New Libyan premier, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, sworn in

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Posted – 15th March 2021

Dbeibah’s swearing-in comes after parliament last week approved his cabinet, in a move hailed by key leaders and foreign powers as “historic.”

TOBRUK–Libya’s new Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah was sworn in Monday to lead the war-torn country’s transition to elections in December, after seven years of chaos and division.

After long-time ruler Muammar Gadhafi was toppled and killed in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011, three years of fragile stability were ended by a 2014 Muslim Brotherhood-led coup in Tripoli.

The parliament fled to Tobruk along with the government of Abdullah al-Thani that it had appointed and set up in the east of the country, while a rival administration operated in the west. The subsequent divisions ran to two competing central banks and National Oil Corporations and ultimately a split in the parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR).

A United Nations-supervised process is aimed at uniting the country, building on an October ceasefire between rival administrations in the east and west. Widespread fighting culminated in an abortive attempt by Libyan National Army commander, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, to seize the capital and the rest of western Libya.

Dbeibah, selected at UN-sponsored talks in February alongside an interim three-member presidency council, took the oath of office in front of a reunited HoR in the eastern city of Tobruk, more than than 1,000 kilometres from the capital Tripoli.

Dbeibah’s swearing-in comes after parliament last week approved his cabinet, in a move hailed by key leaders and foreign powers as “historic.”

His government includes two deputy prime ministers, 26 ministers and six ministers of state, with five posts including the key foreign affairs and justice portfolios handed to women, a first in Libya.

“This will be the government of all Libyans,” Dbeibah said after the vote. “Libya is one and united.”
His administration, known as the Government of National Unity is expected to replace both the UN-recognised Government of National Accord, based in Tripoli, and the parallel Thani cabinet headquartered in the east, under the de facto control of forces of military strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Libyan security forces stand guard outside the entrance to the conference centre in the eastern coastal city of Tobruk on March 15, 2021. (AFP)
Libyan security forces stand guard outside the entrance to the conference centre in the eastern coastal city of Tobruk on March 15, 2021. (AFP)

Turkey and Qatar have backed the GNA, while Haftar’s administration has drawn on support from a number of countries including Egypt and Russia.

Outgoing GNA head Fayez al-Sarraj has said he is “fully ready to hand over” power as has Thani, while Haftar last month offered “the support of the armed forces for the peace process.”

But the new executive faces daunting challenges to unify the country’s institutions, end a decade of fighting marked by international interference and prepare for elections on December 24, under a new constitution that has yet to be adopted.

Dbeibah, 61, a wealthy businessman from the western port city of Misrata, once held posts under Gadhafi but has shown no clear ideological position.

During Gadhafi’s rule, Misrata underwent an industrial and economic boom, from which the Dbeibah family and many others profited.

Dbeibah is also known to be supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood and is close to Turkey.

He holds a master’s degree from the University of Toronto in engineering and his expertise introduced him to Gadhafi’s inner circle which led him to head a company managing huge construction projects.

This February, Dbeibah was considered an outsider compared to other candidates vying for the job, and his election process has been marred by allegations of vote-buying.

But he has jumped into his role even before his inauguration, announcing pledges to combat the coronavirus crisis and taking anti-corruption measures by freezing state-owned investment funds.

But after 42 years of autocratic rule under Gadhafi and a decade of violence, the list of challenges is long.

The population of seven million, sitting atop Africa’s largest proven crude oil reserves, is mired in a dire economic crisis, with soaring unemployment, crippling inflation and endemic corruption.

Another key task will be ensuring the departure of an estimated 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters still in the country, whose presence Dbeibah has called “a stab in our back.”

The UN Security Council on Friday called for all foreign forces to leave “without further delay.”

 
ARAB WEEKLY
 
The Libya Consultancy does not imply any association with, nor endorsement by or of the publisher of this article

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