Libya's interim government takes office

The interim prime minister and his cabinet have been sworn in before the House of Representatives in Tobruk
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PHOTO/AFP  -   Libya's new interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeiba after being sworn in on 15 March 2021 in the eastern coastal city of Tobruk

Libya's interim prime minister, Abdul Hamid al-Dbeiba, and the rest of his cabinet were sworn in Monday at the provisional seat of the Libyan parliament in the eastern city of Tobruk. Dbeiba takes office to lead the political transition until next December, when legislative elections are scheduled, according to the UN-sponsored Political Dialogue Forum for Libya (PDLF).

Dbeiba's swearing-in comes a week after receiving the support of 132 of the 134 members of the Libyan parliament. Divided since 2015, the House of Representatives met in the symbolic city of Sirte, home to Libya's main oil fields and export terminals. For a period of time it was a stronghold of Daesh, however, the city is controlled by the forces of military commander Khalifa Haftar.

Despite suspicions of bribery cast over the election of Prime Minister Dbeiba, a seven-year chapter of political division in Libya was thus closed. "This is a historic day," said parliamentary speaker Aguila Saleh at the end of the session. The aim of the new government will be to build bridges for political reconciliation and to continue the ceasefire negotiated between Russia and Turkey. It will also have to dismantle numerous heavily armed local militias and the presence of at least 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters involved in the country's chaos.

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PHOTO/AFP - Members of the Libyan parliament attend the swearing-in ceremony of the country's new interim prime minister in the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk

The parliamentary-backed National Unity Government will have a total of 26 ministers and 6 ministers of state, as well as two deputy prime ministers, representing the different regions of the country. In addition, up to five women will hold ministerial portfolios, a significant step forward for equality in Libya. Two of the ministries entrusted to women will be Justice and Foreign Affairs.

The birth of the National Unity Government is not without controversy. In the list of ministries, the only one whose title is vacant is Defence, in principle, because Dbeiba intends to head it himself. However, the leader of the Presidency Council, Mohamed al-Menfi, has expressed his disagreement. 

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AFP/AFP - Map showing areas of control by forces in Libya before a UN-backed interim unity government officially takes control on 15 March until elections on 24 December

The new government replaces both the Government of National Accord of Fayez al-Sarraj, installed in 2016 in the west and recognised by the UN, and the Libyan National Army of Marshal Khalifa Haftar, although not recognised by the international community. It thus unifies the country's institutions and promises to be "representative of all Libyans".

Fayez Al-Sarraj said he is "completely ready" to hand over power to the interim government, while Marshal Haftar offered last February his "support of the armed forces for the peace process". Amid fears of possible interference in the process, the European Union warned last week that it could sanction both domestic and foreign "spoilers" who undermine peace efforts.

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PHOTO/AFP - Libyan security forces gather outside the conference hall in the eastern coastal city of Tobruk, where Libya's new interim prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah will be sworn in on 15 March 2021

Dbeiba, a powerful businessman from the western city of Misrata who held senior positions under Gaddafi, was appointed by the United Nations to head Libya's interim government. This includes a three-member Presidency Council chaired by Mohammad Younes Menfi, a Libyan diplomat from the east of the country with ties to Turkey. His appointment was the cherry on top of the roadmap set out by the UN.

Since the overthrow of dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011, with NATO-backed international intervention, and the bloody civil war that began in 2014, power in Libya had been divided on several fronts. However, the separation has officially ended following the swearing in of Abdul Hamid al-Dbeiba and his cabinet.