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Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

Libya: Is Dbeibeh a New Gaddafi?

Dbeibeh
Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah takes part in a press conference at the end of the International Conference on Libya at La Maison de la Chimie in Paris on November 12, 2021. Yoan VALAT / POOL / AFP

Khaled Mahmoud

“He who did not visit Libya missed everything.” This phrase is a very accurate one, proven by the miserable decade that the cursed oil-state went through, as it prepares to celebrate, on Feb. 11, the 11th anniversary of overthrowing former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after 42 years of his reign.

While the regional and international disputes over Libya are at a standstill, the political elite still cannot establish a political and administrative regime alternative to Gaddafi’s state.

Abdul Hamid al-Dbeibeh, the head of the interim unity government, is fighting what seems like his last battle to stay in office, while the House of Representatives in Tobruk is embarking on a new journey to choose an alternative to Dbeibeh. At the same time, Biden’s administration, which is practically leading the United Nations mission in Libya, has a veto weapon against this displacement.

Dbeibeh appears like one of the faltering heads of government in the Arab world through a series of dramatic, dark-comedy statements.

Dbeibeh, the wealthy businessman from Misurata, who made his fortune during Gaddafi’s era, presents himself as another model for investing money to reach power. He tries to be a new version of former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who cried and bid farewell to his political life in Lebanon.

Gaddafi was known for his eccentricities and controversial statements, not to mention his domestic and foreign policy. Now, Dbeibeh is following in his footsteps, announcing that Gaddafi is not dead as some people believe.

And that is not in the sense that some former regime’s advocates frequently repeat. In an interview with a foreign TV channel recently, one of these advocates did not hesitate to boast with controversy, fabricated and incorrect information that Gaddafi, who the world believes died at the end of 2011 in a bloody scene, is still alive.

On that day, the man presented by the channel as a former military commander in the Libyan army and a confidant of Gaddafi seemed mentally unbalanced to cast a ridiculous joke that Gaddafi is still alive and will appear one day.

However, that day won’t come, not because there are parties that might prevent him from reappearing or for logistical reasons, but simply because Gaddafi died. His body was buried in an unknown location in Misurata.

A Victory Stolen

According to Major General Ahmed al-Mismari, the official spokesman for the National Army stationed in the east of Libya, Dbeibeh possessed the audacity to try to steal the victory that the army forces recently achieved over the remnants of ISIS near Jabal Asida in southern Libya.

Although the army distributed videos that show beyond any doubt that its forces, stationed in the east and south, are responsible for the destruction of ISIS, Dbeibeh tried to refer the credit to the forces loyal to his government.

Major General Khaled al-Mahjoub, the head of Morale Guidance in the National Army, took advantage of Dbeibeh’s lament for those that had nothing to do with the battles in the south to confirm Dbeibeh’s hostility toward the army. At the same time, his government “disburses funds in supporting the continuation of armed militias that promote chaos and tighten his grip over the freedom of the homeland and people, suppressing and terrorising them.”

Dbeibeh sought to play the counter-terrorism card in front of the international community. Still, the army thwarted the attempt, just as it did when it exposed his reluctance to pay soldiers salaries.

Chad Visit

YouTube video

During his visit to Chad, Dbeibeh used incorrect words while chanting the Libyan national anthem. The video went viral on social media. (Video)

On his recent visit to Chad, the same day that the House of Representatives announced the start of the search for a successor to Dbeibeh, along with his Cabinet, the latter stuttered while singing the Libyan national anthem.

Dbeibeh chanted strange words in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, which made him the subject of ridicule by Libyans on social media, not only because he did not memorise the words of the anthem but because he invented a new one.

Dbeibeh was repeating strange and incomprehensible words. Instead of saying, “O my country, You’re the heritage of my ancestors,” he said: “Oh, my country, you are the fire of the ancestors!” and added: “No matter the death toll if you’ve died!” instead of “No matter the death toll if you’ve been saved!”

The visit, on the 27th of last January, was mainly an escape forward, as Dbeibeh sought to present himself as a prime minister who exercises his duties and visits a foreign country, while the Parliament sought to turn the page of his government, which has been operating since March 2021.

Cutting the Quran Verses Short

However, Gaddafi, as an idea, apparently did not die. The man that the Libyans missed does exist in Dbeibeh, who jumped to power after the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum sponsored by the UN Mission in Geneva, where 75 people appointed by the mission for unknown reasons chose him.

Dbeibeh appeared on TV in his government’s first meeting after a halt due to his candidacy for the postponed presidential elections, funnily shortening Quranic verses.

In the official meeting, Dbeibeh asked the ministers to publicly recite Surat al-Fatihah with him to lament the soul of the writer Ali al-Misrati who died recently.

But Dbeibeh did not finish the Surah, just as Gaddafi sometimes did.

He read only four verses but was nevertheless expressing a remarkable state of mind by saying: “Almighty God has spoken truly,” given that he had read the Surah correctly from his point of view.

