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Libya’s chaos continues

After calls by Libya’s parliament for foreign intervention to stabilise the near state of anarchy, new protests broke out, deepening the polarisation, writes Kamel Abdallah

Libya’s parliament has appealed for international intervention to end its country’s worsening violence. The decision triggered mass demonstrations in Tripoli, Benghazi and other major cities. Fighting between opposing militias has been raging in Benghazi since May, and in Tripoli since July. The parliament was meeting if the eastern town of Tobruk.

Demonstrators claimed that the parliamentary assembly in Tobruk was illegitimate, and that its decisions were not binding. This included the resolution to request international military intervention. Protestors are opposed to any measure that would bring foreign troops onto Libyan soil.

 A statement issued in the name of the people of the Amazigh (Berbers) said that the deputy at the assembly in Tobruk, who holds the Cabao constituency, does not represent the city. It said that the city’s residents had not even taken part in the elections that brought him to office and, therefore, he did not represent their views in the “so-called” assembly.

Similar objections were expressed by other Amazigh areas in western Libya that had boycotted elections of the Constituent Assembly charged with drafting the new constitution, as well as parliamentary elections on 25 June, on the grounds that Amazigh rights had not been taken into consideration by either body.

Observers have described a recent rash of parliamentary resolutions as impetuous, reckless and a leap into the unknown, especially following the decision to dissolve the militias and calling for a ceasefire in Tripoli and Benghazi.

Karim Mezran, a Libyan scholar and fellow at the Rafik Al-Hariri Centre for Middle Eastern Studies, said that Libya’s allies should intervene to prevent the situation further deteriorating. He warned that the country was now facing the threat of partition. Mezran said the alies should enter into a dialogue with senior Libyan political representatives, including the Muslim Brotherhood, the National Forces Alliance and commanders of the Misrata and Zintan militia formations.

Mezran, quoted on the Voice of America website, said: “The only chance of breaking the circle of violence is to be found in communications supported by the international community in tandem with actions by the new parliament, in order to realise a new constitutional settlement.”

He stressed the need to speak with all factions “as none of the Islamist forces or the opponent forces are capable of attaining a complete and swift victory.”

On the possibility of foreign intervention in Libya, Mezran said that the US and the EU should threaten a limited military intervention in order to force the warring parties to commit to a ceasefire. Although western powers have no desire to take military action, according to his reading of their positions, it is in the interests of the US and its allies to keep Libya from plunging into civil war again. He warned that such a war would strengthen regional Al-Qaeda forces.

The municipal councils of Misrata, Tripoli, Gharyan, Sirte, Sahl Al-Jafara, Sebha and the Amazigh cities have all issued declarations of support of the so-called Libya Dawn Operation. Their support of the campaign is a measure of the polarisation that is now gripping Libya.

Following its recent decisions, the parliament went on to study a proposal to replace the interim government of Abdullah Al-Thinni with a crisis government. However, a decision on this question has had to be deferred for at least several days, due to controversy over the make-up of a replacement government.

Meanwhile, fighting broke out again in Benghazi between forces affiliated with the Shura Council of the Benghazi Revolutionaries and those affiliated with Operation Dignity, launched in May by retired General Khalifa Hiftar. The area between the military camps in the districts of Bouatni and Banina in south Benghazi saw heavy exchanges of gunfire and missiles.

Also in Benghazi, a new Shura Council was officially inaugurated in a ceremony held in Al-Fadil touristic complex and attended by several prominent figures, most notably the parliamentary representative for the city, Saad Al-Jazawi, the mayor and members of the municipal council, and the former president of the Supreme Electoral Commission, Counsellor Nouri Al-Abbar. The purpose of the Shura Council, as stated in its charter, is to promote the development of the government and respect for the law, and to restore security, stability and tranquillity to the city.

The Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries strongly denounced the new council. In a statement, it condemned the announcement of the creation of the Benghazi Shura Council issued by the Justice and Construction Party (the political wing of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood), the National Front to Save Libya Party and the liberal National Forces Alliance. “They are the ones who have destroyed the country and whose political interests have plunged it into warfare,” the statement said.

It continued: “As the battles continue and their fronts broaden, we see those who are still trying to seize the opportunities to steal the blood, sweat and sacrifices of the martyrs and who only consider their own narrow partisan or political interests … The self-declared and self-established Shura Council of Benghazi, which took the same name as the Shura Council of Revolutionaries of Benghazi, took advantage of our preoccupation at the combat fronts to declare itself in an attempt to repeat the same obsolete methods of the liberation period and to ignore the freedom fighting revolutionaries.”

The statement accused the founders of the new Shura Council of “conspiring against the mujahideen, circumventing their demands, and sowing dissension among them,” adding that the attempt would not succeed as “the faithful cannot be struck twice from the same snake pit.” It vowed to sustain the fight not for the return of the parliament to Benghazi or for the sake of democracy, but “for the sake of God.”

At the local level in Libya, 58 municipal councils and their heads were elected in recent months. The chairman of the Central Committee for Municipal Council Elections, Othman Al-Qajiji, confirmed that the committee has completed the steps to create 58 elected municipal councils out of the 80 envisioned councils, and that the heads of these 58 councils, or city mayors, have also been elected.

Al-Qajiji said that 14 municipalities are still in the electoral registration phase and that the Central Committee is preparing for the electio
ns. He added that his committee had supervised the election of the mayor of the Souq Al-Jumaa municipality of Tripoli and that the newly elected mayor and members of that municipal council had taken their oaths of office before the deputy minister for local government.

He praised the work of municipal councils that are providing logistical and medical support to families fleeing the capital due to the fighting.

Elsewhere in western Libya, the Wise Men and Shura Council of Zawara is working to stop human trafficking in that city. In a statement released Saturday, the council said it was “monitoring the activities of individuals with weak souls who have no other concern but to amass money by all and any means, even at the expense of the religion, security, health, traditions and customs of their community.”

 The statement appealed to all those in the city who were involved in human trafficking to stop immediately and “to repent before God having engaged in those activities that are prohibited by religion, punishable by law and reviled by society.” It called on the parents and guardians of anyone involved in trafficking to repudiate the actions of their children and to reject their money.

EU countries have frequently complained about the rise in human trafficking in Libya and the consequent rise in illegal immigration into Europe since the overthrow of Gaddafi era.

European anxieties over the situation in Libya are so grave that Spain called for an urgent international meeting on Libya. On 17 August, participants discussed the deteriorating state of security and means to promote reconciliation and dialogue among Libyan factions.

Meanwhile, measures to evacuate foreigners from the country have been stepped up against the backdrop of the spread of violence and anarchy.

The situation has put the healthcare sector in a particularly awkward position, as the majority of its workers are foreigners. The Philippines government is still in the process of evacuating its citizens; most of them work in the healthcare sector in Tripoli and Benghazi.

The Libyan Red Crescent has come under great pressure as it attempts to aid the wounded and evacuate the dead. Conflict-ridden areas in Tripoli and Benghazi are plagued by “health disasters,” one Red Crescent official said. The Red Crescent has issued repeated appeals to the warring parties to allow its staff to enter the areas of fighting in order to remove the dead, tend to the wounded and evacuate stranded foreign workers.

Article by Kamel Abdallah, Al-Ahram Weekly.

This article was originally published here.

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