Tobruk: Libya’s new interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah was sworn in Monday to lead the war-torn country’s transition to elections in December, after years of chaos and division.
The North African nation descended into conflict after Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and killed in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011, resulting in multiple forces vying for power.
A United Nations-supervised process is aimed at uniting the country, building on an October ceasefire between rival administrations in the country’s east and west.
Dbeibah, selected at UN-sponsored talks in February alongside an interim three-member presidency council, took the oath of office in front of lawmakers in the eastern city of Tobruk.
More than 1,000km from the capital Tripoli in the west, Tobruk has been the seat of Libya’s elected parliament since 2014.
Dbeibah’s swearing-in comes after parliament last week approved his cabinet, in a move hailed by key leaders and foreign powers as “historic”.
His government includes two deputy prime ministers, 26 ministers and six ministers of state, with five posts including the key foreign affairs and justice portfolios handed to women, a first in Libya.
“This will be the government of all Libyans,” Dbeibah said after the vote. “Libya is one and united.”
The new executive faces daunting challenges to unify the country’s institutions, end a decade of fighting and prepare for elections on December 24.
Dbeibah, 61, a wealthy businessman from the western port city of Misrata, once held posts under Gaddafi but has shown no clear ideological position.
During Gaddafi’s rule, Misrata underwent an industrial and economic boom, from which the Dbeibah family and many others profited.
Dbeibah holds a master’s degree from the University of Toronto in engineering, and his expertise introduced him to Gaddafi’s inner circle and led him to head a company managing huge construction projects.
Dbeibah was considered an outsider compared to other candidates vying for the job, and his election process has been marred by allegations of vote-buying.
But Dbeibah jumped into his role even before his inauguration, including pledging to combat the coronavirus crisis, and taking anti-corruption measures by freezing state-owned investment funds.
But after 42 years of dictatorship under Gaddafi and a decade of violence, the list of challenges is long.
The population of seven million, sitting atop Africa’s largest proven crude oil reserves, is mired in a dire economic crisis, with soaring unemployment, crippling inflation and endemic corruption.