Libya Looses Oil Tanker and Prime Minister

LibyaUnable to stop rebels from independent oil exportation in Libya, the former prime minister, Ali Zeidan was voted out of office by parliament. On Monday, both sides were adamant about their positions regarding the tanker, which had left the rebel-held port and was scheduled to arrive at a government port. The former prime minister had claimed it was in control and would soon complete its journey once the daylight returned. Now, after losing both their prime minister and the oil tanker, Libya collects itself to get government back on track.

The tanker took a minimum of 234,000 barrels of crude oil from the al-Sidra port which is held by the insurgents. Navy warships were deployed, but Morning Glory evaded them and reached international waters according to Mohammad Hitab, spokesman of state-run al-Waha Oil Company.

The rebels were previously oil security forces. They had assisted in a revolt supported by NATO in 2011.The rebellion successfully overturned the leadership of Muammar Gaddafi who had been in power for 42 years. However, they kept their guns and continued fighting. Eventually, they defected and began instigating their independence over Eastern Libya. The al-Sidra port is one of three seized locations and remains under rebel control. They have been fighting for larger shares of oil revenue and asserting political autonomy. Though they took over the ports last summer, this was the first reported tanker to have loaded oil from these locations since the revolt against the authorities of Libya’s capitol city, Tripoli.

Libyan government has been dangerously low on money. With major ports and oilfields being controlled by the insurgents, the revenue has been depleted and exportation has been limited. The government is also lacking power, as they have not yet managed to create a stable army, police force, or political institutions. The divided forces, armed rebels against pro-government fighters, erupted in Sirte, the coastal city acts as a division between Western and Eastern powers.

Zeidan’s credibility was called into question when the tanker escaped. Not only did the rebels disobey government orders by proceeding without clearance from Libyan National Oil Corporation, but they did so despite threats of fighting back with an air strike. Though the dust settled after the loss of the oil tanker and the no-confidence motion against the prime minister, Libya still disagrees over exactly what happened.

A statement was released with the claim that weather conditions kept the navy’s small boats from keeping up with the tanker. Abdelkader Houili is a member of the energy committee in Libya’s highest political authority, General National Congress (GNC). The warships, he said, are fast patrol boats which had been driven closer to the shore by the weather. The tanker made a break for the opening and managed to reach the Mediterranean.

According to a spokesman from the navy and defense ministry, before it escaped, Libyan ships successfully opened fire upon the tanker. It suffered damage and the Italian navy assisted directing the tanker to a government-controlled port. Italy, however, denied its naval presence and the open fire could not be confirmed. Since then no further comments were available from the military spokesman.

Libya currently has a transitional government where rival factions of former rebels have claimed their own bases. These militias have chosen sides in the ongoing political debate and have strong holds over Eastern Libya. Authorities in Tripoli have been fighting for control over the country since the revolt in 2011. The escape of the tanker adds to concerns of Western powers that further instability will result from the rebel’s win.

A travel ban was issued on Zeidan by state prosecutor, Abdel-Qader Radwan. The former prime minister is facing investigation over alleged misuse of state funds. The GNC decided for two weeks Defense Minister, Adballah al-Thinni, would be acting prime minister. The vote was not to be held until later in the year, but in the following two weeks, deputies will choose a replacement.

Though the loss of the oil tanker will damage their funds, Libya can look forward to finding a new prime minister who will accept the role of bringing the nation together. A political analyst in Tripoli explained that the nation is “new to this political game,” since the past 42 years were run differently, and controlled by only one man. Salah Elbakhoush admitted, “we are still learning. But we hope that there will be an improvement after Zeidan left.”

By Whitney Hudson

Sources:
Al Jazeera
Reuters
BBC

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