Plans by Lawmakers in Libya to install a new government has been plunged into a turmoil after gunmen seized two of the proposed ministers, escalating a standoff that risks reigniting conflict in the country.
The incoming foreign and culture ministers were taken by unidentified men while en route to the eastern city of Tobruk, where parliament was due to swear in the new government on Thursday.
Lawmakers argue that Dbeibah’s mandate expired after the North African country failed to hold presidential elections in December as planned. He’s refusing to step down until after the vote takes place, sparking fears that the country may split again into dueling administrations, as it did for years after 2014 until a fragile United Nations-backed reconciliation.
The U.N secretary-general has expressed concern over reports that this week’s vote to confirm the new government “fell short of the expected standards of transparency and procedures” and included acts of intimidation before the session.
Bashagha late Wednesday accused Dbeibah, who’s frequently been at odds with the assembly, of ordering the closure of Libyan airspace to prevent travel to Tobruk for the ceremony. Another blow to the new government’s plans came with the resignation of the designated economy and trade minister.
Bashagha, who was security chief for the government based in the capital Tripoli when the country was divided, has insisted the transition will be peaceful and lawful but events can spiral quickly in Libya, where myriad militias that emerged amid the 2011 NATO-backed overthrow of dictator Moammar Al Qaddafi wield much of the power.
As it is now, Bashagha may have support from the Libyan parliament, but to displace Dbeibah as prime minister he will need to win international recognition and establish himself physically in the capital.
Given that the Dbeibah government warned against any attempt to use force to occupy government buildings, there is now the prospect of inter-militia conflict in Tripoli as armed groups loyal to Bashagha and Dbeibah battle for control.
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