The situation in Libya is still alarming, as all sides of the conflict continue to be biased towards their accounts and interests, even if some of them are acceptable, but the outcome keeps national reconciliation out of reach.
With rising voices warning of pushing the situation in Libya towards violence again, accusations are being directed at outgoing Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh.
A large number of those concerned with Libyan political affairs think that Dbeibeh is working to ignite a war to retain the reins of power, even if this will be achieved using guns and the blood of Libyans.
On the other hand, Fathi Bashagha — Head of the new Libyan government as mandated by the elected parliament — is trying to contain the situation. This is especially relevant to his sudden visit to Turkey, which coincided with the emergence of a divergence in the positions of his rival, Dbeibeh.
This visit also coincides with the views of UN Counsellor Stephanie Williams regarding the postponed elections, the worsening oil crisis, and the closed ports in the country. This is after tribal forces in the Oil Crescent region announced that they would continue to close oil facilities and prevent exports for nearly a month.
Bashagha’s visit to Turkey is the second of its kind since taking office, as he seeks the support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to persuade Dbeibeh to relinquish power and hand over Tripoli, the Libyan capital.
Furthermore, these developments coincide with the return of several senior warlords to Tripoli, including Abdel Hakim Belhaj and Abu Obeida Al-Zawi, in addition to the establishment of a public alliance between Al-Sadiq Al-Ghariani — Head of Tripoli’s Dar Al-Ifta — with Dbeibeh.
Consequently, the soldiers of the western region confirmed their refusal to be dragged into any new war, which means that they noticed signs of an intent to plunge the country into a new war to control Libya’s sources of wealth, especially in the oil crescent, the oases region, and the southwest.
Due to the intransigence of the various power players and the failure to advance the supreme interest of Libya and its people — which is in its 13th year of conflict — the Dbeibeh government has transformed from the Government of National Unity emanating from the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum to a separatist government that expresses an isolationist project.
This project brings together militias, extremist groups, and some affiliated with the political Islam movement, along with regional leaders. All of these parties are pushing for the exclusion of the army command that is located in the east of the country and placing all the capabilities of the state in the hands of those who consider themselves the victorious faction and the dominant player after the 2011 Revolution.
Local observers believe that Dbeibeh has sought over the past period to mobilise supporters of the war to prepare for a new conflict that could be a justification for him to stay in power.
They also see that his pressure on the judiciary to overlook some of those involved in previous crimes related to terrorism, harming state interests, looting public money, and others — including Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the Emir of an Islamic group that left the capital more than five years ago — foreshadows the existence of a premeditated plan.
This scheme is being coordinated with a hard-line group that has ties to Al-Qaeda and is publicly led by Al-Sadiq Al-Ghariani — the Mufti — who was dismissed by the House of Representatives in November 2014 and who has been exercising his duties under the cover of the Government of National Accord that was succeeded by the Dbeibeh government.
Al-Ghariani recently returned to the capital after years of intermittent residence in Turkey to begin directing the conflict towards Egypt and mobilising his supporters in front of its embassy in Tripoli under the eyes of the government’s authorities.
Dbeibeh has failed to beat the drums of war, and his project ended in relegation to a small part of Libya’s geography. On the other hand, the Chief of the General Staff of the Forces affiliated with the Ministry of Defence in the Government of National Unity, Major General Muhammad Al-Haddad, demanded that the regular military establishment not continue to be involved in the political conflict, stressing that the army will not fight any war for the interests of others.
This is not the first time that Al-Haddad has warned against engaging the army in an absurd war. Last week, he announced that the military institution is distancing itself from all quarrels and imposing a fait accompli and will not allow it to be exploited by militants to achieve projects to gain ground.
Libyan circles inside Tripoli believe that the army’s leadership in the western region has expressed on several occasions its rejection of attempts to drag it into a new war, which Dbeibeh wants to prolong his stay in power and to use as a starting point for forming a fictitious leadership after regionalism has prevailed, intending to gain popular sympathy and support from militias in the west of the country.
It is clear that Dbeibeh is desperately clinging to power, even if it will lead to him standing on a bridge of Libyan corpses. Therefore, he believes that he can draw some foreign powers to support him in a war that he claims will be to cut off Russian intervention in Libya.
Dbeibeh is also trying to exploit the west’s thirst for gas and oil as after the Russian-Ukrainian War by sending messages stating that Libya can provide more energy if his government can extend its influence over the country’s wealth, which requires strength.
With the waning influence of Dbeibeh’s government, the outgoing PM finds himself in need of rearranging his priorities and defining the paths for his political future.
The elections that he is calling for day and night will not hide the manoeuvres he is trying to pull, and the coming days will greatly limit his ability to move on the ground.
Hatem Sadek Professor at Helwan University