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Friday, July 22, 2016

Libyan unity government moves into new offices amid protests

While a red carpet was rolled out to welcome the 7 members of the Presidency Council (PC) of the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) to new quarters in Tripoli, elsewhere in the city, protesters were setting tires on fire and blocking roads.

The GNA Presidency Council has finally moved away from the Tripoli naval base that had been its headquarters since March 30 — a total of 103 days. The new headquarters were formerly occupied by the Salvation Government associated with the General National Congress (GNC). The buildings were defended by a militia loyal to the Salvation Government, but in April another militia loyal to the GNA and its head, Faiez Serraj, seized the headquarters. The defending militia claimed they did not resist in order to avoid bloodshed.
While the Salvation Government has virtually ceased to exist with many members now part of the GNA State Council, the PM Kalifa Ghwell and a few others meet from time to time in Tripoli and MIsrata. Ghwell warned that the Presidency Council will be required to pay for any damage done to the complex.
The protesters in Tripoli were angry at the GNA's inability to solve shortages of electricity causing constant blackouts. There is also an acute shortage of cash with long queues at banks. The banks claim that people are hoarding cash and not depositing it. However, there have been large shipments of new banknotes both from the UK and from Russia. There is also a shortage of water, and prices of goods rise as the value of the Libyan dinar declines. Residents are also angry at the lack of security within the city with the militia not under the control of the GNA.
Just one day after the GNA was relocated from the Abu Sitah Naval Base, protesters stormed the Libyana Mobile Phone Company, Libya's largest phone provider, and also Libya Telecom and Technology, the largest internet provider. Some reports even claim that the naval base was stormed. The armed demonstrators demanded that phone services be cut to Misrata and Zawiya as they are alleged to have been hogging the electricity supply.
The banks apparently are worried about inflation, and as a result issue the new banknotes in small quantities creating huge lineups. A Tripoli engineer said: “My father spent six hours waiting in a line outside his bank, and all he was given was 300 dinars (Dh780)." The US dollar is trading at 4.35 dinars on the black market compared to the official rate of 1.3 dinars.
Security and the rule of law have yet to come to Tripoli. Twelve former Gadaffi troops were ordered released by a court only to be murdered. Although an investigation was immediately ordered, after a month no one has been charged.
Serraj and the GNA have yet to impose their will on the entire nation and in particular have not been able to convince the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) to vote confidence in the GNA and become its legislative body. Neither have they been able to have the commander in chief of the Libyan National Army of the HoR join a unified command under the PC. According to the Libya Political Agreement (LPA) the PC is the commander in chief of the armed forces until a new one is chosen. Haftar wants to remain as commander in chief of the LNA under any new unity government. Haftar refuses to meet with Martin Kobler, Special Representative of the Secretary-General. Kobler has been meeting with various officials in Cairo prior to a meeting of members of the Libyan Dialogue to be held this Sunday In Tunis. It is not clear what Kobler has in mind but it seems as if he might try to find some way of avoiding having a vote of confidence by the HoR. It is not clear how this will be possible without violating the HoR. Perhaps he intends to amend it even though he constantly warned both the GNC and the HoR previously that it could not be amended.


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