The Prime Minister of the Libyan Government of National Unity (GNU), Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh, has announced that what he called the “coup project” has “committed political suicide”. His announcement follows armed clashes in Tripoli between forces affiliated with the GNU and those supporting the Prime Minister elected by the parliament in Tobruk, Fathi Bashagha, hours after he arrived in the city to start the work of his government.
Dbeibeh has refused to hand over power except to a government that comes out of an elected parliament, after the implementation of the outcomes of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum. He stressed that “There is no future without elections.”
The UN is involved in the dialogue taking place in Cairo to reach a consensus on a constitutional basis for holding parliamentary and presidential elections in Libya “as soon as possible”.
Dbeibeh confirmed that he had agreed to open a safe corridor for Bashagha to leave the capital “for a simple reason, which is that a single drop of Libyan blood is more valuable than their authority and greed.” He stressed that “the [GNU] continues to perform its duties as the only guarantee for the Libyans to hold elections… The government will continue until elections are held.”
He assured foreign diplomatic missions that “the security situation is stable in Tripoli, and they can perform their tasks normally.”
Meanwhile, Bashagha told a press conference in Sirte on Tuesday evening that he and his entourage left Tripoli to save lives without causing any casualties. “We did not move any force and did not use weapons, but rather intended to go alone without any escorts. We do not want bloodshed; for me, it is impossible to accept rule with bloodshed. We will fight and continue until we reach our goal, but by peaceful means.”
He confirmed that he had entered Tripoli in two civilian cars with no weapons. “It is my right, as an elected prime minister [elected in March] by the legislative authority to go to the capital,” he insisted. “The government will start its duties from Sirte tomorrow, and we will move to Tripoli if we are sure that our entry will not cause a single drop of blood to be shed.”
Bashagha accused the GNU in a series of tweets of “using force” in the face of peace. “Although we entered the capital without using violence and force of arms and were received by the people of Tripoli, we were surprised by the dangerous military escalation carried out by armed groups affiliated with the expired government.” He pointed out that “endangering the safety of civilians is a crime punishable by law, and we cannot contribute to compromising the security of the capital and its residents.”
A security source from the Libyan army’s 444th Brigade told Anadolu on Tuesday that the brigade commander escorted Bashagha from Tripoli. The anonymous source added, “The position of the Brigade is clear regarding causing conflict; we reject bloodshed and the destabilisation of security.”
With two governments in Libya, fears are growing that the country is sliding back into civil war. The people of Libya hope that holding parliamentary and presidential elections will contribute to ending the armed conflict that has plagued their country for years.
Libya: Rival prime minister quits Tripoli hours after attempt to enter capital
Fathi Bashagha, the eastern parliament-appointed prime minister, has left Libya‘s capital hours after his attempt to enter Tripoli led to clashes between rival factions, his office said on Tuesday.
Fighting had erupted after Bashagha arrived to try to take control from the rival unity government which has refused to cede power.
The sound of heavy weapons and automatic gunfire burst across the capital on Tuesday morning, as schools were cancelled and the normally heavy rush hour traffic was sparse.
However, in central areas, away from the clashes on the northeast side of Tripoli, there was little evidence of military activity with the government of Bashagha’s rival Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah still in apparent control.
Bashagha had entered Tripoli overnight accompanied by allied fighters in the hope of taking over the government but was quickly met by opposition from forces aligned with Dbeibah, who was appointed through a UN-backed process last year.
Bashagha’s office had released a statement saying his government would carry out its duties from inside the capital but later said he and accompanying ministers would depart to prevent civilian deaths.
Dbeibah’s government was tasked with leading Libya to elections scheduled for last December, but those were indefinitely postponed and his political opponents argue that his mandate has now finished.
In February, the parliament in Tobruk designated former interior minister Bashagha as prime minister, but he has failed to oust Dbeibah, who has said repeatedly he will only cede power to an elected government.
Tuesday’s fighting raised fears of a return to the chaos that has reigned since a Nato-backed revolt in 2011 toppled long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi, and an all-out conflict that gripped the capital in 2019-20.
In March, pro-Bashagha armed groups had already deployed on the edges of the capital, raising fears of a confrontation that would end a fragile ceasefire in place since October 2020.
Bashagha is backed by Khalifa Haftar, the eastern-based commander who led a failed bid to seize Tripoli in 2019-20, and who maintains control of several key oil installations.
Libya plunged into violent lawlessness in 2011 following the Nato-backed revolt that toppled Gaddafi.
Armed groups have vied for control of territory as a string of interim governments have come and gone.
Many such groups have been integrated into the state, partly in order to access a share of the country’s vast oil wealth, and human rights organisations have often accused them of abuses.
The creation of two governments echoes Libya’s troubled period of rival administrations between 2014 and 2021, when the oil-rich nation was ripped apart by civil war.
Oil production, the country’s main source of income, has again been hit by political rifts with a wave of forced closures of oil terminals by groups aligned with the eastern camp, who want power transferred to Bashagha.
Libya’s council urges Parliament-appointed premier to resign: Call comes after clashes between rival armed groups in Tripoli
Mahmoud Mohamed Barakat |
Head of the Libya’s High Council of State, Khalid al-Mishri, on Wednesday called on parliament-appointed Prime Minister Fathi Bashaga to resign.
His call came one day after Bashagha arrived in the capital Tripoli to take control of the government from Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, who has refused to hand over power.
His visit, however, triggered clashes between rival armed groups in Tripoli, forcing Bashagha to leave the Libyan capital.
“I reject the attempt of Bashagha and his government to enter Tripoli,” al-Mishri told the local Libya Al-Ahrar TV channel.
He ruled out that the Bashagha and Dbeibeh governments will not be able to hold elections, even after five years.
“We recommend Bashagha to submit his resignation and Dbeibeh to accept the change,” he said. “We should agree on a constitutional basis and a mini-Cabinet whose purpose will be to hold elections.”
Al-Mishri said that the Dbeibeh’s government will not be able to hold elections because its influence is limited to Tripoli and some cities.
For more than two months, there have been two governments in Libya: the national unity government led by Dbeibeh and the one granted confidence in early March by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives.
Dbeibeh has previously said he would only cede authority to a government that comes through an “elected parliament,” raising fears that the oil-rich country could slip back into a civil war.