Fathi Bashagha the Libyan Prime Minister selected by the country’s parliament (the House of Representatives – HoR) in March this year secretly entered the capital Tripoli overnight. There are conflicting reports as to his route into the capital.
However, in the face of a determined and violent reaction from opposition militias – he was forced to leave the capital promptly.
The Nawasi Brigade (8th Force) had earlier welcomed Bashagha’s entry into the capital and it is reported that the 444 Brigade escorted Bashagha with guaranteed safety out of the capital – in exchange for a ceasefire.
Bashagha said he left the capital willingly in order to save the shedding of Libyan blood. Critics say he left because he did not get the support he was anticipating from other militias and that he was surprised by the level of militia opposition to him.
Questions about long-term viability of Bashagha?
Critics also say the failed entry now weakens Bashagha and strengthens incumbent Caretaker PM Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba. The failed escapade also raises questions about the long-term viability of Bashagha to his eastern backers, HoR Speaker Ageela Saleh and military commander Khalifa Hafter.
It also raises questions about Bashagha’s political and military acumen. Bashagha has thus far failed to correctly read the political and militia mood in Tripoli. Critics say his lust for power has blinded him. As a former militia commander himself, he has failed to gauge the reaction of Tripoli’s militia commanders – and has failed to win them over to his side.
Bashagha did not seem to have a plan b after entering Tripoli should his entry fail. He left himself no option but to hastily withdraw. This does not reflect positively on him and strengthens his contender Aldabaiba.
Bashagha has also failed to comprehend the depth of hatred of Hafter in Tripoli and western Libya and did not consider this adequately prior to jumping into political bed with Hafter.
Bashagha tainted politically, seen as Hafter’s stooge
It also reaffirms the perception that Bashagha is tainted politically – probably irreversibly – and is seen in western Libya as the stooge of Hafter.
Western Libya have not forgotten Hafter’s vicious war on Tripoli and their huge efforts to protect it (with Turkey’s help) and repulse Hafter to the Sirte-Juffra ceasefire line. The hatred and disdain held for Hafter in western Libya has not dissipated and the fierce resistance to Bashagha partly reflects this.
What next for Tripoli’s pro-Bashagha Nawasi brigade?
It is unclear what the political/militia fallout will be from this episode. The Nawasi brigade had shown its hand in favour of Bashagha and there is the possibility that the majority anti-Bashagha militias might decide to reduce its influence or attempt to eradicate it.
After the sound of heavy gunfire overnight, Tripoli is now calm and the sound of returning traffic can now be heard again.