Esam Al-Fetori / Reuters A view of the street after a violent clashes between Libyan interim government forces and loyalists of Muammar Gaddafi in Sirte, October 18, 2011

Libya's Unity Problem

And How the West Contributes

After almost two years of civil war among the various armed forces that have backed either the internationally recognized House of Representatives based in the eastern Libyan city of Tobruk or the rival General National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli, Libya has finally made some progress toward establishing a unity government, known as the Government of National Accord (GNA). On March 30, the UN-appointed prime minister of the unity government, Fayez al-Sarraj, and six of his advisers secretly traveled to Tripoli and established their presence in the heavily secured Abu Setta naval base. Since then, the new government has taken control of a handful of ministries and the Rixos Hotel, where the GNC had previously been meeting. Despite some success in the capital, however, the GNA faces major obstacles.

The GNC remains one of these obstacles, no doubt, but today, the main challenge comes from the House of Representatives and its allies. The House of Representatives was required to vote on accepting and joining the unity government ten days after signing the UN-brokered peace deal on December 17, 2015, but nearly half a year later, it still has not done so. Despite its favorable standing in the new government, the House of Representatives and its allies remain obstinate. Instead of compromising, some of them seek to completely delegitimize their opponents.


The West recognized the House of Representatives since the June 2014 parliamentary elections, which gave it some degree of legitimacy even though the voter turnout was less than 20 percent. The House of Representatives included familiar faces such as Mahmoud Jibril—a cooperative figure from the National Transitional Council, an interim government that ruled Libya after Muammar al-Qaddafi until a 2012 vote—and boasted secular leanings that seemed to make it more in line with the West.

The GNC was less attractive to the West. It was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and its allies, which would later form Libya Dawn, included some fairly nefarious figures. Many of Libya Dawn’s leaders came from the Libyan

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