Tobruk Parliament Rejects Libya Unity Government

Lawmakers object to an agreement that would see them share power with rivals in Tripoli.

American secretary of state John Kerry attends a meeting with Martin Kobler, the United Nations' special representative for Libya, and other diplomats in Rome, Italy, December 13, 2015
American secretary of state John Kerry attends a meeting with Martin Kobler, the United Nations’ special representative for Libya, and other diplomats in Rome, Italy, December 13, 2015 (State Department)

Libya’s internationally-recognized parliament in Tobruk voted down a peace plan on Monday that was meant to end two years of rivalry with a more heavily Islamist administration in Tripoli.

A majority did support a transition plan under which a Presidential Council operates out of Tunisia. But lawmakers rejected transferring power over military appointments to this new body.

The Tobruk-based legislature is protected by Khalifa Haftar, a former army officer who now commands a private army in the east of Libya.

Haftar’s troops battle both supporters of the Tripoli-based parliament and followers of the self-declared Islamic State.

Factions

One of the lawmakers in Tobruk said a proposed unity government was only formed “according to the demands of militia leaders,” not in the interest of the Libyan people as a whole.

Since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, militias that were originally formed against the strongman have fought among themselves.

The coalition in Tripoli is composed of former Al Qaeda fighters, Berber militias, Misrata militants and the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood. They refused to accept the outcome of parliamentary elections in 2014 and drove new lawmakers out of the city.

The elected parliament, which found refuge in Tobruk, is recognized by remnants of the national army, militants from the city of Zintan as well as federalists and tribal fighters from the east and south of Libya: areas that seek autonomy or even independence now that Gaddafi is gone.

The two factions share a common enemy: the Islamic State group that has been expanding in both directions out of Derna, a city situated on the Mediterranean coast roughly equidistant between Tobruk and Benghazi, which was the cradle of the 2011 uprising against Gaddafi.

UN soldiers on

The United Nations Libya envoy, Martin Kobler, said he welcomed the Tobruk parliament’s “endorsement in principle” of the political agreement.

“We will continue consultations with all parties to find consensual solution to all outstanding issues,” he said in a statement.