Abdullah Al Thani, the head of the government, which is not recognised internationally, submitted its resignation to the speaker of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh.

Libyan youth block a road with burning tyres in Libya's eastern coastal city of Benghazi on September 12, 2020, as they protest the poor public services and living conditions.
Libyan youth block a road with burning tyres in Libya's eastern coastal city of Benghazi on September 12, 2020, as they protest the poor public services and living conditions. (AFP)

Libya’s eastern-based government aligned with warlord Khalifa Haftar has resigned amid street protests that erupted across the divided country over dire living conditions.

Abdullah Al Thani, the head of the government, which is not recognised internationally, submitted its resignation to the speaker of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives, Aguila Saleh, during an urgent meeting in which they discussed the protesters’ demands.

Abdallah Abaihig, a spokesman for the so-called parliament, confirmed the government's resignation, saying lawmakers would review it in their next meeting. No date set for the session.

The government, which holds little real power, submitted its resignation to the so-called parliament on Sunday.

The so-called parliament on Friday accused the Central Bank and government in the capital of Tripoli of “plundering” the country and neglecting the east, in apparent efforts to deflect blame for the deterioration of public services.

Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed. The country has since split between rival east- and west-based administrations, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.

Both the so-called parliament and Al Thani’s government, which is not internationally recognised, are allied with warlord Haftar, which controls Libya’s east and south.

Hundreds of young Libyans flooded the streets of Benghazi and other eastern cities in the past couple of days in a spontaneous outburst of anger over the area’s crippling electricity shortages.

Protesters in eastern Libya set piles of tires a blaze and blocked traffic in several major roads. On Saturday, protesters attempted to storm a security headquarters in eastern town of Marj.

'Excessive use of force'

The UN Support Mission in Libya, or UNSMIL, said at least one civilian was reportedly killed and three others were wounded.

It called for “a thorough and immediate” investigation into “the reported excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrations” and the speedy release of a number of detained protesters.

The demonstrations mirror similar recent protests over power cuts and corruption in the capital Tripoli and other western cities in recent weeks. The protests have led to a power struggle within the UN-supported government.

The recent protests across Libya were “motivated by deep-seated frustrations about sustained poor living conditions, shortages of electricity and water, rampant corruption, misgovernance, and a lack of service provision throughout the country,” the UNSMIL said.

The UN mission said the protests underscore “the urgent need to lift the oil blockade” and the return to a “full and inclusive” political process to end Libya’s years long conflict.

READ MORE: Libya's eastern parliament meets after rare protests erupt 

Protesters angry over the area’s crippling electricity shortages, set fire to tires, September 10, 2020 in Benghazi, Libya.
Protesters angry over the area’s crippling electricity shortages, set fire to tires, September 10, 2020 in Benghazi, Libya. (AP)

Protesters set government building on fire

Protesters set fire to the government's headquarters in the Libyan city of Benghazi, as rare demonstrations over living conditions and corruption continued in the east of the country for a third day.

The protests late on Saturday also erupted in Al Bayda, where the government was previously based, in Sabha in the south, and for the first time in Al Marj, a stronghold of warlord Haftar, witnesses said.

In Al Marj, residents said there were clashes between security personnel and protesters, and heavy gunfire could be heard in videos posted on social media.

Libya has been split into rival camps with parallel institutions in the east and west since 2014. Eastern Libya and much of the south is controlled by Haftar's LNA, which is aligned with a government and so-called parliament also based in the east.

A 14-month offensive by the LNA to take control of the capital, Tripoli, from the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) crumbled in June, weakening Haftar.

READ MORE: Protests in Libya's Benghazi over poor living conditions and power cuts

Grievances

The protests have been fuelled by anger at the political elite and at deteriorating living conditions, including lengthy power cuts and a severe banking crisis.

Similar protests broke out in late August in western Libya.

In Benghazi the protesters, some armed, set fire to the government building, leaving its white facade charred black, according to witnesses.

The building was constructed after the LNA took control of Benghazi in 2017 following a campaign that left parts of the port city in ruins.

The economic crisis across Libya and power cuts in the east have been worsened by a blockade of most of the country's oil facilities imposed by the LNA and its supporters since January.

The United States said on Saturday that Haftar had agreed to end the blockade, but sources in eastern Libya said negotiations were ongoing. 

The GNA was founded in 2015 under a UN-led agreement, but efforts for a long-term political settlement failed due to a military offensive by forces loyal to Haftar.

The UN recognises the government headed by Prime Minister Fayez Al Sarraj as the country's legitimate authority as Tripoli has battled Haftar's militias since April 2019 in a conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.

READ MORE: Rival Libya sides hold talks in Morocco amid truce

Source: TRTWorld and agencies