Eastern Libyan Government Resigns Following Violent Protests

Eastern Libyan Government Resigns Following Violent Protests 

Following the recent violent protests in Benghazi, Libya, eastern Libyan government announced its resignation on Sunday.

The protests, which continued for three days over poor living conditions and corruption in Libya, saw protestors setting fire to the eastern-based government’s headquarters in Benghazi. The protests later also erupted in al-Bayda, in Sabha in the south, and for the first time in al-Marj, a stronghold of eastern-based renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.

Libya has witnessed major rivalry amongst the eastern and western government especially after the long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown in 2011. The country has been split into rival camps with parallel institutions in the east and the west since 2014. Prime Minister Abdallah al-Thani submitted his resignation to the speaker of the eastern Libya’s House of Representatives.

While Libya’s eastern and most of southern part is controlled by Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), Haftar’s army weakened after a 14-month offensive by the LNA to take control of Tripoli from the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) backfired in June.

After the eastern Libyan government lost control over the capital city, the GNA came back into picture. Currently, the GNA holds the city.

On Thursday, hundreds of protestors came out on streets to show dismay over deteriorating living conditions that include lengthy power cuts, increased fuel prices and a severe banking crisis. Since Gadhafi was ousted, Libyans have been surviving under extreme political, economic and humanitarian hardships.

The crisis worsened in January after Haftar’s LNA imposed a blockade on Libyan oil facilities. To pressurise GNA, powerful tribes loyal to the eastern Libyan government closed oil export terminals and choked off major pipelines in the beginning of the year. While the US Embassy in Libya and Haftra agreed to open oil fields once again, it is still not clear if the blockade has been lifted or not.

In light of the protests, where tyres were set on fire and major roads were blocked, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said at least one civilian had reportedly been killed and three others wounded in al-Marj. The UNSMIL called for “a thorough and immediate” investigation into “the reported excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrations” and the speedy release of a number of detained protesters.

The UNSMIL said the protests across Libya were “motivated by deep-seated frustrations about sustained poor living conditions, shortages of electricity and water, rampant corruption, misgovernance, and a lack of service provision throughout the country.”

The UNSMIL also said the protests underscore “the urgent need to lift the oil blockade” and the return to a “full and inclusive” political process to end Libya’s years-long conflict.

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