News / Middle East

Libya Chaos Worsens

Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan gives a press conference on November 10, 2013 in Tripoli.(AFP/FILE)
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan gives a press conference on November 10, 2013 in Tripoli.(AFP/FILE)
Libya is plunging deeper into political turmoil with the country’s beleaguered government warning foreign shippers against loading crude oil from terminals in the East of the country controlled by federalist militias, and a majority of Libya’s fractious parliamentarians seemingly wanting to dismiss Prime Minister Ali Zeidan but unable to agree on a replacement.
 
Gripped by months of political turmoil analysts fear the country is edging closer to a possible break-up.  A defiant Zeidan in a bid to head off a vote of no confidence by the country’s parliament, the General National Congress (GNC), told a news conference on Wednesday a vote of no confidence won’t solve the country’s problems.
 
“I would be happy for a vote of no confidence, but we would not be happy for the government to be left to a caretaker government. I have asked the GNC to choose a Prime Minister. I will not leave the country in an executive vacuum,” Zeidan said.
 
He argued his one year in office was “not enough to rebuild what was destroyed in 42 years” by the late dictator Moammer Gadhafi. He added he would be ready to step down but only if there is a serious replacement lined up.
 
“GNC leaders have been locked in a power struggle with Zeidan since western militias managed briefly to abduct him in October. Zeidan accused political foes inside the GNC of inspiring the kidnapping.
 
Two Islamist lawmakers contacted by phone told VOA a majority of the legislature wants Zeidan to go but there is no agreement on a successor as different political groups within the GNC jostle for the upper hand egged on by allies in militias that helped to topple Gadhafi more than two years ago but have refused to disband since.
 
Karim Mezran, a senior fellow with the Washington DC-based Atlantic Council, says that three-fourths of the GNC are against Zeidan and want him replaced but that the prime minister has managed to block a vote by playing to a minority of lawmakers - preventing a required quorum from being reached.
 
“Zeidan is clinging to his position no matter what, but what he is doing in effect is to keep Libya stuck,” says Mezran. “Libya is stuck with a government that is not popular and a Congress that has lost its consensus and the situation is the country is close to becoming a failed state.”
 
The continued push to replace Zeidan came as the standoff between his government and federalist militias in the East over control of Libyan oil escalated. The militias have said they will start selling oil independently within days.  Libyan navy vessels fired on a Maltese tanker that attempted to load oil at one port that has been out of government control for six months. Zeidan, who has held off trying to lift the blockade by force fearing violence could get out of hand, has warned he is ready to “destroy or sink” any vessel that tries to load oil controlled by the federalists. 
 
Zeidan’s authority has been weakened in large part by his failure to engineer an end to the seven-month blockade by federalists of three vital eastern oil terminals at Ras Lanuf, Es Sider and Zueitina, which collectively account for 60 percent of Libya’s oil exports. The blockade has stifled oil production, the main source of government revenue, which has fallen to ten percent of capacity.
 
The leader of the blockade, Ibrahim al-Jathran, who once oversaw the Petroleum Facilities Guard assigned to defend the facilities his supporters have blockaded since July, refuses to reopen the key oil-exporting ports until the Tripoli government recognizes eastern Libya, known by federalists as Cyrenaica, as a semi-autonomous region. Al-Jathran has demanded also that Cyrenaica receives the lion share of Libyan oil revenue.
 
On Wednesday hundreds of anti-Zeidan protesters besieged the GNC adding to the picture of chaos in the capital – combined with hazardous security involving daily targeted assassinations in Benghazi and episodic clashes between militias that have buffeted Libya for months now, throwing the country into what at times appears to be a state of anarchy.
 
“Libya is not one big mess,” says North Africa expert Bill Lawrence, a visiting professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University. “It is a bunch of little messes that are not very related.  So, the string of assassinations in Benghazi is very different from the political game involved in the militias and their GNC allies in Tripoli, which is different from what’s going on in the borders, which is different from the fighting over smuggling of the trafficking in the South, different from the ethnic conflicts in other communities, and what is happening at the oil facilities. We tend to conflate this all because of the catastrophic weakness of the military and the police.” 
 
Of the challenges facing Libya, the biggest “existential threat” to the country comes from the federalist movement in the East, says Lawrence. “By resisting the demands for federalism because of fears it will result in the break-up of the country, politicians from Western Libya  are in danger of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby their resistance pushes the federalists to become separatists.”
 
A federal system was observed for most of the reign of King Idris, who ruled from 1951, after decolonization, until Gadhafi overthrew him in 1969.
 
The Atlantic Council’s Mezran argues Zeidan has “too much baggage and lacks the goodwill of the people and Congress to carry out the reforms and actions that are needed to right Libya.” He says that a national unity government – if one can be agreed to—has at least a chance of tackling he issue of the oil blockade and other issues from rising terrorism and criminality to corruption and general disorder.
 
But he cautions “a replacement government may fail too as the problems are many and the political class may lack the skills needed.”

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid