Libya, armed militias besiege the Tripoli government: elections at risk

Tension in Libya less than ten days before the expected presidential elections which should restore stability to the country. In the late evening of Wednesday 15 December, a group of armed men surrounded – without entering it – the seat of the government in Tripoli and the office of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah. According to some sources, they would have entered the Ministry of Defense. The President of the Presidential Council, Mohammed al Menfi, requested the intervention of security forces and, according to the Libyan media, together with other members of the same Council was transferred to a safe place after receiving information about the militias’ plan to assault their homes.

The threat on the elections

“There will be no presidential elections in Libya, we will close all state institutions,” said the leader of the al-Samoud Brigade, Salah Badi, a Misuratino blacklisted by the UN Security Council since 2018 for having repeatedly tried to remove from the power of the then government of national unity of Fayez al Sarraj and for having carried out armed actions in the capital, causing civilian victims. Badi also launched a tough attack against the United Nations Special Councilor, Stephanie Williams, who in recent days had gone to Misrata to meet local authorities, but also military leaders and armed groups, in view of the elections. “His role in Libya is criminal,” Badi said, criticizing the entire electoral process.

The clashes between the factions

Parts of the capital were left without electricity. A latent and never subsided tension between the various armed factions of the country would have been the decision of Menfi himself, as Supreme Commander of the armed forces, to relieve from his post the commander of the military district of Tripoli, Abdel Basset Marwan , close to powerful local militias, and to appoint General Abdel Qader Mansour in his place.

What happens now

The elections, which should ferry Libya out of the chaos ten years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, were already hanging by a thread after last Saturday, two weeks before the vote, the Libyan High Electoral Commission (Hnec) announced the postponement sine die of the publication of the definitive list of presidential candidates, explaining that he still has to “adopt a series of measures”, but also effectively blocking the already short electoral campaign. It therefore seems increasingly unlikely that on Christmas Eve the challenge will take place between General Khalifa Haftar, the son of Colonel Seif al Islam Gaddafi and Prime Minister Dbeibah himself. A race potentially extended to the president of the parliament of Tobruk Aqila Saleh, the former minister of the interior Fathi Bashagha and the former deputy premier Ahmed Maitig. The vote could therefore be postponed to 2022.