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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs