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New Libya PM promises a peaceful political transition

Newly selected Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah addressed the Libyan nation on Saturday [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 February, 2021

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Newly selected Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah addressed the Libyan nation on Saturday, giving the first steps of the transition towards general elections
In his first address to the nation on Saturday, newly selected transitional Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah vowed to create an inclusive and transparent administration to bring about unification and democratic elections. 

In a televised statement on Saturday, Dbeibah said that the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LDPF) election is the victory of "national unity, reconciliation and democracy", adding that he would fulfil his promises toward holding general elections on December 24, 2021. 

Dbeibah also said the LPDF roadmap will pave the way to end conflicts and reach elections, in order to put an end to the transitional phases in Libya, and vowed to work with all parties regardless of their ideologies, background or regional locations.

Dbeibah, a 61-year-old engineer, was selected on Friday as interim prime minister by 75 Libyan delegates at UN-led talks outside Geneva, as well as three presidency council posts.

His selection is the culmination of the LPDF, a dialogue process launched in November by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya.

Far from being the obvious choice, surprise reigned in the final run-off when the list headed by Dbeibah beat that of Fathi Bashagha, the GNA's powerful interior minister, by 39 votes to 34.

It marks the start of a new chapter for Libya, six years after the failure of a UN-brokered deal that established a Government of National Accord (GNA) headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.

This agreement is supposed to end up the divisions between the GNA in the Libyan capital of Tripoli and a rival administration backed by military warlord Khalifa Haftar in the east.

Dbeibah is largely seen as an outsider and had a close association with Libya’s former longtime ruler, Muammar Gaddafi before his death in 2011.

Born in 1959 in the western city of Misrata, Dbeibah moved to Canada to study engineering, a career that pushed him to the close circle of Gaddafi.

The former leader had him run the state-owned Libyan Investment and Development Company (LIDCO), responsible for some of the country’s biggest public works projects, in 2007.

A will to unite and pacify

Bigger challenges now await him, as he has 20 days to form a cabinet and another three weeks to win a vote of confidence in parliament in order to build up a 10-month transition before the elections.

During his televised speech, Dbeibah made sure that his strong will to succeed was clear.

"Failure in this sensitive stage of the history of Libya and its people is not an option," he said. "And therefore, I invite everyone without exception to rally around this government to start the serious work to rebuild our country on a solid basis."

He pledged that his government would support women, the youth, local governments and promote freedom of opinion.

Reactions from abroad, but also from inside, were quick to emerge.

Acting UN envoy Stephanie Williams, who facilitated the week-long talks in Switzerland, called it a "historic moment", while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: "I do believe it is a breakthrough".

Eastern Libyan forces on Saturday evening welcomed the appointment of the interim government, with Haftar congratulating "the national figures" selected.

"The Libyan people hope that it will work tirelessly to provide services and prepare the country for general elections on December 24, 2021," Haftar said.

Some citizens were more cautious in celebrating the news.

Tripoli resident Allaedin Sheryana who told Al Jazeera: "The government will have a large task at hand; it won’t be easy […] We hope they will be able to make some changes but because it’s such a short term, I doubt they’ll be able to do much."

On a more practical level, the joint military committee set up to de-escalate between fighters from both sides of the country around the front lines near Sirte and said that a collective force would begin demining operations on February 10.

They are preparing to open the coastal road between the Cyrenaica region and Tripoli.

It’s a transit route between Libya’s east and west which has been closed since April 2019 and would allow people move more freely and to help with the implementation of an October ceasefire agreement.

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