Haftar launches early campaign for Libya’s presidential elections

A project to naturalise Egyptian and Chadian tribes would allow Haftar to obtain a voting bloc equivalent to nearly twice the number of Libyan voters, which would guarantee him and his children victory in any future elections.
Saturday 24/04/2021
Haftar meets with the president of the Libyan Presidency Council, Muhammad al-Menfi, last February. (ANA)
Haftar meets with the president of the Libyan Presidency Council, Muhammad al-Menfi, last February. (ANA)

TRIPOLI--The Commander-in-Chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, appeared recently in civilian clothes during a ceremony to sign a plan for the construction of three cities around the city of Benghazi, in eastern Libya.

Haftar’s move, observers said, signals his intention to run for the presidential elections to be held in Libya at the end of next December.

The signing of the construction plan was followed by Haftar’s reception of a delegation from the  Libya’s western city of Zintan.

The field marshal pledged new work opportunities, as well as education funds for children to a number of families at the ceremony.

The people want Haftar for president,” chanted the families, most of them women, in a gesture that signals that the retired Major General has already launched a pre-election campaign.

Haftar’s talk about building three cities west, east and south of Benghazi soon, able to house 12 million people, stirred a debate on social media.

The population of Libya has not yet exceeded 7 million people, so it is being assumed that Haftar is planning to naturalise tribes from neighbouring countries, especially the Al-Jawari in western Egypt, who come originally from Libya, as well as the tribes of Awlad Ali in Egypt, who have historical links to t country.

Observers say the field Marshal may also naturalise the Furjan tribes in  Egypt, noting that Haftar himself  is a Furjani , whose  fellow tribesmen in Libya are mainly in the western governorates of Sirte and Tarhuna.

The Chadian Tebu tribes might also be given Libyan nationality as was in fact long promised by the late Muammar Gadhafi who promoted the idea of their Libyan origins. He did indeed  naturalise some of them as part of his ambition to build a population “super mass.”

In a video clip circulating since 2019, Haftar had stated “We have a territory of approximately one million 760 thousand square kilometres, so what should we do with all of it? If we can get an additional 10 million (people), they will all be able to change the face of Libya … why not? ”

The project to naturalise Egyptian and Chadian tribes would allow Haftar to obtain a voting bloc equivalent to nearly twice the number of Libyan voters, which would guarantee him and his children victory in any future elections.

Libya is still in flux. After an armed conflict that has lasted over a decade, a  UN-brokered interim administration, the Government of National Unity (GNU) with a new presidency council  took office last month. The political parties are now waiting for the organisation of elections scheduled for December 24.

Earlier in April, the president of the Libyan Presidency Council, Muhammad al-Menfi, along with his two deputies Musa al-Koni and Abdullah al-Lafi announced the setting up of a commission for national reconciliation, to resolve disputes between Libyans.

“I announce to you” said Menfi, “a step that we have all been waiting for, which is the launch of a real project for national reconciliation that will bring our people together, bring their hearts together and help turn the page of the past”.

Without providing details of the High Commission for National Reconciliation’s mandate and formation, Menfi said the commission would be “an edifice that brings Libyans together, restores the country and achieves justice among people in line with law” . He is still reported to be discussing with local experts the prerogatives and the structure of the reconciliation commission.

Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, tweeted, “The future of Libya and its progress is linked to its ability to heal its wounds through national reconciliation and achieving justice.”

The commission, seen as key to security and stability was part of the political roadmap approved by the UN-sponsored Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in February which brought the. GNU into being. In an early part of the reconciliation process, dozens of LNA prisoners were recently released in the western city of Zawiya.