New clashes in Tripoli highlight Libya’s political volatility | Political news
Libya’s fragile ceasefire nearly collapsed on Tuesday as clashes erupted in the capital Tripoli in response to another attempt by the rival government’s prime minister to install himself and his cabinet.
Fathi Bashagha, who was appointed prime minister three months ago by the eastern-based House of Representatives, arrived in Tripoli in the early hours with cabinet members and was reportedly accompanied by the Nawasi Brigade militia based in Tripoli.
This decision triggered a violent reaction from different militias in Tripoli when gunfire broke out and the headquarters of the Nawasi brigade came under attack. Bashagha then left the capital less than four hours after arriving.
This development underscores the volatile environment in Libya, which has been ravaged by civil war and a crisis of legitimacy following its failure to hold elections last December. The country descended into chaos following the overthrow of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The conflict escalated into a proxy war involving regional powers.
The Tobruk-based parliament says Bashagha should now be prime minister, as the term of Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, prime minister of the UN-recognized government of national unity, has come to an end.
Dbeibah, who was appointed in a UN-led process in 2021, however insisted he would hand over power only to an elected government, and described Bashagha’s bid to s set up as a “desperate attempt to sow terror and chaos”.
“Talks underway in Egypt”
Bashagha’s recent attempt to install his government in Tripoli was his third in three months. Still, analysts point to the importance of timing for this particular attempt.
“The timing is influenced by the ongoing talks in Egypt,” Yousef Bakhbakhi, a Tripoli-based academic and political commentator, told Al Jazeera.
“Cairo is hosting representatives from the eastern-based House of Representatives and the Tripoli-based High Council of State for talks at the request of UN envoy Stephanie Williams to reach an agreement on a new constitutional framework and a timetable for elections that will inevitably dissolve the two. establishments,” he said.
“Bashagha fears a real possibility that he could be sidelined in any deal and is therefore keen to impose a de facto reality that sabotages UN efforts to create new legitimacy and hold elections that would effectively put end to the legitimacy of the current House of Representatives. [that appointed him] and the High Council of State.
Reports have emerged Tuesday suggesting that delegations in Cairo had reached a preliminary agreement on a future roadmap which could see elections held within 12 months, and which would see the governments of Dbeibah and Bashagha replaced by a new unity government.
Al Jazeera was unable to independently confirm the reports, however.
Mahmoud Ismail Ramli, a political analyst and commentator based in Tripoli, believes that the Cairo talks and the latest failed attempt to install a new government in Tripoli “can be seen as the beginning of the end for Bashagha in terms of his ambitions for become prime minister. are concerned”.
Still, some see Bashagha’s departure from Tripoli in a more positive light.
“Bashagha’s position has diminished”
Libyan academic Mustafa Fetouri told Al Jazeera that “although many will not like it, Bashagha’s departure [after the eruption of clashes] reflects his commitment to peace”.
Nevertheless, Fetouri agreed that Bashagha’s position had diminished due to his inability to install his government in Tripoli.
He said that “Bashagha’s intention in attempting to enter Tripoli was to assess the extent to which he had support in Tripoli and whether he still enjoys the loyalty of those who have supported him in the past.” .
However, “support for Bashagha will dwindle after today for the simple reason that many will view his departure from Tripoli as a defeat,” Fetouri said.
Still, there seem to be suggestions that Bashagha will be able to survive the latest setback.
The United States Embassy in Libya seemed to minimize events in Tripoli by reaffirming the importance of the talks in Cairo despite claims by critics that Egypt strongly supported Bashagha’s attempts to overthrow Dbeibah’s government in Tripoli.
Libyan political analyst and commentator Abdalaziz Agniea told Al Jazeera that “there is a desire on the part of the international community, and in particular Washington, to preserve Bashagha [without necessarily recognising his government] as a means of pressuring the Dbeibah government to actually hold elections, and also to pressure the High Council of State and the House of Representatives to respect any agreement reached in Cairo.
Traditional alliances seem to be changing
Meanwhile, internationally renowned Prime Minister Dbeibah has ordered changes in security leadership following the clashes. Deputy intelligence chief Mustafa Qaddur of the Nawasi Brigade, who helped Bashagha enter Tripoli, was removed from his post. Director of Military Intelligence Osama Juwaili, who was seen as sympathizing with Bashagha, was also fired.
Yet the situation in Libya continues to remain volatile despite Bashagha’s announcement that his government will begin operating from the coastal city of Sirte some 450 km (280 miles) east of Tripoli.
Meanwhile, there are suggestions that traditional alliances appear to be changing.
The Turkish Embassy in Libya tweeted his support for the Cairo talks which were viewed with suspicion by Dbeibah’s government. Ankara had militarily backed the internationally recognized Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) before Dbeibah took over in February 2021 under the UN-brokered political process. Turkey and Egypt were on opposite sides of the conflict in Libya, with Ankara helping the GNA in the fight against eastern forces in 2020.
Moreover, the chairman of the Tripoli-based High Council of State, Khaled al-Mishri, said that while Bashagha’s government should step down, Dbeibah’s government “does not want to hold elections, and is also unable to organize elections and should therefore be changed”.
Questions remain over whether an agreement in Cairo can be implemented in light of tensions that threaten to escalate into a wider conflict.
Experts say only elections can bring real change.
“Libyans are looking for real change that puts an end to these political bodies and multiple governments, and reform that restores the authority of the Libyan people through a serious constitutional process and elections,” the statement said. Libyan expert Mahmoud Ismail Ramli.