Libya’s Haftar returns home determined and ‘in good health’

Field-Marshal Khalifa Haftar was greeted with great fanfare on his return.
Friday 27/04/2018
Libya’s Field-Marshal Khalifa Haftar in the eastern city of Tobruk. (AFP)
Libya’s Field-Marshal Khalifa Haftar in the eastern city of Tobruk. (AFP)

TUNIS - Libya’s eastern strongman, Field-Marshal Khalifa Haftar, was greeted with great fanfare on his return April 26 to Benghazi after a prolonged stay abroad.

Haftar, who was rumoured to have been gravely ill during a 2-week stay in Paris, assured supporters about his fitness and resolved that his Libyan National Army (LNA) would lead the country to peace and prosperity.

“I’m in good health, contrary to what the others said and imagined,” said Haftar. “I should be addressing you standing up but I am obliged to do so sitting down,” he joked when a chair was brought for him.

Haftar, 75, had been in Paris receiving treatment for an unspecified medical issue before travelling to Cairo for talks. Unconfirmed reports from by Haftar’s Islamist opponents fuelled speculation that he was in critical condition or had died, prompting concerns of a power struggle in eastern Libya.

'Rumours' about Haftar's health

“I won’t respond to those promoting rumours about my health, and you are not responsible for them, but there are those who will answer for them in the appropriate way,” Haftar said to military and tribal leaders gathered to greet him.

Analysts said Haftar’s absence and the anxiety it wrought indicated he has yet to build an army establishment that can outlive his leadership and that tribal and ideological fractures remain among his allies.

There were concerns that conflict was brewing when Haftar’s chief of staff, Major-General Abdelrazak al-Nadhuri, was the target of an assassination attempt during the field-marshal’s absence.

Nadhuri, the most senior officer in the LNA, escaped unharmed from a car bombing in the Sidi Khalifa district of Benghazi. He blamed the attack, which killed one civilian and injured another, on “terrorist elements.”

Ninth strongest army in Africa 

Haftar assured that the LNA had “not been infiltrated during this strange ordeal” and praised his officers for remaining “steadfast” and “resolute.”

The LNA, he vowed, would fulfil Libyans’ yearnings for a “modern life.”

“You have to trust your army because they will lead you to reach what you hope in a short period of time… a better life,” Haftar said, noting that the army had been ranked as the ninth strongest in the continent for four years.

“I believe that God gave us this vast land with such huge resources… because He wishes for Libyans to live a happy life in this land one day,” Haftar added. “That day is nearing.”