News / Middle East

    Libya's Political Crisis Heats Up

    Libyan militias blockade the Justice Ministry in Tripoli April 30 demanding the ouster of officials linked to the late Moammar Gadhafi.
    Libyan militias blockade the Justice Ministry in Tripoli April 30 demanding the ouster of officials linked to the late Moammar Gadhafi.
    Militiamen besieging key Libyan ministries say they won’t release their chokehold on the government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan until it fires anyone who worked for the regime of the late Moammar Gadhafi.
     
    If the militias succeed in forcing the General National Congress (GNC) to pass a law barring Gaddafi-era officials from being lawmakers or working for the government, Libya could be plunged into an even deeper crisis with no clear guidelines on how to proceed.
     
    The exclusion law is scheduled for a vote on Sunday. If approved and enforced, it would require many General National Council members to quit, including the council president, Mohamed Magarief.  It also would require the resignation of Prime Minister Zeidan, who worked for several years Gadhafi’s diplomatic service, as well as several cabinet ministers.
     
    New elections would have to be called, but the GNC could well be left without a quorum, throwing into doubt the legality any of its subsequent decisions.
     
    Warnings of chaos
     
    Politicians warned that approval of the new law could throw the country into chaos. But militiamen blockading the foreign ministry on Thursday dismissed those fears.
     
    Allowing regime holdovers to stay in the government or legislature would be an insult to the “martyrs” of the rebellion that ousted Gadhafi 18 months ago, the militiamen say,
     
    “We will not leave until the law is passed,” militiaman Emad Zigiham said Thursday. “There are other competent people around to replace the government. We are doing this for Libya’s good.”
     
    “We’re not going to throw them out of the country,” said another militiaman, dressed half in military fatigues, half in civilian clothing. “They can work and earn a living, but they must not be in the ministries or in the government or congress.”
     
    The militiamen acknowledged that many former officials had participated in the uprising against Gaddafi, but say their time is now over.
     
    The possibility of a confrontation over the issue became more acute late Thursday when the deputy president of the GNC, Jumaa Ateega, declared that the legislature and the government were voted in by the people and held national responsibility. He was accompanied by Zeidan and the leaders of the main political parties.
     
    Government signals no compromises
     
    Government sources told VOA that the prime minister had no intention of making a deal with the militias and that the hope was that Libyans would rally behind the government on Friday.
     
    Under the proposed new law, former Gadhafi regime officials would be banned from public office for 10 years. If passed, the likelihood is that exclusion law would most benefit the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which has been pushing hard for approval of the measure.
     
    In March militiamen stormed the GNC twice and the prime minister’s office once in bid to coerce approval of the law.
     
    Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan tried to rally support after militiamen surrounded the Foreign Ministry in Tripoli.Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan tried to rally support after militiamen surrounded the Foreign Ministry in Tripoli.
    x
    Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan tried to rally support after militiamen surrounded the Foreign Ministry in Tripoli.
    Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan tried to rally support after militiamen surrounded the Foreign Ministry in Tripoli.
    The militia blockades at the Foreign and Justice ministries have been orchestrated by the group known as the Higher Council of the Revolutionaries. They began earlier this week when gunmen blocked the entrances and roads around the ministries using pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns.
     
    Other militiamen forced out the police and formed a security cordon around a national television station.  
     
    Since Tuesday, militiamen from other towns, including from the eastern city of Benghazi, have joined. On Thursday, trucks from the Libyan Shield Force, a grouping of militias that’s supposed to take its orders from the Defense Ministry, showed up outside the Foreign Ministry and joined the blockade.
     
    The militiamen outside the Foreign Ministry are disciplined and well organized and say they are acting on orders from the Higher Council of Revolutionaries. They warn of a “second revolution”, if their demands are ignored.
     
    Some Libyan commentators critical of the militia action argued that the sieges and threats from armed gunmen amounted to a shadow coup.
     
    A shadow coup?
     
    “Libya is now in grave danger and it is not clear what’s going to happen. Unless we gain some control, Libya will turn into a Somalia,” warned politician and journalist Abdurrahman Shater. “We are going to face a future of warlordism and no law and order for several years, if this continues.”
     
    But so far, the general populace has not rallied behind Zeidan. On Tuesday, less than a hundred people turned out for a rally in Tripoli to show support. And on Thursday, only about 200 showed up at a rally against the militiamen.
     
    As the struggling country lurches from crisis to crisis some Libyan politicians are quietly discussing the idea of naming a “Father of the Nation” figurehead leader to help unite Libyans and provide a measure of national stability.
     
    The man being mentioned as having the most potential to fill that role is a frail 80-year-old who has spent more years in jail as a political prisoner than South Africa’s Nelson Mandela -- Ahmed Al-Zubair al-Senussi, the longest-serving Gaddafi-era political prisoner. He has the advantage for some of being a distant relative of King Idris, the monarch deposed in the 1969 coup led by Gaddafi.
     
    But according to Libya expert Ellen Lust at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, just the thought of choosing a “Father of the Nation" figure reflects the gravity of the political crisis. 
     
     “I can see why they might want to do it, and no doubt it reflects their frustrations, but it has some very serious potential downsides, including not encouraging Libyans to shake off a collective mindset of needing a strong leader,” said Lust. “They need instead to be building a democracy.”

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora