No Western-Backed Government in Libya 4 Years After Fall of Gaddafi

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi arrives at Ciampino airport on August 29, 2010 in Rome, Italy. (Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images)
Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images

Libya, four years after the fall of Col. Muammar Gaddafi, finds itself without a Western-backed government after opposing factions refused to endorse an interim unity government brokered by the United Nations.

“For months, United Nations negotiators have been racing to settle a feud between competing governments in Libya, a rivalry that has crippled the oil industry, provided a foothold for the Islamic State [ISIS/ISIL] and plunged the country into civil war,” reports The Washington Post (WaPo).

“But Tuesday, Libya found itself with no recognized government at all, after the mandate of one of two rival parliaments — the only one recognized by Western powers — lapsed before lawmakers could endorse a proposed unity government,” it adds.

Libya was plunged into uncharted territory that threatens a U.S.-backed effort to end unrest in the North African country by the failure of the two warring factions to support a UN peace proposal.

Last week, Bernardino Leon, the UN special representative in Libya, presented the final amendments to a peace accord and announced the names for a new unity government to meet Tuesday’s deadline, when the mandate of the Western-recognized Libyan Parliament expired, reports The New York Times.

“As of today, neither of those governments can claim legal legitimacy — making Libya the largest piece of terra nullius, or vacuum of sovereignty, on earth,” Jason Pack, a researcher of Libyan history at Cambridge University and president of, told WaPo. 

The WaPo notes:

The latest turn in Libya’s fraught post-revolution path comes exactly four years after [U.S.-backed] rebels hunted down and killed former dictator Moammar Gaddafi on Oct. 20, 2011, marking a bloody end to the strongman’s long rule and punctuating a NATO air campaign that was seen, at the time, as a model intervention in the Middle East.

Four years after the execution of Gaddafi, Libya is broke, isolated, and gripped by unrest.

“For more than a year, the country has had two prime ministers, one in the western city of Tripoli, the other near the border with Egypt in the east,” according to The Washington Post. “There are two self-proclaimed parliaments, two central banks and two national oil companies.”

“The authority in the east was the one recognized by the United States and its allies,” it states, adding:

Across Libya, well-armed militias retain massive power, sometimes turning their fire on each other. The de facto partition has made it harder to contain the expansion of militants with the Islamic State, who have set up the group’s strongest affiliate yet outside of Iraq and Syria.

The internationally recognized eastern Parliament, based in the Libyan city of Tobruk, is known as the House of Representatives, while the Tripoli-based western legislature is called the General National Congress.

In a joint statement issued Monday, the U.S. State Department, foreign ministers from 12 countries, and the European Union warned that the failure to reach a unity government pact placed Libya in danger of greater instability, exacerbating a situation that has “led to the loss of lives, allowed terrorism to grow and severely damaged the economy of the country.”

Over the weekend, the UN issued a similar warning, threatening sanctions against those who opposed the proposal.

WaPo acknowledges:

Libya’s downward spiral has accelerated just before presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — who has described the 2011 Libya intervention as “smart power at its best” — is set to appear at a politically charged hearing about the 2012 attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.

If the interim unity government proposal is approved by both sides, the plan would extend the mandate of the eastern Parliament and create a new state council that is expected to be dominated by figures from the western legislature, The Washington Post adds.


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