Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1209, (14 - 20 August 2014)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1209, (14 - 20 August 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Libyan parliament addresses insecurity

Consensus has been reached on how to select a new Libyan president, but whether a new head of state can stabilise the prevailing chaos remains to be seen, writes Kamel Abdallah

Al-Ahram Weekly

Since its first meeting on 4 August, the Libyan parliament has been grappling with the country’s worsening security situation. With two major cities, including the capital Tripoli, devastated by fighting among rival armed groups, the parliament, convening in Tobruk near the Egyptian border, decided to declare a ceasefire. Legislators said that combatants must observe a 72-hour cessation, without specifying the time for such a move.

Concerned over what some see as Libya’s spiraling into chaos, the UN is sending negotiators to Tripoli to convince commanders of warring factions that a ceasefire is an immediate priority.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN secretary general’s deputy special representative and deputy head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), is already holding talks with various groups in Tripoli, according to a statement by the Libyan foreign ministry.

Meanwhile, the country’s top political and military leaders have been appearing before parliament, which is holding hearings on the causes of the current turmoil.

Acting Prime Minister Abdallah Al-Thinni, Chief of General Staff General Abdel Salam Jadallah Al-Obeidi, Special Forces commander in Benghazi Colonel Wanis Bukhmada, Libyan Minister of Interior Saleh Al-Barasi, and Minister of Justice Salah Al-Mirghani all appeared before parliament to discuss the current security problems in the country.

Speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly by phone, Ajdabiya Deputy Fathallah Al-Soeiti revealed that heated exchanges took place between the deputies and Chief of General Staff Al-Obeidi on Sunday. When pressed by the deputies, Al-Obeidi admitted that he provided one faction with ammunition and weapons, thus compromising the army’s supposed neutrality.

Al-Obeidi told parliament that the Libyan army was on the verge of collapse because of tribal and regional conflicts, pointing out that several army commanders were biased to one or another of the warring factions.

According to Al-Soeiti, some parliamentarians threatened to impeach Al-Obeidi for failing to keep the army neutral during the current conflict.

Despite international mediation, clashes continued in Tripoli Sunday.

Riyad Al-Sharif, member of the crisis committee set up by the Tripoli local administration, said that the fighting has left 30,000 people or more homeless and that the committee is providing them with basic needs, including accommodation in nearby municipalities, including Suq Al-Khamis, Musayhil, Al-Sabaa, Sidi Al-Saayih, Tagora, Qarahbuli, Nazara, Janzour, and Abu Salim.

In Benghazi, unknown gunmen blew up the Bu Atni Police Station. Local inhabitants say that their city has been deprived of an effective police service for three years now.

In an email exchange with the Weekly, Tripoli Deputy Ali Omar Al-Tekbali said that the parliament is taking steps to end the current fighting. He said that the army is expected to soon end debate on the manner of selection of the head of state.

Libyan parliamentary sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that  parliament will soon declare that the head of state will be chosen through direct public poll, rather than be nominated by parliament as had been suggested.

The manner of selecting the Libyan head of state generated heated debate within the former General National Congress, with Islamists wanting parliament to name the president, while seculars opted for direct vote by the nation.

Benghazi Deputy Jalal Saleh Al-Shuwayhidi told journalists that the consensus among parliamentarians is that a direct public vote is the best method of selecting the president.

The ad hoc group named the February Committee, formed by the former General National Congress to discuss the manner of selecting the president, has recommended a public vote, Al-Shuwayhidi added.

Once a president is elected, he will name a prime minister. The cabinet formed by the latter will have to pass a vote of confidence in parliament.

Meanwhile, the UN is expected to replace the head of its support mission in Libya, Tarek Mitri, with a Spanish diplomat.

Mitri had run into opposition from some tribal and liberal groups who claim that his proposals for national dialogue were biased to Islamists. The new UNSMIL chief, Bernardino Leon, is expected to start his new job in September.

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