Libya's unity government takes office in smooth transition of power

by Reuters
Tuesday, 16 March 2021 15:36 GMT

TRIPOLI, March 16 (Reuters) - Libya's new unity government took office on Tuesday from two warring administrations that had ruled eastern and western regions, completing a smooth transition of power after a decade of violent chaos.

Fayez al-Serraj, the presidency council head and prime minister in the outgoing Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, embraced his successor as premier Abdulhamid Dbeibeh as he gave up his powers.

"I am here today consolidating the principles of democracy," he said at a brief ceremony.

Dbeibeh's government, which emerged from talks involving the United Nations, was approved last week by the country's long-divided parliament. It is mandated to improve services, unify state institutions and oversee national elections in December.

The Tripoli-based ministries of health, education and finance each put out statements affirming they had handed over to the new ministers. Images on social media showed the GNA interior minister Fathi Bashagha departing in his own personal car.

Dbeibeh took the oath of office in the eastern city of Tobruk on Monday, where the eastern-based administration had also welcomed his appointment.

Coming after months of a ceasefire between the two main sides in the civil war, it appears to represent Libya's best hope for many years of an eventual resolution after the decade of chaos.

However, big problems persist. On the streets, power is still held by an array of local armed groups that have looted the country's oil wealth.

Foreign powers that backed each side have not pulled out fighters or arms. And Libyan political leaders who fear losing sway could still challenge or sabotage the transition.

A sign of the continued mistrust is visible to any who seek to cross the country by road: the main coastal highway remains closed between Misrata and Sirte where the frontline solidified last summer. A ceasefire commission appointed last year has made little progress in reopening it.

Dbeibeh's own appointment is itself clouded by allegations of corruption that have not yet been publicly aired by the U.N. team invigilating the process.

Holding an election - and crafting a constitutional process to allow it to take place - will also be a huge challenge beyond the government's other set task of restoring unified services.

(Reporting by Reuters Libya newsroom, writing by Angus McDowall, editing by Timothy Heritage)

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