Unity Government Lands in Libya Amid Opposition, Threats

  • Premier, seven council members arrive aboard naval vessel
  • Two existing administrations haven't endorsed UN-backed body

Libya’s United Nations-backed unity government finally assumed office in Tripoli on Wednesday despite opposition within two existing administrations and threats of violence from some militias based near the capital.

Prime Minister Fayz Sarraj and seven members the Government of National Accord’s presidential council arrived from Tunisia at the Bu-Sitta naval base aboard a Libyan naval vessel. They were received by newly appointed Minister of Interior Araf al-Khouja.

“We will work on uniting the state’s institutions and achieving a national reconciliation,” Sarraj said in a statement posted on the Facebook page of the presidential council’s media center. “We will implement a set of urgent procedures to alleviate the suffering of the Libyan people.” He later held a brief press conference.

Outside the base, Sarraj’s arrival was hardly noticed. There were no crowds, with streets nearby quiet. Though militias in the center of Tripoli appeared to be backing the new government, those in key areas near the former international airport and on the outskirts of the city don’t, sparking fears of renewed fighting.

The unity government was formed under a UN-mediated peace deal last year. The agreement is backed by Western allies as the only way to stem spiraling unrest that has plagued the country since the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi five years ago and enabled Islamic State to expand along the southern Mediterranean coast.

Little Time

There’s been no formal endorsement of the GNA from either of the country’s two feuding administrations. The House of Representatives fled to the east in the summer of 2014 after the post-Qaddafi transitional body it was supposed to replace, the General National Congress, refused to hand over power. The UN hopes it will manage to assert its authority over state institutions and secure support from most of the population by mid-April.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was among the first to welcome the council’s arrival in Tripoli.

“We stand ready to respond positively to requests for support and assistance from the GNA to help them restore stability to Libya, rebuild the economy, fight Daesh and tackle the criminal gangs that threaten the security of Libyans and exploit illegal migrants,” Hammond said in a statement.

Two members of the GNA’s presidential council from Zintan and Benghazi who have opposed some of the articles in the peace deal weren’t among the officials arriving in the capital on Wednesday.

“The GNA arrived in Tripoli without any clashes despite the tension that the city has witnessed over the last few days,” said Mohamed Faraj, a member of Tripoli’s military council, citing that as a reason for optimism.

However, “there are some people here, as in any other Libyan city, who don’t know how to express their opinion by any other means except arms,” he said. “We are on the edges of another revolution if we don’t let this government work. Libya is running out of time."

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