By Sami Zaptia.
London, 12 January 2017:
Members of the House of Representatives (HoR) who fully support the UN-brokered Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) and its Government of National Accord (GNA), signed in the Moroccan city of Skhirat in December 2015, have set up a branch of the HoR in Tripoli.
These are mainly the HoR members who support the GNA and have been trying for a year to organize a quorum in Tobruk to approve Prime Minister-designate Faiez Serraj and his designated GNA.
News of this first broke early this morning when the first of the Ministry of Tourism’s employees turned up for work and noticed the long banner – in Arabic and English – on the side of their Ministry’s building. The Ministry of Tourism in Tripoli is located adjacent to the main entrance of Tripoli port.
The banner was apparently put up without official notification to the Tourism Ministry under the cover of darkness last night. This morning, a number of Tourism Ministry employees organized a small protest outside the building in front of the banner. They objected to the banner being put up, protesting the ‘‘takeover’’ of their building.
They later released a statement (on plain paper, unsigned or stamped) of condemnation and called for the powers to be to take corrective action. It later transpired that a whole floor of their large building was to be taken over by the HoR. The banner was partly folded over obscuring its message in later photos issued by the Ministry of Tourism.
A member of the HoR contacted by Libya Herald this morning confirmed that the move has not received official support from the HoR in Tobruk. He said that the move was apparently sanctioned by Deputy Presidency Council member from Misrata, Ahmed Maetig. The HoR spokesman later condemned the move.
Boycotting HoR member for Misrata and LPA/GNA supporter Mohamed Raied confirmed to Libyan media that the second floor of the Tourism Ministry will be taken up by the HoR Tripoli branch as its headquarters. Moreover, he added that steps were ‘‘underway to hold a session of the HoR with a full quorum in Tripoli within two weeks’’.
It will be recalled that while the politically opposed parties in Libya’s conflict signed the UN-brokered Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) in Morocco back in December 2015, the HoR itself is split into two main blocks on the issue of granting approval to Prime Minister-designate Faiez Serraj and his designated GNA.
The HoR has voted-in the LPA in principle, but has rejected the make-up of the GNA as well as article 8 of the LPA, which would remove Khalifa Hafter as effective head of the Libyan National Army.
HoR members in opposition to voting-in the GNA also oppose – what they refer to as – the empowerment of Tripoli militias/Islamists as the instrument enabling the Serraj GNA in the capital. They insist on the formation of a non-militia/tribal/regional based army that would be loyal to a legitimate central government.
Misrata HoR member and LPA/GNA supporter Mohamed Raied’s claim to Libyan media that he and his supporters plan to ‘‘hold a session of the HoR with a full quorum in Tripoli within two weeks’’ is very bold.
Both sides of the HoR divide have struggled to muster their own supporters to turn up for votes. It would be a revolution in Libya’s post-Qaddafi polarized politics if Raied could pull it off.
On the other hand, there will be many legal and constitutional objections to any Tripoli HoR meeting unsanctioned by the official leadership of the HoR in Tobruk. Any decisions such a meeting might reach will no doubt also be challenged. Either way, the move is yet another move that further muddies the waters of Libya’s complex politics.