The original United Nations mandate that led to the no-fly zone in Libya to protect civilians and prevent a massacre in Benghazi has long since been met, without however bringing an end to armed hostilities and the continuing death of civilians. NATO seems to have morphed from an instrument of the U.N. into the air arm of the rebels and is contributing to causalities. With a civil war continuing, and Western initiatives obstructing rather than facilitating a cease-fire and peace negotiations, there is a need for a cease-fire proposal that could be taken seriously on both sides of the conflict -- which means a proposal that is enforceable, and that also leads to the departure from power of Colonel Gaddafi on terms he can tolerate.
Although (and perhaps because) it requires significant compromises from both sides, the following proposal could be viable if outside parties including the African Union, the Arab League, and the United Nations were to adopt it as a working document and oversee its implementation. The proposal calls for:
- A cease-fire: That a cease-fire be announced under the supervision of the African Union and the Arab League which would take place over a period of 72 hours -- giving both sides a realistic period in which forces (some operating relatively independently from central commands) could stand down. Previous cease-fires have been announced and broken within hours, with no reasonable period for realistic implementation in the chaotic and decentralized conditions of the current conflict. The cease-fire would be considered effective if the predominate forces on both sides stand down within 72 hours, even if isolated units continue to fight -- with the provision that the side in whose name the local units continue combat will work in close conjunction with the supervisors (African Union and Arab League) to enforce compliance on those units.
- A provisional general amnesty: In order to obtain compliance with a cease fire, and motivate combatants on both sides, both parties would commit to a provisional general amnesty in which no attempts would be made within the territories controlled by them to arrest or harm opponents. This amnesty would be provisional and subject to negotiation as part of a general settlement, but it would reflect a perspective aimed at dampening the resentments and polarization that has been occasioned by the war. It would be overseen by the African Union and the Arab League, and could be superseded by a Peace and Reconciliation Commission (below).
- The release of all foreign hostages: A key provision of the amnesty, and a good faith gesture, would be the immediate release of journalists and other foreign nationals, held by either side.
- Peaceful exit of Colonel Gaddafi : Preferably sooner, but no later than four weeks after a successful implementation of a cease-fire and amnesty, Colonel Gaddafi would depart Tripoli and give up his informal but powerful governing role in Libya. Prior to final negotiations, he would be permitted to take up residence in Sabha or another southern Sahara Libyan town, where he would remain a Libyan citizen without access to politics or power; and where he would be protected both by a small personal security unit and by representatives of the African Union and Arab League (and possibly the United Nations). The latter organizations would both ensure the safety of Gaddafi and assure that he would abide by his agreement not to return to Tripoli or the north, or to participate in any way, formal or informal, in the political process.
- Negotiating a transition: During the first three months following the cease-fire, a negotiating group under the supervision of President Jacob Zuma of South Africa would determine a long term transition to democracy and fair elections that included all relevant parties, and that maintained the national integrity of Libya -- without prejudice, however, to determining whether a federal or unitary state would be incorporated into a final settlement. Saif Gaddafi would be permitted to participate in this transitional negotiation as would representatives of the rebel National Transitional Council. However, the participation of Saif would be conditional upon his (and other family members) renouncing participation in elections during the first two years of a democratic constitution. The primary aim of this transition negotiation would be to put into place a mechanism to determine and oversee a long-term transition to democracy, which would involve parties from both sides of the conflict and in addition to representatives from the Arab League and the African Union, representatives from the United Nations (with a preference for nations such as Germany, Russia, Brazil and India that reflected the original and limited mandate of the U.N. in Libya).
- A transition to democracy: Following the first three month immediate transition negotiation, the parties would move to the long-term transition to democracy based on principles agreed upon in the initial period. Among the key issues to be negotiated would be:
* A Truth and Reconciliation Commission to supersede the amnesty and try to minimize the role of blood vengeance in the new democratic Libya;
* A commitment to a united Libya which offers full representation to the historical regions, including the possibility of a federal system giving significant autonomy to the regions and defusing the tribal and regional issues in the conflict, but maintaining a central state;
* A constitution and bill of rights guaranteeing free and fair elections, an independent judiciary, and the right to form political parties or other representative institutions;
* A civil society program aimed at strengthening social capital, enhancing education and civic participation, and developing competent citizenship as a prerequisite to actually holding elections;
* Elections on a time-table geared to realistic implementation following civil society and civic education programs;
* The agreement of Saif Gaddafi and other members of the Gaddafi family not to participate in the first two years of democratic elections; this would not constitute a permanent ban from politics (except for Muammar Gaddafi as per paragraph 4) but assure that the initial elections wound would not be dominated by the politics of the past.
- Overseeing and guaranteeing the agreement: In order that this agreement be implemented in each of its phases, and that the potential inclination of both parties to unilaterally secede from parts of the agreement that appear unfavorable to their interests be curbed, there must be outside legal and military enforcement of the agreement throughout the process from cease-fire to first elections. This entails that the overseers of the agreement (the African Union, the Arab League and possible representatives from the United Nations including Germany, Turkey, Russia, Brazil and India) have both 'eyes' and 'boots' in place on the ground in Tripoli, Benghazi, and other principal cities in Libya, including in particular the town (Sabha?) to which Colonel Gaddafi retires. The presence in Libya of these forces would be long-term and continue through the first round of free elections, whenever these take place.
- The role of NATO: Because NATO has played an important role in the initial no-fly zone mandated by the United Nations, but has also become an engaged and partisan advocate and military supporter of one side to the conflict, it would agree not to intervene in the implementation of this agreement, other than to continue to enforce the no-fly zone over all of Libya -- as long it the agreement is being negotiated and realized by both sides. In the event of the breakdown or failure of the agreement, and the resumption of hostilities and armed combat in Libya, NATO would obviously claim the right to resume its former role and activity. But the success of this agreement will depend on NATO's willingness to stand aside if the process is working.