Diving for a month in a deadly conflict, Libya appears more than ever mired in chaos, after the call of Marshal Haftar to redouble efforts to conquer Tripoli, seat of the Government of National Unity, and a divided Parliament.
The country, in the grip of instability since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, has again entered a spiral of war. Brought by the strongman of the east of the country, Marshal Haftar, with a military offensive on Tripoli on April 4, seat of the Government of National Union (GNA) of Fayez al-Sarraj, recognized by the international community.
After a rapid progression, the troops of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (ANL) trample for a month at the gates of Tripoli, barred by forces loyal to the GNA, including armed groups in the city of Misrata. Since 4 April, clashes and bombings have left at least 432 people killed, 2,069 injured and more than 50,000 internally displaced, according to the UN, which has made repeated calls to stop hostilities.
On 5 May, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (Manul) once again urged the belligerents to “a one-week renewable humanitarian truce” on the occasion of the start of Ramadan on 6 May. Marshal Haftar objected to this request as an end of inadmissibility: during the night, he instructed his troops to “inflict a tougher lesson” on the forces defending the Libyan capital and the GNA.
I call you to inflict on the enemy, with your strength and your determination, a lesson harder and greater than the previous ones (…) until you uproot it from our beloved country.
General Ahmad al-Mesmari, spokesperson of the ANL
- Speaker of the “provisional” Parliament
With the entry into the “blessed month of Ramadan, the month of jihad”, the holy war, Marshal Haftar asked his troops to be “brave and ruthless” to eradicate “terrorism”. The strong man of Cyrenaica had justified his offensive by the desire to “purge the west” Libyan “terrorists and mercenaries” which, according to him, the different armed groups. “In the case of the withdrawal of the enemy, it is necessary that the forces chase him with force and speed, do not allow him to flee and annihilate him,” he says in his message.
On the political front, the Libyan parliament on May 5 has taken another step towards a lasting split, with the appointment by 42 dissident deputies of a “temporary” president of parliament, as an alternative to the current president, Aguila Salah, a supporter of the Marshal Haftar. The parliament, composed of 188 deputies elected in 2014, sits in the east of the country, where it fled after the capture of Tripoli by a coalition of militias. First settled in Tobruk, he moved on April 13 to Benghazi, stronghold of Marshal Haftar.
- “Wrong War”
After the launch of the offensive, 42 deputies decided to boycott the work of the assembly to denounce the ongoing military operation and the line of President Aguila Salah. This war is “unjustified”, they said at their first meeting in Tripoli. For their second session on Sunday, May 5, they appointed a “provisional” speaker of parliament, their elder Sadeq al-Keheli, “for a period of 45 days”.
This decision “is intended to give the opportunity to other members to join us, some have not been able to do because of the state of the security situation in Tripoli,” told AFP MP Soleiman al-Faqih. With only 42 deputies, this assembly does not have the quorum required by the Constitutional Declaration (ie half plus one deputy, so 95 deputies) to legally hold a parliamentary session.
The international community recognizes the east-based parliament, which emerged from the 2014 elections, but not the government of Abdallah al-Theni, who is from there and is also based in the eastern region. Since the end of 2015, it has supported the GNA, which is the result of a UN-sponsored, UN-sponsored political agreement based in Tripoli.