In a process sponsored by the United Nations (UN), Libya is set to establish a new transitional government headed by the prospective prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, alongside Mohamed al-Menfi as the interim president. Assuming the vote goes through parliament, the Government of National Accord (GNA) will be replaced by a new cabinet headed by Mr. Dbeibah. He will then face the daunting task of attempting to unite a country which has been ravaged by civil war and is suffering from extensive economic devastation.
Already he has begun currying favour with friendly states and normalizing relations with former adversaries. In one of his first statements before the elections, the prime minister said, “Our ties with Turkey will be distinguished. It is our economic partner and we support this partnership.” In a call to foreign minister Evarist Bartolo, Dbeibah also asked Malta to take on a more proactive approach in permitting travel and residence visas for Libyans. Sources say that the prime minister, “-acknowledged that Malta has always offered friendship and help to the Libyan people and the Maltese people are regarded as friends. At this crucial time, however, he expressed hope that Malta will offer more support.” Additionally, Egyptian and Libyan officials have been in talks over the past month to reopen the Libyan embassy in Egypt, which has been shuddered since 2014 when Egypt backed forces opposing the government.
Still, the prime minister faces an uphill battle in uniting the country. His opponents in the civil war, the Libyan National Army (LNA), reached a permanent ceasefire agreement with the GNA earlier in October. The new transitional government is meant to dissolve the previous governments and unite the two halves of the country. Still, tensions both domestic and international remain. Many of Libya’s neighbours supported the LNA in the fight including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and even France. Normalizing relations will open the path to desperately needed foreign aid and trade, which could help turn back the rampant unemployment in the country.
Before this can happen though, Dbeibah must secure the necessary votes from the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum and there are disturbing allegations of vote buying on his behalf. Political corruption should never be taken lightly, especially for countries recovering from such harrowing circumstances. Many underdeveloped states such as Congo or Angola have seen their economic and resource potential squandered by systemic corruption. These allegations should be investigated and, if proven true, then perhaps Libya must seek a new prime minister.
The country must also avoid unnecessary diplomatic entanglements. Earlier last year, the GNA recognized Turkey’s maritime claims in the Aegean sea, claims which Greece and much of the EU vehemently protest. Given the ties between the two countries, this is not surprising. Turkey has been one of the main supporters of the GNA, even going so far as to send troops to defend it last year against LNA’s forces from the east. Still, Libya has much less to gain than Turkey does from supporting these claims. It could find itself ostracized or worse, sanctioned by much of the international community. For the time being, Libya needs to focus on its domestic situation and improving its own stability.
Libya’s civil war ended in October 2020 when a permanent ceasefire was brokered by the UN. The details of the ceasefire involved the withdrawal of all foreign fighters on both sides, the demobilization of militias, and the election of a new presidential council. The civil war began in 2014 when the transitional General National Congress (which took over following the ouster of Moammar Ghaddafi) refused to recognize new election results. Numerous international actors became involved in the funnelling of arms and fighters into Libya as the conflict dragged on, leaving over 8,788 dead.
Whether the peace will hold remains to be seen. The country has been ensnared in an almost constant cycle of violence during the previous decade. If Libya is to secure a prosperous, and most importantly peaceful, existence for its citizens then it must avoid the pitfalls that led to 2014’s surge of bloodshed. Fair elections, a transparent democratic process, and a government that represents all sectors of the country are what is needed at this time. Most importantly, the permanent ceasefire and de-escalation must continue. One reckless action is all it could take to set the civil war off again.
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