Against a backdrop of deteriorating living conditions, electricity shortages, rising fuel and bread prices, popular unrest has returned to the streets of Libyan cities since July 1 which, with the inaction of security forces, has degenerated into disorderly acts by angry crowds, accompanied by vandalism, arson and looting. Hundreds of protesters stormed the parliament building in the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk, setting fire to official documents, offices and reception halls, according to the Libya News Agency. According to Alwasat TV, the protesters demanded the dissolution of parliament and the transfer of all electoral powers to the country’s supreme state council.
Libya’s divisions are becoming clearer, with the eastern part of Libya failing to submit to a national consensus government in Tripoli, and the UN-brokered talks in Geneva the day before on political compromise and elections in Libya making no progress.
Because of Libya’s failure to organize last year’s UN-sponsored general elections, which were supposed to unite its disparate historical regions, the North African country is now in a deep political crisis. There is a bitter power struggle between the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU), led by Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh, and the Sirte-based Fathi Bashagha cabinet, which was founded in March, contesting each other’s authority.
In addition to the two centers of power already in place in Tripoli in the west and Sirte in the east, supporters of Saif al-Islam, son of Libya’s late leader Muammar Gaddafi, have announced the formation of their own government in the south. It becomes the third power structure in an already polarized Libya. A video message from southern officials circulated by Al Arabiya stressed that Tripoli and Sirte, between which the main line of conflict currently runs, have for too long failed to take into account the interests of Fezzan, the south-western region. The activists therefore called for a move to organize parliamentary and presidential elections, and announced the formation of “parallel” security forces, which are likely to compete with both Tripoli troops and the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by Khalifa Haftar.
The second son of the deposed Libyan leader, Saif al-Islam, declared his political ambitions in Libya in 2021, when he stood for the presidential election to be held in December. Before Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown amid anti-government unrest and subsequent foreign intervention, this young politician was seen as his successor. Amid the chaos that has erupted in Libya following the Western takeover, support for Saif al-Islam is growing in Libyan society and there have even been predictions that he could be the winner in the country’s presidential elections. At the same time, his personality is controversial in the West: given that Saif al-Islam was directly involved in suppressing unrest at the dawn of the Arab Spring, an international tribunal in The Hague issued a warrant for his arrest on two charges of crimes such as persecution and murder.
In the mass demonstrations that have started in the country, the Libyan National Army (LNA), which is based in the east of the country, has said, as Sada El Balad reports, that it is ready to support popular demands, which it recognizes as legitimate in the context of the crisis. At the same time, the army confirmed that all necessary measures would be taken to preserve the independence of Libya should it face any external attempts to influence the popular movement. The Government of National Accord (GNA) in western Libya had earlier also supported the demonstrators.
According to Libyan media and social media reports, Libyans believe that there is an elaborate plan by the US and its henchmen behind the new demonstrations taking place in Libya. Washington is said to be intent on fomenting a new revolution, destabilizing the country’s already precarious political situation in order to bring US-loyal politicians to power and thereby maintain access to revenues from the rich oil sector. As evidence of this, a photo of a table drawn up by councilor Ibrahim Daghdan’s staff in Misrata was leaked to social media, showing the payment of money to propagandists for organizing actions and other tasks related to the protest movement. According to this table, the coordinators of the protest movement were paid $2,000 each. The city of Tobruk paid $50,000 for each organized action.
Washington’s involvement in the unrest in Libya is also evidenced by the reaction of US officials to the events. For example, US Ambassador Richard Norland noted the other day that the country’s forthcoming elections are likely to be run with two governments, thus reaffirming his support for the Government of National Unity, led by the US-loyal Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh, which has lost legitimacy. Stephanie Williams, advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the North African state, who is an American citizen, said about the “need to protect peaceful demonstrations”. And she had earlier claimed that the National Oil Corporation (NOC) in Tripoli was allegedly unable to manage the revenue from the sale of oil products and suggested that an “interim” mechanism be set up to allow the international body to fully control the country’s energy profits. Thus, by trying to impose external control over Libya’s oil and deprive Libyan citizens of the opportunity to profit from the sale of their legitimately owned national natural wealth, Stephanie Williams clearly intends to continue stealing Libya’s oil revenues, but this time on an official level and without any cover-up.
Many Libyans believe that the undoubted blame for the current events in Libya lies with Williams’ activities in the country, which have contributed to the conflict between East and West dividing the country, which could have been resolved a long time ago. After all, Libyans have already demonstrated their willingness to hold elections in the country and elect the country’s first ever president, and not a US puppet. However, “with the assistance” of Stephanie William, the voting process was disrupted and postponed indefinitely. As a result, no one is interested in the opinion of the Libyan people today, external control and plundering of the country is underway, and through various US capabilities, this North African country continues to be embroiled in chaos and internal turmoil, which has become the new protests in the former Jamahiriya.
Vladimir Odintsov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.