Lily Kershaw is a journalist and student studying French and Portuguese at Oxford University
Hope is certainly what is on the mind of most Libyans at the moment. After over a decade without any hint of a unified government, as of March 2021, Libya’s new interim government has come into power. This represents a huge shift away from the divisions of just a few months ago and suggests an immense step forward, so long as they can pull it off.
...perhaps that fresh perspective is exactly what Libya needs to move forward
Abdelhamid Dbeibah, the new interim Prime Minister, does not come from a particularly political background, but perhaps that fresh perspective is exactly what Libya needs to move forward. The former businessman has expressed similar sentiments, saying “the time has come to turn the page on wars and division [...]. It is time to settle the country’s differences in parliament and not on the battlefield”. Having a leader who was not so deeply entrenched in the Civil War, means having a leader who is potentially more open to moving forward and compromising to appeal to both sides. Without being too attached to the “old ways”, Dbeibah is more willing to make changes to the political system itself, introducing some much-needed reforms including appointing the first female Foreign Minister, Najla el-Mangoush. While these are small steps so far, they are very promising and definitely in the correct direction. While women currently only represent 15% of his cabinet, Dbeibah has claimed that this number will increase as he appoints more deputy ministers in the future; perhaps this will reflect the overall direction of his government – small tentative steps building up to great leaps in change.
Since 2011, it would be no exaggeration to say that Libya has been in a state of chaos. After NATO succeeded in overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi, Libya was left with a significant power vacuum, resulting in a civil war. The two warring sides (the GNA and Haftar) were also supported by foreign powers including Turkey, the UAE, France, and Russia, meaning that this new government must be prepared to face and manage both internal and external divisions. Additionally, the civil war has left the once oil-rich economy in total disarray, only creating another hurdle for this interim government to deal with. How will they manage it? Is it even possible, or will this just be a temporary blip on Libya’s wart-torn timeline?
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In an effort to unite the divided factions of the country Dbeibah has attempted to allocate a fair proportion of key positions in his government between those from the east, west, and south. Additionally, the Cabinet is an unusually large 33 members which, while often criticised as being unnecessary, particularly as the government is only temporary until elections in December, is also evidence of an effort to fully represent a divided nation. Of course, such representation always risks forming a government incapable of making a decision and, instead, frozen with debate.
Though, it is hard not to be somewhat optimistic here. Ever since the October cease-fire, Libya seems to be moving from strength to strength regarding its unification, and it feels like being cynical here is counterproductive. This hesitant optimism seems to be shared by other foreign nations who, up until very recently, had, to some extent, involved themselves in Libya’s civil war: Egypt has offered its support to the interim government, even planning to reopen their embassy in Tripoli as a gesture of faith in its stability, and the US Secretary of State has explicitly said they welcomed Dbeibah’s government.
Bring on the certainty, bring on the interim government, and, hopefully, bring on a democratic and peaceful future for Libya.
These are, of course, all just first steps on, what will surely be, an incredibly bumpy road for Libya, but the sense of hope and potential is palpable. This interim government is unlikely to resolve all the issues the nation faces, but that does not mean that their position is empty. The reliability and consistency of a stable government will lend Libya a greater foundation for the future. Without such a foundation, any large-scale changes may be wiped away in an instant. So what if this government brings a temporary period of nothing? If anything that’s the greatest change Libya will see after a decade of war and uncertainty. Bring on the certainty, bring on the interim government, and, hopefully, bring on a democratic and peaceful future for Libya.