. In the Libyan tradition the notion of a moratorium has tribal sanction so why not make use of it? I think it is an interesting possibility. But the South African model of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission would not work in Libya.

What is the difference between your initiative and the French one?

All efforts to achieve peace are praiseworthy. President Macron is working at the institutional level. But for me peace has to be made by the Libyans themselves on the ground and not only through the bodies created by international agreements.

Why has the government of national accord faced so many problems?

Did those who helped Fayez al-Sarraj become head of government taken into account all parts of the Libyan political landscape? Why should Libyans who were not given the chance to express their opinion, support someone about whom they have not been consulted? We should never forget that Libya means all its different towns and tribes. To ignore these factors and seek to impose a government that does not take account of basic data of this kind is to invite failure.

How do you stand in relation to the African Union mediation led by President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo?

President Sassou Nguesso was the chairman of the AU group which negotiated with Gadhafi in 2011. But it was too late. Africa's error was to be complicit via its vote in the Security Council in authorising a foreign military intervention in an African country. Our initiative can make up for this mistake which has been recognised as such. The AU feels itself responsible and wants to help achieve peace in Libya. My work is going to help and support the AU in advance of the peace conference that the AU intends to organise.

The multiplicity of actors on the ground complicates you work....?

The Libyan problem is compounded by the interests of certain states. They are not necessarily seeking to place their own candidates in power but rather to prevent others from doing so. There are two opposing tendencies: some want the establishment of a military dictatorship on the Egyptian model; others, on the contrary, envisage a civilian government dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. Meanwhile the problems of migration and terrorism  concern all countries in the region. Italy and France want to defend their potential economic interests: the task of reconstructing Libya will probably be the most important in the world, without mentioning the energy sector. With such a multitude of outside interests the six million Libyans have been forgotten, their voices unheard. 

There are two deadlines for Libya: the referendum on the constitution on 17 September and a Presidential election on 10 December. Are these dates realistic?

What I understand from all sides is that they are not realistic. But it is not for me to say.  My task is to take the steps needed to bring Libyans together for a second time. My initiative is not in opposition to other initiatives; on the contrary it will help facilitate and underpin a peaceful resolution of the Libyan crisis.