A senior UN official for Libya has condemned the storming of parliament headquarters by angry protesters as part of protests in several cities against the country’s economic turmoil and political deadlock.
Hundreds of protesters marched through 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.
“The 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 late yesterday in Tobruk, are totally unacceptable,” said Stephanie Williams, the UN special secretary. advisor for Libya, on Twitter. on Saturday.
“It is absolutely vital that calm is maintained, that responsible Libyan leadership is shown and that everyone observes restraint.”
1/2 The people’s right to protest peacefully must be respected and protected, but riots and vandalism, such as the storming of the House of Representatives headquarters in Tobruk late yesterday, are totally unacceptable.
— Stephanie Turco Williams (@SASGonLibya) July 2, 2022
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 UN, the dispute now revolves around the eligibility requirements for candidates.
Libya failed to hold elections in December, amid challenges such as 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.
Interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah leads a government in Tripoli, while former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha is supported by the House of Representatives in Tobruk and military renegade Khalifa Haftar.
Protesters have also risen against the poor economic conditions in the oil-rich country, where fuel and bread prices have risen and power cuts are a regular occurrence.
The Libyan energy sector has also fallen victim to political divisions, with a spate of forced shutdowns of oil facilities since April.
Government supporters in the east have shut off oil taps as leverage in their efforts to hand over power to Bashagha, whose bid to take office in Tripoli in May ended in a swift withdrawal.
Libyan National Oil Corporation has announced a loss of more than $3.5 billion from the shutdowns and a decline in gas production, which is having a knock-on effect on the electricity grid.
In recent weeks there have been repeated clashes between armed groups in Tripoli, raising fears of a return to full-scale conflict.
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”.
Libya has been ravaged by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 overthrew and killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi.
The country was then divided for years between rival governments in the east and west, each supported by different armed groups and foreign governments.