22 – 28 April: Haftar declares military rule

Apr 29, 2020 | Libyan actors

On 27 April, in a brief televised address on Libya al-Hadath TV, Libya National Army (LNA) head Khalifa Haftar claimed that the LNA had a “popular mandate” to rule Libya. Haftar declared the 2015 Shkirat Agreement, known as the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), as a “thing of the past”, claiming it had destroyed the country. In a statement on 28 April, the Government of National Accord (GNA) called Haftar’s announcement “a farce” and “the latest in a long series of coups d’etat”, and accused Haftar of turning his back on the parallel political institutions that backed him.

On 23 April, Haftar called on people in eastern Libya to take to the streets and give him a popular mandate to seize authority and establish military rule in order to manage the affairs of the country.  There was a significant social response in the eastern region to Haftar’s speech, with multiple municipalities, tribes, and civil society organisations (including LNA-aligned groups in western Libya) expressing support for the LNA and military rule.   On 23 April, the Obeidat tribe announced their support for the LNA. In their statement, they also rejected the LPA.

On 22 April, GNA-aligned forces in the north-western region, spanning from Zawiyya through Sabratha to Zuwara, initiated defensive reinforcements and strengthened their positions following reported movement of LNA forces north of Watiya airbase. On 25-26 April, a 40-50-vehicle convoy of LNA forces are alleged to have withdrawn from Watiya airbase, located south of Zuwara, returning to Zintan and Rujban. On 26 April, GNA-aligned forces allegedly launched aerial attacks on the airbase, with several number of deaths reported. At the time of writing, Watiya remains under the control of LNA forces.

Throughout the last week, GNA-aligned forces have targeted the town of Tarhouna, as well as supply routes into the town near Bani Walid, with multiple airstrikes. The GNA forces have also attempted to cut off electricity, telecommunications, fuel and food supplies into the town. There has been significant displacement of civilians in Tarhouna as a result, with some 3,100 people fleeing so far according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). However, since the GNA launched its military operation to capture Tarhouna from multiple fronts on 18 April, there have been limited ground assaults on the location.