Libya Interim Prime Minister Steps Down Under Violent Threat
For nearly 42 years, Dictator Moammar Gadhafi ruled Libya with an iron fist and extreme brutality which supported international terrorism and violated the human rights of his own citizens. In 2011 he was toppled during the civil war, following the start of the Arab Spring earlier that year, and he was murdered in October by rebel militia. Following his demise, Libya had an interim government for nine months. Ali Zeida became prime minister in November 2012, but was ousted after 18 months due to disputes over oil exports and government criticism about the country’s instability and lack of improved security. On April 8th Abdullah al-Thani was named Interim Prime Minister by Parliament. His governance was short-lived: On April 12th his family experienced violent attacks from armed militia, threatening their lives. And, on April 13 he made a declaration that, instead of holding a parliamentary mandate to form a new government, he would step down.
Since the end of Gadhafi’s long regime, in which armed groups have forced political violence, Libya has been plagued by instability. Since 2011 armed militia have been on the rise throughout the country and Libyan politicians have been targeted with kidnappings and assassinations. During this time, Libyan authorities have attempted to restrain the armed groups, but have been unsuccessful.
On March 11th Prime Minister Ali Zeida was pushed out of office by a Libya Parliament no-confidence vote. There was a power struggle within Parliament between Islamists and anti-Islamist political factions. The Islamists had been trying to oust Mr. Zeida. In addition, there had been an impasse between the Libyan central government and militia in central Libya regarding oil sales. This reached a critical point when a tank ship with a North Korean flag, carrying oil from a rebel port, broke through a naval blockade. Following U.S. intervention in which U.S. Navy Seals boarded the ship south of Cyprus, the ship and cargo were turned over to Libyan authorities.
Prior to taking over for Mr. Zeida as Interim Prime Minister last week, Mr. al-Thani had served as defense minister under Mr. Zeida. Furthermore, when Gadhafi had been in power, Mr. al-Thani’s brother had been critical of Libya’s intervention in the internal affairs of its neighboring country Chad. For this reason, Mr. al-Thani had been detained multiple times under Gadhafi’s rule.
Regarding the recent attack on the interim prime minister and his family, Mr. al-Thani issued a statement that, while no injuries were incurred, the violent threat was very real. Details of the militia attack are unclear, but reports state that it occurred on the road to the airport in Libya’s capital, Tripoli. Mr. al-Thani expressed that he felt it was in the best interest of the people of Libya for him to step down.
Libya has had its share of oppressive despots and in-country violence, as well as colonialism by Italy and the U.K., which leaders – notably Gadhafi – fought against. Those in sub-Saharan Africa have touted the former dictator as a champion of anti-imperialism. Former Cuban President Fidel Castro, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, and even former South African President Nelson Mandela praised Gadhafi for his stances.
In Libya Interim Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani’s recent statement about stepping down, he said that to remain in office could lead to infighting between different sides, whereby there would be no winner. He said that he would not accept violent threat and that he would not allow himself to be the cause of even “one drop of blood being spilled.” The interim prime minister and his cabinet will remain in power until the General National Congress is appointed by the Libya congress.
By Fern Remedi-Brown