Saturday, December 24, 2016

Free from the Islamic State Libya's Sirte has both a mayor and military governor

(Dec. 13)Just the other day, councilors from the city of Sirte elected Mukhtar al-Madani as mayor of Sirte. Today the military commanders of Al-Bunyan Al-Marsous (Solid Structure or BAM) named Brigadier Ahmed Abu Shahma as military governor of Sirte.

The Libya Observer claims the move is happening because BAM believes that Madani is loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar and a supporter of his Dignity Operation. While this may have been true in the past, as reported in a recent Digital Journal article Madani said that the would be not be involved in the dispute between the UN-brokered Government of National Accord and the rival House of Representatives(HoR) government with its commander Haftar. He would be concentrating on rebuilding Sirte. Six of seven councilors who had earlier opposed Madani when he was appointed interim mayor by the HoR government supported him in the election. The election was organized under the auspices of the GNA. The present defense minister Al-Mahdi al-Bargathi was also a supporter of Operation Dignity but now supports the GNA and is a foe of Haftar.
Eastern authorities were furious that the election took place under the auspices of the GNA. According to a spokesperson for Operation Dignity: "Sirte was not for the sake of the nation, it was intended to raise Al-Qaeda over ISIS" Haftar and his Operation Dignity supporters have a habit of branding any Islamist foes as terrorists.
Such statements can only exacerbate the conflict between the mayor and the military governor. Last April, Madani appeared in a video showing support for Haftar and his Dignity Operation. He received military vehicles and weapons for the Sirte police department. However, BAM forces now provide security for Sirte, and the territory is now controlled by the GNA not the HoR. Appointing a military governor to replace elected officials is exactly what Haftar does in the east for which he has been roundly criticized. The mayor and councilors are in Tripoli. BAM may prevent them from moving to Sirte. So far the GNA has said nothing about this development.
There has been considerable discussion of the military governor appointment on twitter. One tweet points out the hypocrisy of appointing a military governor: It's contradictory. "A military ruler & elected Sirte municipal council?! Either be a consistent of opposing military rulers or be hypocrite." Another tweet notes: " Ahmed Abu Shahma is military governor of #Sirte, "elected" by the commanders of al Buyan al Marsous operation (GNA) yesterday. " Earlier, the UN envoy to Libya, Martin Kobler had tweeted: "‏@KoblerSRSG Congratulate new #Sirte Mayor Al-Maadani 4 his election. Timely & highly-needed step towards the recovery & re-stabilization of the city 1/2 " Obviously, the GNA authorities should have consulted with BAM before having the Sirte councilors elect a new mayor. One tweet suggests the two roles could be complementary: ‏"@ArmchairArab.@elfaitur as I understand the military head is basically in charge of security while mayor in charge of civil administration"


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