Ahmed al-Libi’s public appeal via Twitter to Dbeibeh to establish a linguistic advisory board to revise his speeches before presenting them to the public did not work. The prime minister still presents comic breaks now and then.

Avoiding Confrontation

Cameras recorded clips of Dbeibeh’s escape after an outburst due to criticism by one of the sports media anchors upon checking the state of playgrounds in Tripoli as they were deteriorating.

Dbeibeh openly argued with his critics, but he quickly left after finding out that this criticism is also directed towards his government’s performance, as it hinted at a corruption accusation towards his ministers, so he left with no comment.

Hypocrisy in the Mosque

Dbeibeh
A picture taken for Libya’s interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah (C) when he registered, on November 21, 2021, his candidacy for the presidential election in the capital Tripoli. Mahmud TURKIA / AFP

But what he did in a previous Friday prayer deserves applause. Dbeibeh sat in a mosque in Misurata listening, with traces of emotion on his face, to a sermon by one of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders, Osama al-Sallabi, who asked Dbeibeh to remain in power until elections are held, which may not necessarily happen.

Dbeibeh appeared in the sermon influenced by the hypocrisy of Sallabi, as he enumerated the virtues and achievements of his government, which only “the envious” would deny.

The official “Hakomitna” platform, affiliated with Dbeibeh’s government, adopted the sermon and re-broadcasted it on social media. At the same time, the House of Representatives Youth, Labor and Social Affairs Committee criticised Dbeibeh’s statements about contributing to the marriage of “spinsters”.

Objectifying Women

The committee demanded that Dbeibeh apologises to the Libyan women for insulting and objectifying them and condemned what it described as irresponsible declarations. Still, according to its statement, it did not find that surprising since Dbeibeh neglected his moral commitment when he ran for office after he promised not to.

Zahra’ Langhi, a member of the Political Dialogue Forum, which contributed to bringing Dbeibeh as prime minister, considered that her tasks and responsibilities specified in the roadmap did not include stimulating the market for single women.

She addressed Dbeibeh, saying: “The issue has to do with your understanding of, and commitment to the roadmap that brought you, and it has nothing to do with living inside or outside the country and knowing the language of our dear ones.”

Journalist Rawya Abu Khashim mocked Dbeibeh and said that Libyan women are not a can of tuna or cheese to encourage purchasing it for 40,000 dinars and demanded that he officially presents an apology to all the Libyan women.

The Minister of Justice, Halima al-Busifi, argued about the ministers’ immunity, Mabrouka Othman, the Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, who was detained recently by order of the Public Prosecutor, Al-Siddiq al-Sour on charges of involvement in financial and administrative corruption.

In her defence of her imprisoned colleagues, Halima called on the government not to submit to public opinion after arguing that they have immunity and that women are only imprisoned in the direst circumstances.

Conspiracy Theory

Dbeibeh, who considered that the campaign directed against him alone was also targeting his Cabinet, spoke about his government’s exposure to what he described as a “conspiracy.” Still, he did not specify the parties involved.

Commenting on the cases in which the judiciary accuses his government, Dbeibeh considered that “the arrest of our ministers publicly is provocative, and it is unacceptable that every minister who says a couple of words would be thrown in prison.”

Othman is the third minister in the unity government to be imprisoned or arrested after her colleague, Musa al-Maqrif, the Minister of Education, and Ali al-Zanati, the Minister of Health. al-Maqrif imprisonment is due to the delay in supplying the textbook for the current year, while al-Zanati is on corruption charges.

Thus, very simply, out of the 35 ministers in the government, three of them are in prison until further notice.

What is happening is ridiculous in a country that needs a serious and productive government. Perhaps this is what prompted Rayan Sharif to tweet, “Despite the benefits and high salaries, every day a minister falls for corruption in Libya. Very soon the government will exercise its duties from inside prison”.

Indeed, this prophecy will mostly come true after Dbeibeh attacked Facebook. Commenting on the circulation of the news about forging his university degree and his concealment of obtaining another nationality, Dbeibeh said in front of a group of women: “May God damn Facebook that destroyed Libya.”

Dbeibeh, whose critics say he won his status with money, and as a businessman, he made a suspicious deal with some members of the Dialogue Forum to win his current position. Still, the UN withheld information about that scandal mentioned in a confidential report to the Security Council.

But despite all this, it will not be easy for the United States administration or the United Nations to admit the failure of the two successive attempts in the Skhirat Agreement in Morocco of 2015 and Geneva last year to install an interim government in Libya. Simply put, the two sides will not accept giving up Dbeibeh.

It was not a coincidence that American diplomat, Stephanie Williams, warned of the presence of two governments and called on the House of Representatives to abandon the idea of ​​removing Dbeibeh. The United States Ambassador in Libya, Richard Norland, also did the same.

Since taking office, the absurd statements that Dbeibeh made put his educational level in question. Such a thing reveals part of Libya’s tragedy. It also points at those who dragged him from the back rows to the forefront of the scene.

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