Libya celebrates anniversary of 2011 uprising with eyes on interim government

Photo: EPA Children holding Libyan flags, Tripoli, 16 February.

While celebrating the 10th anniversary of the 2011 uprising that led to the overthrow of longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi, Libyans have their eyes on a recently appointed government tasked to prepare elections late this year. Festivities started late Tuesday in the capital, Tripoli, where people gathered in the city’s main square amid tight security, AP reported.

Hassan Wanis, head of the general authority for culture in Tripoli, said celebrations and commemorative events were planned in the three regions of old Libya: Tripolitania in the west, Cyrenaica in the east, and Fezzan in the southwest. “All people (across the country) are ready to celebrate specially this time in order to unify the country,” he said.

Libya has become one of the most intractable conflicts left over from the “Arab spring” a decade ago. In the years that followed Gadhafi’s ouster, the North African country has descended into devastating chaos and has become a haven for Islamic militants and armed groups that survive on looting and human trafficking.

The oil-rich country has for years split between rival administrations: A UN-backed, but weak government in Tripoli — a city largely controlled by an array of armed factions — against an eastern-based government backed by strongman Gen. Khalifa Hifter, head of the self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces. Each is backed by foreign governments.

Over the past years, the country has seen devastating bouts of violence. The latest began in April 2019, when Hifter, who is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, launched an offensive seeking to capture Tripoli. His campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support for the Tripoli administration with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.

Months of UN-led talks resulted in a deal in October that ceased hospitalities and called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries in three months and adherence to a UN arms embargo, provisions which have not been met.

The talks also established a Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, that earlier this month appointed an interim government - a three-member Presidential Council and a prime minister - that would lead the country through elections scheduled on December 24. That government includes Mohammad Younes Menfi, a Libyan diplomat from the country’s east who hails from the tribe of anti-colonial hero Omar al-Mukhtar, as chairman of Libya’s Presidential Council. Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, a pragmatic, well-connected businessman from the western city of Misrata, was appointed as prime minister.

In separate phone calls Tuesday with Menfi and Dbeiba, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed the importance of holding elections and implementing the cease-fire deal, including the withdrawal of foreign forces from Libya.

 

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