By Vanessa Tomassini.
Benghazi – Tunis, 21 March2021 – The new Prime Minister of Libya, Abdul Hamid al-Dabaiba, asked the Public Prosecutor’s Office on Friday to open an investigation into the bodies that were found on Thursday morning in Benghazi, providing instructions to the Ministry of the Interior on the management of the accident. The Prime Minister himself indicated that in a tweet, expressing condolences to the families of the victims, and underlining that these events cannot in any way be tolerated, hidden or accepted. Al-Dabaiba explained he had given direct instructions to the Interior Minister to deal with this incident, and asked the Attorney General to open an investigation into the matter. On Thursday morning, the security services in Benghazi allegedly found a dozen corpses, handcuffed, with bullet holes in the head, suggesting an execution, near the cement plant in the Al-Hawari area, south of the city. The media provided conflicting numbers of the bodies found in the area, some talking about six, others eleven, while the area was being isolated to allow investigators to complete the required procedures. The security services of the city of Benghazi declined to comment on the news, and no statements were issued confirming or denying the discovery of these bodies.
A precarious economic situation
The security situation in the eastern region is stable, with agencies playing an excellent role in maintaining public order. Residents and foreigners are free to move and meet, just as young people and children who lead a normal life in serenity. However, residents report alarming criminal incidents in recent weeks. In fact, there is an increase in thefts and attempted robberies, thanks to the precarious economic situation, with more and more families struggling to make it to the end of the month, but also an increase in foreigners from Egypt and the south of the African continent. On the night between Tuesday and Wednesday, a gang armed with a knife allegedly robbed two pharmacies in the outskirts of Benghazi. Local sources also reported an increase in petty theft and car theft and the population hopes that the new government will be able to provide concrete answers at the financial level, also in view of the holy month of Ramadan.
Crimes by armed groups
According to local sources, in recent weeks, armed groups have raided the eastern office of the Libyan Central Bank to demand payment of compensation for war wounded. Earlier this month, Mahmoud al-Werfalli, already wanted by the International Criminal Court for the summary execution of several prisoners accused of terrorism, devastated a subsidiary of the Toyota company in the south of the city.
The importance of the tribal fabric
Faced with these crimes, the eastern tribes gathered to discuss how to deal with them, often denied or hidden by the authorities. The Al-Obeidat Tribe issued a statement condemning the incidents of kidnapping, forced detention, murder and house violation in the region, calling for the immediate release of the detainees, including Siddiq Al-Mabrouk Al-Obaidi, who still arrested without any formal charge since December 18, 2015. At the end of a session of meetings between sheikhs, dignitaries and representatives of civil society, the Tribal Council invited the judicial and security authorities to intervene quickly and investigate the murder cases and kidnapping, including the killing of many activists and politicians. It also asked for the restitution to the legitimate owners of properties stolen in Derna and Benghazi, allowing the return of displaced people from other areas of Libya and from abroad.
A new security plans
On Saturday, March 20, the Benghazi Security Room announced a new plan, asking business activities to install surveillance cameras to help security agencies identify perpetrators of illegal activities. It also announced the opening of a desk to receive complaints and reports from citizens. Security agencies also announced the obligation to install license plates on military and civilian vehicles, adding that arrests will be conducted exclusively through the military prosecutor’s office.
Benghazi a city projected to the future, but beware of mafias
Local and foreign companies have benefited from the difference in exchange between the official and the black market. A small group of people and businessmen with links to Libyan and foreign banks have been able to transfer large sums of money abroad through sophisticated mechanisms that have allowed them to circumvent current regulations. This has led over the years to a profound plundering of resources with more and more families in difficulty, while shady actors have grown rich faster and faster. Today Benghazi is projected towards the future, towards reconstruction. Shopping centers, hospitals, new housing complexes are springing up, although the residents look with suspicion at the origin of these funds and private investments, clearly speaking of “mafias” although there is no evidence.
The destabilizing role of the media
The media continue to have a parochial and divisive attitude within the Libyan community. Media agencies and owners of heterogeneous social network pages, based in the east or west of the country, highlight the problems of the other region or target public figures, and political figures, through fake news and rumors campaigns. These characters, who have entered the media vortex, have in some cases become victims. As in the case of the MP Seham Sergewa or activist Hanan Al-Barassi. Unscrupulous media campaigns affect all spheres of life, including the coronavirus emergency, through the dissemination of incorrect numbers or false myths that target some cities over others, in particular Misurata. Likewise, Benghazi has been the target of fierce media campaigns that portray a security situation that is worse or better than actually perceived.
A bright future is possible
In this regard, the new Interior Minister Khaled Mazen invited everyone to support the new executive in carrying out his duties, turning the page of the past, and rejecting hate speech and completely eliminating it from the media. Mazen stressed that the current positive atmosphere should be harnessed to achieve a bright future through integration and prioritizing the interests of the homeland, without neglecting the human rights file and the conditions of displaced persons, as well as working to safeguard the rights and the freedoms of citizens and foreigners alike.
The current excitement that has welcomed the new Government of National Unity is reminiscent of the days following the inauguration of Fayez al-Sarraj, or the euphoria experienced immediately after the overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011. That must be a warning to the new executive and to the international community to avoid the mistakes made in the past. Dabaiba and Menfi must not barricade in the capital, but continue to ensure their presence across the Country through frequent visits. Providing concrete answers and ensuring national elections, facts and not slogans, is what the Libyans are asking for. If that doesn’t happen, Libya will fall back into the maelstrom of violence, and everyone behind the scenes is ready for this possibility.
Ordinary people in Benghazi and eastern Libya want to live in peace and rebuild their country. They are looking to the future with simplicity, without losing attachment to their roots. They gather on the street to play traditional music, and works tirelessly to improve their current conditions. Talented, trained and highly skilled young people, especially women, can make a positive contribution to building a new State if they are not crushed by those in power, prejudice, as well as the interference of foreign actors who have contributed to the current circumstances.