MS Risk Blog

Assessing Libya’s Unity Government: Three Months In

Posted on in Libya title_rule

On 30 March 2016, Libya’s prime minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj sailed into the capital Tripoli under naval escort and set up the headquarters of his country’s unity government. Now after three months in office, many are asking how has the newly formed Government of National Accord (GNA) fared in tackling the North African country’s ongoing crisis and what more needs to be done to stabilize Libya.

The GNA, which is the result of a UN-brokered power-sharing deal that was reached in December 2015, continues to face a fearsome set of economic, political and military challenges. While its allied militias have made major advances against the so-called Islamic State (IS) group in its stronghold of Sirte, success there would just be the start. The country’s economy, which was hard-hit in the wake of the 2011 uprising, continues to struggle amidst power cuts and a cash crisis at the country’s banks. Furthermore, a rival government based in the eastern city of Tobruk has refused to cede power until the country’s elected parliament passes a repeatedly delayed vote of confidence. Meanwhile neither administration can rein in militias that have fought for control of the country since the 2011 fall of former dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

So what has the GNA achieved?

Within days of its arrival in Tripoli, Sarraj’s government had won the loyalty of the main economic institutions, cities and armed groups based in western Libya. Without waiting for a vote of confidence from Tobruk, the GNA took control of key government ministries in Tripoli, with Sarraj managing to secure a rapprochement between rival central banks and national oil companies. According to analysts, the prime minister-designate has also met with figures from both sides of the country and has continued to stress the need for unity. However the GNA’s biggest achievement to date has been its success in commanding an assault on IS in Sirte, which is located 450 kilometres (280 miles) east of the capital Tripoli. Since 12 May, pro-government forces have cleared IS from 280 kilometres (175 miles) of coastline and surrounded the jihadists inside the city.

GNA’s failures

In political terms, the GNA’s main challenge continues to be securing a rapprochement with the east. Sources however have disclosed that Easterners are wary of the GNA’s reliance on militias. Furthermore, kidnappings for ransom are on the rise, as are the prices of basic goods. Power cuts are common, long and unpredictable and they sometimes affect the water supplies. Furthermore, foreign airlines are avoiding the country and Libyans have few options to fly out. Also, despite a string of foreign delegations, no foreign embassy is currently present in the capital.

What after IS? 

In order to govern effectively, Sarraj will need a vote of confidence from the House of Representatives in Tobruk. The continued fight against IS delays any rapprochement between the East and the West, and is inevitable unless a political solution is reached.

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