Political stagnation, dire living condition and corruption have driven Libyans across the country onto the streets. Protests against ruling elites and the cost of living continued across Libya from Tripoli to Benghazi on Saturday as international actors called for “calm” and “restraint”. 

Demonstrators took part in marches, blocked roads and occupied government buildings across the country in the largest uprising since August 2020 on Friday and Saturday. 

We urge Libya’s political leaders across the spectrum and their foreign backers to seize the moment to restore the confidence of their citizens in the country’s future” said US ambassador to Libya Richard Norland, in a statement released on Saturday. 

The ambassador called protests “scenes of turmoil” and called for “compromise among the key figures” in Libyan politics to find a way forward in Libya’s atrophied political landscape.

International responses have been slammed by Libyan analysts for continuing to uphold the status quo. 

Aside from the attack on the House of Representatives in Tobruk, protests on Friday and Saturday in major Libyan cities were largely peaceful and unarmed. 

In Misrata on Friday night, protesters used a huge pile of building sand to block entrances to the municipal council while graffiti on the walls read “the February 17th revolution meant more than this”, referencing the population uprising against former ruler colonel Gaddafi in 2011. 

Militias responded violently to peaceful protests in Tripoli, shooting at demonstrators holding banners calling for parliamentary elections and the return of Libyan sovereignty from foreign interference. 

A statement from the Libyan Army on Sunday morning blamed the attack on the Tobruq parliament on “factions funded by the Muslim Brotherhood”, though no reporting has provided evidence for claims of centrally organised protest actions. 

The decentralised nature of the protests organised across Libya today constrains the usual propagandists & media channels’ ability to delegitimise them”, tweeted Libya analyst Emadeddin Badi. 

Protesters can’t be painted as serving a particular “agenda”, nor is there a dark conspiracy. It’s raw popular frustration,” he continued.

Friday’s protests came a day after the leaders of the Tobruk parliament and another legislative chamber based in Tripoli failed to reach an agreement on elections during UN-mediated talks in Geneva.

Protestors have pledged to continue fighting for a complete change to the ruling elite in Libya, the expulsion of foreign powers and mercenaries, and rescheduled elections to unify the country.


Protesters set Libya parliament on fire 

The Libyan-based February television channel revealed that a group of protesters stormed the House of Representatives with a bulldozer and set the building on fire.

Libyan protesters on Friday stormed the House of Representatives in the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk and set the building on fire, Anadolu Agency reported.

The Libyan-based February television channel revealed that a group of protesters stormed the House of Representatives with a bulldozer and set the building on fire.

Local Libyan TV channels reported footage showing fire and smoke rising from Parliament.

A group organised on social media under the “Youth Revolution” slogan had called for demonstrations and civil disobedience on 1 July in all cities.

Demonstrators demanded that the legislative and executive bodies be abolished, Anadolu Agency reported, insisting that a state of emergency be declared and elections held as soon as possible.

Hundreds of young people gathered in Martyrs’ Square in the nation’s capital of Tripoli to start the protest.

The protesters also called for solving the electricity crisis and lowering prices.

According to Anadolu Agency, the protests came following the failure of the negotiations of a joint committee consisting of Libya’s High Council of State and members of the House of Representatives, held under the leadership of the United Nations between 11-19 June in Cairo.

With the participation of the UN Special Advisor on Libya Stephanie Williams, meetings in Geneva on 28-30 June with the Presidents of the House of Representatives Aguila Saleh and High Council of State Khaled Al-Mishri, did not reach a consensus.

Williams announced on Thursday that the sides could not reach an agreement and that Fathi Bashagha, who was elected prime minister by the House in Tobruk, threatened to enter Tripoli by force.

In November 2020, Libyan sides, who talked under UN patronage, decided to hold elections on 24 December, 2021, but polls could not be held on the scheduled date.

The Tobruk-based House, which is working under the power of the renegade Libyan Colonel Khalifa Haftar, elected Bashagha as prime minister on 10 February.

MPs from other cities, including Tripoli, did not attend the session on the grounds that the mandate of the Government of National Unity (GNU) had expired. The Bashagha government was granted a vote of confidence on 1 March.

Meanwhile, Government of National Unity Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh accused the House of deviating from the roadmap determined in the Geneva ceasefire agreement, stating that he was in charge and would hand power only to an elected government.


Libya’s rival leaders under intense pressure as protests across country grow

Protesters pledge to keep demonstrating until all ruling elites quit power after Friday’s violence ended with the torching of part of parliament building.

Libyan protesters will keep demonstrating until all the ruling elites quit power, they said on Saturday, after rallies in most main cities on Friday culminated in a crowd storming the parliament building in Tobruk and torching parts of it.

The protest movement said it would step up its campaign from Sunday, urging demonstrators to set up tents in city squares and practise civil disobedience until they achieve their goal of removing political institutions and holding new elections.

Security vehicles surrounded government buildings in the capital after sunset on Saturday, and there was no sign of new protests after Friday’s rallies demanding change.

Protesters had held their biggest rally in Tripoli for years, chanting slogans against the feuding political elites, as demonstrators blocked off roads in Benghazi and Misrata and set fire to government buildings in Sebha and Qarabuli.

In Benghazi – the cradle of the 2011 uprising – and the capital Tripoli, thousands took to the streets to chants of “We want the lights to work”.

Some brandished the green flags of the former Gaddafi regime.

“We affirm our determination to continue the path of peaceful demonstration until the last breath to achieve our goals,” the Beltrees youth movement, which is mostly focused on online activism over living conditions and was behind calls for protests in 2020, said via social media.

It said it would occupy city streets and squares until all the ruling political bodies “announce their resignation in public”.

Libyans, many impoverished after a decade of turmoil and sweltering in the soaring summer heat, have been enduring fuel shortages and power cuts of up to 18 hours a day even as their country sits atop Africa’s largest proven oil reserves.

The fact that protests are happening across the country shows the growing frustration of Libyans on both sides of the main political dividing line between eastern and western factions that were at war for years.

Scheduled national elections collapsed in December, leading rival political factions into a standoff over control of government that has pushed Libya back towards conflict while public services have deteriorated.

‘Acts of sabotage’

After the failed election, the eastern-based House of Representatives parliament said the interim government of Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah in Tripoli was no longer valid and appointed Fathi Bashagha as prime minister.

Dbeibah has refused to cede power, however, and another legislative body, the High State Council (HSC), has rejected the parliament’s moves. The parliament and HSC leaders held talks in Geneva this week but made no breakthrough.

Friday’s protests were initially called over chronic power cuts.

Dbeibah said late on Friday that all Libya’s political institutions should quit and hold elections, something most political leaders have said for years without making the compromises needed for a vote.

Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh condemned “acts of sabotage” in the protesters’ attack on the parliament building in Tobruk, saying it was punishable by law.

United Nations Libya mission chief Stephanie Williams said protests were a clarion call for political classes to put their differences aside and hold elections.

UN-mediated talks in Geneva this week aimed at breaking the deadlock between rival Libyan institutions failed to resolve key differences.

Presidential and parliamentary elections, originally set for December last year, were meant to cap a UN-led peace process after the end of the last major round of violence in 2020.

But voting never took place due to several contentious candidacies and deep disagreements over the polls’ legal basis between the rival power centres in east and west.


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