But late on Friday the head of the former Tripoli-based Government of National Salvation, Khalifa Ghweil, proclaimed its reinstatement from the offices of a key consultative body of the GNA.
His announcement added to the confusion surrounding the political situation in the oil-rich country, which is riven by power struggles and under the control of various militias who often switch allegiances.
The capital appeared calm on Saturday with no sign of any unusual military presence, including around the Council of State whose offices were stormed on Friday.
The last yours truly heard of Khalifa Ghweil, he was attempting to take back an announcement that his government was disbanding in favor of the UN-approved Government of National Accord. But his government had lost most of its supporting militias to the GNA and Ghweil seems to have had no choice but to go dark. But now?
So far there have only been sporadic reports of violence in Tripoli, but things could get much worse very fast. This could be a real test for the GNA, which mostly sauntered in to Tripoli and assumed control there without ever really dealing with the rival government it was displacing. For a while that rival government seemed to have disappeared, but now it’s clear that it never went anywhere.
I’m not sure why Ghweil came back now, but maybe he’d finally had enough of watching Khalifa Haftar establish his own virtual dictatorship in eastern Libya without earning so much as a slap on the wrist from the international community for defying the GNA. Haftar, you may recall, seized control of four of Libya’s largest oil ports last month, but the oil is mostly flowing again and there are signs of a warming between Haftar and the GNA. To wit: Fayez al-Sarraj, the leading figure in the GNA and the man who would be serving as Libya’s interim prime minister if the GNA were officially running the country–it can’t do so unless/until the parliament in Tobruk, which is effectively controlled by Haftar by whatever means necessary, votes to approve it–said after the oil port seizure that Haftar would be “represented” in a new Libyan government.
The UN’s envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler, has gone farther than that, saying that Haftar should be put in command of a unified Libya’s unified armed forces. This might be very acceptable to Haftar, but talk about playing with fire. For one thing, Haftar would surely use this post to try to run the country, just as he’s used his position as the commander of the Tobruk parliament’s army to run the Tobruk parliament. For another thing, is there any reason to think that the militias currently supporting the GNA would be willing to put themselves under Haftar’s command? If they were, then what the hell has all this fighting been about?