The Libyan Prime Minister appointed by Parliament, Fathi Bachagha, said he will enter the capital and take office “in the coming days”, in an interview with AFP conducted this Friday, July 8 from his provisional headquarters, in the city of Sirte, 450 km east of Tripoli.
The 59-year-old politician was appointed in February by the parliament based in eastern Libya to form a government to replace the executive of Tripoli (west) led by Abdelhamid Dabaiba, set up a year earlier in the part of a UN-sponsored peace process to extricate the country from more than a decade of chaos.
Libya: between Dabaiba and Bachagha, the country again has two prime ministers
Abdelhamid Dabaiba’s executive was to lead the country to legislative elections and presidential in December, but these were postponed indefinitely for differences over the legal basis of the ballot and the presence of controversial candidates. And Dabaiba refuses to hand over power before elections are held. Fathi Bachagha, supported by Parliament and by Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the strongman of eastern Libya, believes that the government in Tripoli is “illegitimate”: “its mandate is over and it has failed to organize elections”.
In mid-May, Bachagha announced his entry into Tripoli in the middle of the night. Fighting had then broken out between armed groups loyal to one or the other, resulting in the failure of his attempt to dislodge his rival. If he withdrew, it was to avoid bloodshed, he says, without giving up taking office. “All roads to Tripoli are open and, God willing, we will be there in the next few days,” he said.
Bachagha and Dabaiba are supported by different armed groups in the capital, but “some armed forces have changed their position”, according to Fathi Bachagha.
Symptom of the Libyan chaos
The presence of two rival governments is symptomatic of the chaos that has plagued Libya since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, marked by deep divisions between rival institutions in the East and the West.
Although he is supported by the eastern camp, Fathi Bachaga is a notable in Misrata, in western Libya, like his rival. A former airplane pilot trainer, he made a name for himself during his time at the head of the Ministry of the Interior from 2018 to early 2021. But it is today at the heart of a serious institutional crisis which raises fears of a new civil war.
Libya: Dabaiba, Bachagha, who will the militias “knight”?
If he excludes this scenario, Fathi Bachagha thinks that “there could be chaos because of the demonstrations which demand that there is a single government which can unite the Libyans”.
In early July, demonstrations took place across the country against the deterioration of living conditions, power cuts and to demand the renewal of the political class, including Dabaiba and Bachagha. Protesters notably forced the entry of the Parliament, based in Tobruk (east), before setting it on fire.
Power cuts and blockades
Since mid-April, supporters of Marshal Haftar have blocked key oil installations as a means of pressure to dislodge the executive from Tripoli.
The blockade also causes a drop in the production of gas, which is nevertheless necessary for supplying the electricity network, prolonging the duration of the power cuts a little more. There is “no link” between cuts and blockades, defends Fathi Bachagha, for whom its authors “will lift the siege” as soon as they “are sure that the income will not go to corruption”.
While the conflict has been largely fueled by outside interference, Fathi Bachagha calls on the UN to “adopt solutions that work for Libyans rather than states interfering in Libya”.
“We managed to avoid any military confrontation, but Libya cannot stay like this forever. We need a solution,” he says. in garde.