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Mayor and council of Benghazi replaced by Libyan military colonel

Larabi is a senior intelligence chief in the LNA which is commanded by General Kahlifa Haftar. Neither Haftar nor the HoR recognize the UN-backed Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA). Activists claim the move is illegal and a prelude to military rule. The news agency LANA claims the move was made without consulting local legislators. Some pro-democracy activists claim that Haftar has no intention of joining with the GNA and military rule is inevitable. Awad al-Gwayri, who is a member of the council, which has been suspended, said: “If the military wants to run things this way, it must abolish all laws and declare martial law. Our election was legitimate.” Larabi has been named military commander of the city.

Any demonstrations or protests without prior approval have been banned by the city’s new leadership. While many Benghazi residents were happy that Haftar has been clearing Benghazi of jihadist fighters, some are now worried that the campaign is going too far and undermining those trying to protect democratic values. Local activist, Mohamed Murati, said: “The major battle was against Islamic State and extremism, but it will now be shifted to a battle against civil society and the dream of a civil state,”

Major General Abdul Al-Nazhuri, appointed military governor of northern Cyrenaica in June by the HoR, made the announcement. A source close to the LNA said the move was made because the council was not functioning properly while Benghazi is at war. Al-Nazhuri’s appointment was at the request of General Haftar. Al-Nazhuri is also nominally chief of staff of the LNA. A member of the HoR government also said that the move was agreed to at a meeting in Marj with the local government minister Mohamed Al Farouk. Marj is Haftar’s military headquarters. One councilor, Anis Al-Majbri, welcomed the move claiming it was no surprise as the council had been paralyzed by infighting. He accused the mayor Omar Barasi of doing little work and not showing up. He also claimed that councillors had met recently with Nazhuri to discuss the situation and that Nazhuri had said that he would appoint a military man to take over.

The situation is complicated by a fight over Barasi as mayor. Fellow councillors fired him two months ago but he refused to go and was supported by PM of the HoR al-Thinni who said that the present was not the time to change mayors. However some claim that Barasi was supported because the new mayor Zakaria Beltamer is said to be favorable to the GNA in Tripoli.

The Libya Observer, quotes Entisar Mohammed the local government minister of the HoR as saying: Some might think the decision goes at odds with local administration law no.56 for 2012, but appointing a military commander is like announcing state of emergency, which justifies stopping some laws till security and stability prevail, especially in Benghazi, where war is ongoing. So far neither the GNA nor the UN envoy, Martin Kobler, have commented on the announcement.

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