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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid