Libyan rival PM forced to flee Tripoli in failed attempt to take control of Libya

Fathi Bashagha – appointed prime minister by the country’s House of Representatives – attempted to take control of the government, unsuccessfully

Fathi Bashaga
Fathi Bashaga

Libya is once again split between rival factions after clashes erupted Tuesday morning, when Fathi Bashagha – appointed prime minister by the country’s House of Representatives – attempted to take control of the government.

Libya is currently ruled by the United Nations-recognised administration of Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh, but it has refused to cede power.

Bashagha, appointed PM by the parliament in Tobruk, entered Tripoli overnight after two months of deadlock between Libya’s rival administrations, but withdrew hours later as fighting rocked the capital “to preserve the security and safety of citizens”, his office said.

Fighting was reported in the al-Mansoura and Souq al-Thulatha areas of central Tripoli.

Libya now has two governments: the Tobruk-based House of Representatives in the country’s east which appointed Bashagha, a former interior minister under a previous UN-recognised government; and the high council of state in the west, which houses the UN-recognised Government of National Accord.

The two legislative bodies were supposed to agree on a new government to replace the unity government of Dbeibeh.

Lawmakers argue that Dbeibah’s mandate expired after Libya failed to hold presidential elections in December as planned under a UN-brokered agreement. The failure to hold the vote was a major blow to international efforts to end a decade of chaos in Libya.

Bashagha is viewed as being aligned with strongman Khalifa Haftar, the military commander based in the east who launched a 14-month military offensive on Tripoli back in 2019.

Bashagha, like Dbeibah, comes from the powerful coastal city of Misrata. He repeatedly said he would enter Tripoli without violence. His previous attempts to do so ended with his convoy blocked by rival factions.

But there is scepticism about the appointment of Bashagha and how transparent or legitimate his election was.

The UN special adviser on Libya, Stephanie Williams, called for calm and for rival parties to refrain from taking part in the clashes. “Conflict cannot be solved with violence, but with dialogue and mediation,” she tweeted.