Ghwell’s Seizure of Tripoli Ministries & Blackouts Provoke Tensions

Jan 17, 2017 | Libyan actors

On 12 January, militias allied to Khalifa al-Ghwell, leader of a rival government in Tripoli, seized several ministerial buildings in Tripoli. Al-Ghwell took over the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Ministry of Defense, seizing it just hours after a meeting was conducted there between GNA Defense Minister Mahdi al-Barghathi, and UN Security Envoy Paolo Serra. Al-Ghwell still retains some power and influence among certain ministries and militias in Tripoli. His ability to move freely around the capital and take physical control of GNA institutions (albeit not political control) is severely damaging the GNA’s credibility.

Last week, Tripoli suffered power outages lasting over 15 hours in many areas, in addition to city-wide flooding. Increasing militia tensions also triggered violence and civil disobedience in the city. Clashes were reported in Gurgi between a Misratan militia and another armed group belonging to the Mobile Forces brigade in Hay al-Andalus. Other clashes took place between fighters from Haithem Tajouri’s Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade and a militia commanded by ‘Khoja’ in Bin Ashour. One was killed and another senior aide to Haithem injured. Civil disobedience is growing in reaction to the chronic lack of power, with many roads blocked and key infrastructure blockaded across the capital last week.

Anger against Misratan brigades in southern Libya is also rising as the region enters its second week without power, water, fuel or gas for most of its cities. Armed groups in the south are threatening to cut the water supply to Tripoli if the power cuts continue. Libya’s ambassador to France, al-Shibani Abu Hmoud,  who is from southern Libya, warned Misrata that the actions of its Third Force in southern  Libya will provoke a fierce reaction from local tribes. Hmoud accused Misratan forces of blocking vital supplies from reaching the region, especially the Brak al-Shati area where the Third Force is battling Libyan National Army (LNA) forces.

The local municipality of Souq al-Juma, an area in east Tripoli, issued a formal warning to the GNA last week, warning of reprisals against the GNA and others responsible for causing the extensive blackouts in Tripoli. This is in reference to the armed group in Zawiyya who have cut off the gas supply to Zawiyya power station which supplies electricity to western and southern Libya. Negotiations with the Zawiyya group are ongoing, but they are demanding release of locals kidnapped in Wershefana.