Libya’s new interim government is sworn in to lead the war-torn North African nation until elections later this year.
Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, selected in UN-sponsored talks in February alongside a three-member interim presidential council, was sworn in before the House of Representatives in the town of Tobruk, in eastern China. country.
The North African nation sank into chaos after leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and killed in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011, leading to rival administrations to vie for power.
A process overseen by the United Nations aims to unite the country, building on an October ceasefire between competing administrations in the east and west of the country.
More than 1,000 kilometers (630 miles) from the capital Tripoli to the west, Tobruk has been the seat of Libya’s elected parliament since 2014.
Dbeibah’s swearing-in comes after parliament last week approved his cabinet, in a measure hailed by key leaders and foreign powers as “historic.”
Its government comprises two deputy prime ministers, 26 ministers and six ministers of state, with five positions, including the main portfolios of foreign affairs and justice, handed over to women, a first in Libya.
“It will be the government of all Libyans,” Dbeibah said after the vote. “Libya is one and united.”
Speaking from Tripoli, Al Jazeera’s Malik Traina described the swearing-in ceremony as a “breakthrough”.
“The entire cabinet of Libya’s new interim government arrived at the ceremony in Tobruk.
“This is a breakthrough, especially for the UN support mission which has been trying for several years to bring warring parties to Libya closer together,” Traina said.
“Libyans also want to see these state institutions unified in order to better serve the citizens.”
Dbeibah’s administration set to replace the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), based in Tripoli, and a parallel cabinet with its headquarters in the east, under the de facto control of forces loyal to the military commander renegade Khalifa Haftar.
Turkey has supported the GNA, while the Haftar administration has received support from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, France and Russia.
The outgoing leader of the GNA, Fayez al-Sarraj, said he was “very ready to cede” power, while Haftar offered last month “the support of the armed forces for the peace process”.
But the new executive faces daunting challenges to unify the country’s institutions, end 10 years of fighting marked by international interference and prepare for the December 24 elections.
Dbeibah, 61, a wealthy businessman from the western port city of Misrata, once held positions under Gaddafi but has shown no clear ideological stance.
During Gaddafi’s reign, Misrata experienced an industrial and economic boom, from which the Dbeibah family and many others benefited.
Dbeibah is also known to support the Muslim Brotherhood and is close to Turkey.
He holds a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Toronto and his expertise made him known to Gaddafi’s inner circle and led him to lead a company managing huge construction projects.
Militias and mercenaries
Dbeibah was seen as an outsider compared to other candidates vying for the post, and the electoral process was marred by allegations of vote-buying.
But Dbeibah jumped into his role even before his inauguration, including pledging to fight the coronavirus crisis in the country and taking anti-corruption measures by freezing public investment funds.
But after 42 years of Gaddafi’s rule and 10 years of violence, the list of challenges is long.
Africa’s population of seven million, located atop Africa’s largest proven crude oil reserves, is mired in a severe economic crisis, with rising unemployment, crippling inflation and rampant corruption.
Another key task will be to ensure the departure of around 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters still in the country, whose presence Dbeibah called “a stab in the back”.
The UN Security Council on Friday called on all foreign forces to leave “without further delay”.
Commenting on the challenges facing the interim government, Traina said the road to new elections was “long and difficult”.
“There are fears that the election will not happen so soon. One of the main reasons is that, according to the support mission, there are over 20,000 foreign fighters in Libya. This government will be responsible for trying to convince these foreign fighters to leave by coordinating with the different countries involved. [in Libya]Said Traina.
Divisions between armed groups and a growing number of COVID-19 cases have posed more challenges for the interim government, he added.