Tripoli Islamists Make Way for Unity Government

Leaders who hope to reunify Libya continue to win recognition, but one faction is holding out in Tobruk.

Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of a proposed Libyan unity government, delivers a news conference in Tunis, Tunisia, January 8
Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of a proposed Libyan unity government, delivers a news conference in Tunis, Tunisia, January 8 (AFP/Fethi Belaid)

A proposed Libyan unity government made further progress on Wednesday when an Islamist-dominated rival administration in Tripoli resigned.

“We put the interests of the nation above anything else and stress that the bloodshed [should] stop and the nation be saved from division and fragmentation,” the head of the Tripoli government said.

Now only the formerly internationally-recognized parliament in Tobruk and its military strongman, Khalifa Haftar, stand in the way of reunification.

The central bank and National Oil Corporation have both recognized the new government, which came about with mediation from the United Nations. France and Tunisia have said they will reopen their embassies in Tripoli.


Leaders of the unity government arrived in the capital last week and started operating from a naval base.

Their arrival came after many months of negotiations between the rival administrations in Tripoli and Tobruk.

Previous unity plans failed when the Tobruk-based legislature balked at handing power over military appointments to a new body.

The parliament was driven out of Tripoli in 2014 when a coalition of former Al Qaeda fighters, Berber and Misrata militants as well as elements of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood refused to recognize the outcome of an election.


The factions share a common enemy: militants who profess to be part of the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have gradually 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 that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.

Swathes of Libya have been ungoverned since Gaddafi was ousted and killed. The dictator dismantled what little institutions the country had erected after winning independence from Italy in 1951 to centralize control in his inner circle. When he was removed, the country fell apart along regional and tribal lines. Law and order collapsed. Militias that were formed to fight Gaddafi’s forces have effectively controlled Libya since.

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