Blow to Libya gov’t as ri­val seizes of­fices

Pro­claims re­in­state­ment of former ad­min­is­tra­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Libya’s UN-backed unity govern­ment has suf­fered a new set­back af­ter a po­lit­i­cal ri­val seized key of­fices in the cap­i­tal and pro­claimed the re­in­state­ment of the former ad­min­is­tra­tion. The United Na­tions’ Libya en­voy con­demned the lat­est chal­lenge to the author­ity of the Govern­ment of Na­tional Ac­cord (GNA), warning it would sow “fur­ther dis­or­der and in­se­cu­rity”.

The GNA is the cen­ter­piece of Western hopes to stem an up­surge of ji­hadism in the North African na­tion and halt peo­ple traf­fick­ing across the Mediter­ranean that has led to thou­sands of drown­ings. Led by prime min­is­ter des­ig­nate Fayez Al-Sar­raj, it was in­tended to re­place two ri­val ad­min­is­tra­tions, one in Tripoli and one in the coun­try’s far east. But late on Fri­day the head of the former Tripoli-based Govern­ment of Na­tional Sal­va­tion, Khal­ifa Gh­weil, pro­claimed its re­in­state­ment from the of­fices of a key con­sul­ta­tive body of the GNA.

His an­nounce­ment added to the con­fu­sion sur­round­ing the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the oil-rich coun­try, which is riven by power strug­gles and un­der the con­trol of var­i­ous mili­tias who of­ten switch al­le­giances. The cap­i­tal ap­peared calm yes­ter­day with no sign of any un­usual mil­i­tary pres­ence, in­clud­ing around the Coun­cil of State whose of­fices were stormed on Fri­day.

Gh­weil has never ac­cepted the le­git­i­macy of the UN-backed govern­ment which took con­trol of the ad­min­is­tra­tion in Tripoli in April. But his po­si­tion was se­verely weak­ened by the loss of sup­port of mili­tias in the cap­i­tal af­ter the UN deal. Gh­weil is sub­ject to in­ter­na­tional sanctions, re­newed by the Euro­pean Union just last month. In his state­ment, he de­clared all mem­bers of the GNA “sus­pended from their du­ties”.

‘Sole le­git­i­mate author­ity’

The UN-backed govern­ment ri­posted with a state­ment threat­en­ing to ar­rest “those politi­cians who... at­tempt to cre­ate par­al­lel in­sti­tu­tions and desta­bi­lize the cap­i­tal”. It con­demned “ef­forts to sab­o­tage the po­lit­i­cal agree­ment” bro­kered by the UN last De­cem­ber and de­nounced the seizure of the Coun­cil of State build­ing by an “armed group”. UN en­voy Martin Kobler ex­pressed his “strong sup­port” yes­ter­day for the unity govern­ment as “the sole le­git­i­mate author­ity” un­der a UN-bro­kered power-shar­ing deal struck in De­cem­ber by some law­mak­ers from both sides. A spokesper­son for the Euro­pean Union said: “The use of force to seize power in Libya can only lead to fur­ther dis­or­der and a spi­ral of vi­o­lence where the Libyan peo­ple would be the main vic­tims.” The per­sis­tent chaos has hob­bled Western ef­forts to bat­tle a grow­ing ji­hadist pres­ence in Libya, which has been the launch­pad of deadly at­tacks on hol­i­day­mak­ers in neigh­bor­ing Tu­nisia.

The au­thor­i­ties based in eastern Libya also refuse to cede power, bol­stered by the back­ing of the well-armed mili­tia of con­tro­ver­sial mil­i­tary strong­man Field Mar­shal Khal­ifa Haf­tar. Libya has two ri­val par­lia­ments, both elected since the NATO-backed over­throw of long­time dic­ta­tor Moamer Kad­hafi in 2011. The first, elected in 2012, is dom­i­nated by Is­lamists and ap­pointed the former Tripoli govern­ment.

The sec­ond, elected in 2014, ap­pointed the ad­min­is­tra­tion in the east and has not for­mally en­dorsed the GNA. But in Fe­bru­ary a ma­jor­ity of its mem­bers is­sued a state­ment ex­press­ing sup­port for the UN-backed govern­ment. Many of them said they had been co­erced into not hold­ing a for­mal vote of en­dorse­ment as stip­u­lated un­der the UN plan. In a care­ful bal­anc­ing act, the UN plan made the 2014 par­lia­ment the sole leg­isla­tive body, but also turned most of the mem­bers of the 2012 par­lia­ment into a manda­tory con­sul­ta­tive body, the Coun­cil of State. The bat­tle for power erupted into armed con­flict last month when Haf­tar’s forces seized all four of Libya’s main eastern oil ex­port ports. He ex­ploited the ab­sence of fight­ers loyal to the UNbacked govern­ment who were battling IS in the city of Sirte to the west with air sup­port from the United States. — AFP

SIRTE: Mem­bers of the forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed Govern­ment of Na­tional Ac­cord (GNA) gather in the coastal city. —AFP

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