A senior UN official for Libya on Saturday condemned the storming of the country’s parliamentary headquarters by angry protesters as part of protests in several cities against the political class and deteriorating economic conditions.
Hundreds of protesters marched in the streets of the capital Tripoli and other Libyan cities on Friday, with many attacking and setting fire to government buildings, including the House of Representatives in the eastern city of Tobruk.
“People’s right to protest peacefully must be respected and protected, but rioting and vandalism, such as the storming of the House of Representatives headquarters in Tobruk late yesterday, are totally unacceptable,” said Stephanie Williams, UN special adviser. for Libya, on Twitter. †
Friday’s protests came a day after leaders of parliament and another legislative chamber in Tripoli failed to agree on elections during UN-brokered talks in Geneva. According to the United Nations, the dispute now revolves around the eligibility requirements for candidates.
Election plans canceled
Libya failed to hold elections in December amid legal disputes, controversial presidential hopefuls and the presence of rogue militias and foreign fighters in the country.
The failure to vote was a major blow to international efforts to bring peace to the Mediterranean nation. It has opened a new chapter in its long-running political deadlock, with two rival governments now claiming power after tentative steps towards unity over the past year.
Tough economic conditions
The protesters, frustrated by years of chaos and division, have called for the removal of the current political class and for elections to be held. They also rebelled against the poor economic conditions in the oil-rich country, where prices for fuel and bread have risen and power cuts are frequent.
Protesters also gathered in Tripoli and several cities in western Libya on Saturday, blocking roads and setting tires on fire, according to live streams on social media.
It was feared that militias across the country would crush the protests, as they did in 2020, when they opened fire on people protesting the economic conditions.
Sabadell Jose, the European Union’s envoy to Libya, called on protesters to “avoid any form of violence”. He said Friday’s demonstrations showed that people “want change through elections and their voices need to be heard”.
Richard Norland, the US ambassador to Libya, urged Libyan political leaders and their foreign backers to work on a compromise to hold elections.
“It is clear that no political entity has legitimate control over the entire country and any attempt to impose a unilateral solution will result in violence,” he warned on Twitter after an appeal with Libyan head of Libya presidential council.
Libya has been ravaged by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 overthrew and assassinated longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The country was then divided for years between rival governments in the east and west, each supported by different militias and foreign governments.