Provincial leaders announce a regional government to challenge the weak central authority that has failed to unite the country.
Eastern Libya declared an autonomous regional government in an official ceremony, challenging the country’s weak central government which has failed to assume unifying power over rebels and various tribes since the 2011 war broke out. ousted Muammar Gaddafi.
Leaders of an autonomy movement gathered in the small town of Ajdabiya on Sunday to launch the government under the name of Barqa, or Cyrenaica as it is also known, supporters said.
A pro-federalist television channel showed more than 20 ministers being sworn in on a podium decorated with a Cyrenaica flag.
They were joined by tribal leader Ibrahim Jathran, the former head of Libya’s Petroleum Protection Force responsible for guarding oil installations, who defected this summer and seized the biggest ports Ras Lanuf and Es-Sider with his troops.
Jathran stood next to self-proclaimed Prime Minister Abd-Rabbo al-Barassi, a defected air force commander.
The announcement is a symbolic blow to the Tripoli government’s efforts to reopen eastern ports and oil fields blocked since the summer by rebels and tribesmen demanding a greater share of power and oil wealth.
This has no practical meaning, but is sure to worsen ties between the east and Tripoli, which has rejected the notion of autonomy.
Officials were not immediately available for comment.
Lawlessness has ravaged large areas of the OPEC producer since Gaddafi’s ousting in 2011. The government has been unable to rein in rebel groups and armed tribes.
Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has been seeking contacts with the East in recent days as he tries to reopen blocked oil ports in an area housing 60% of the country’s oil production.
Protesters and strikes at ports and oilfields have caused crude production to fall to around 10% of Libya’s capacity of 1.25 million barrels per day.
The North African country was pumping 1.4 million bpd until the strikes began.