Libya’s rocky state is a result of well-established militias that have way too much power. But one group went too far for Libya’s weak parliament, when it humiliated the national armed forces by arranging an illegal sale of a shipload of the country’s oil and helping a tanker not only sail from a rebel-held terminal but also break through a naval blockade and escape into the Mediterranean Sea, underscoring the weakness of the central government.
The parliament promptly dismissed liberal Prime Minister Ali Zeidan on Tuesday and replaced him with Defence Minister Abdullah Al Thinni. Zeidan has struggled for months with the powerful Islamist blocs in the parliament, and the move leaves the country at a loss as to what will happen next. The Libyans can take some small consolation that the dismissal of the prime minister was done constitutionally, rather than by some militia walking into his office and holding him to ransom. It is hard to see what Zeidan might have done given the parlous state of the Libyan armed forces, but clearly parliament expected him to have done more.
This dramatic incident shows how Libya may start to break apart as the government fails to control the several armed militias and tribal forces that helped oust dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but are still armed and in the field, and are working to dominate different areas of the country while grabbing power and oil revenues.