| 25 February 2024, Sunday |

Tripoli tense amid standoff between Libya’s two rival governments

A protracted truce has brought life back to Tripoli’s Algeria Square, with its circle restored with grass and customers staying late at the Aurora Cafe, but Libya’s new problem of two administrations threatens to destabilize that quiet.

Algeria Square, which houses the city hall, post office, and a mosque rebuilt from a colonial-era Italian church, is central to civic life in the capital. However, it is also close to the front lines of a fight that many Libyans worry may explode shortly.

This week, the east’s parliament swore in a new administration, but the incumbent in Tripoli refused to relinquish control.

The increased number of security vehicles racing through the capital’s streets are a sign of a crisis that could trigger fighting if no deal can be reached.

“My country is being destroyed daily, and we do not see elections, democracy, or a correct political process capable of ending this catastrophe that has become a nightmare,” said Jamal Obaid, a state employee in a street by Algeria Square.

A scheduled election in December was stopped amid factional disputes over the rules. On Thursday the parliament in Tobruk, in eastern Libya, appointed a new government despite the present administration in Tripoli refusing to cede power.

The incumbent prime minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, installed a year ago in a U.N.-backed process, has denounced the parliament’s appointment of Fathi Bashagha to replace him and says he will only quit after a rescheduled election.

However, both men appear to believe they can count on support among the myriad armed factions whose gunmen wield true control over the streets of Tripoli. An expected move by Bashagha to enter the capital may trigger fighting.

Tripoli residents fear a resumption of the warfare that ended in summer 2020 after a failed 14-month assault by eastern forces that rained shells onto the city streets.

  • Reuters