Khalifa Haftar combs even through natural disasters. The 79-year-old warlord is always hunting for political gold. He is exploiting the recent floods to tighten his hold over Eastern Libya. Shamelessly, the Libyan General-turned-warlord is controlling disaster response in a bid to dominate the region and its people. The worry is that he heads the Libyan National Army militia that reigns over Eastern Libya.
Trying to Tighten their Grips
The damages and the deaths wreaked by the floods caused by Storm Daniel on September 11th concern the power-hungry Mr Haftar and his kin the least. They are more bothered about focusing on how to control the worst-hit East Libyan port city of Derna. Even as bodies turn up from beneath the rubble, Mr Haftar and his kin seem obsessed with exerting control over Libyans through disaster response. Reaching relief to flood victims is the last thing on their minds. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/9/11/dozens-killed-as- devastating-storm-daniel-sweeps-eastern-libya
The floods have been Eastern Libya’s most devastating in its history. More than 11,000 have lost their lives and more than 10,000 are missing. The floods have been brought upon the region by twin dam bursts caused by a severe Mediterranean storm. However, even in this tragedy, Mr Haftar and his faithful militia men from the Libyan National Army are trying to tighten their grips over flood assistance.
Video Courtesy: Africanews
Terribly Insecure like Dictators
Worse, the overwhelming presence of Mr Haftar-backing militia in Derna is hampering distribution of flood relief. The militia men seem to be keener to firm up their hold over Derna, the region and its people. They are seen going about shifting the blame for poor relief management to relief teams from foreign search and rescue organisations. The blame for erecting this smokescreen should be laid at the stained footsteps of power-thirsty Mr Haftar and his kin.
With reason. Mr Haftar led a military campaign to control eastern Libya in 2014. He showers praises regularly on the Libyan National Army, his coalition of militias. He is a former CIA veteran and an ex-citizen of the United States with a strong authoritarian streak in him. He is known to speak and act often like a dictator. Like dictators, Mr Haftar too is terribly insecure. This explains his obsession with power despite a deadly deluge. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27492354
Libya as a Family Business
Making matters worse for Eastern Libyans, Mr Haftar is turning the region into a family business. Each of his sons controls military and financial networks in eastern Libya. Not surprising that they too have failed to respond to the floods and the devastation as they should have. Like Mr Haftar, his sons are also jockeying for greater control in Eastern Libya through obsessive manipulation of flood disaster response and malicious propaganda about foreign relief agencies.
As a startling indicator of their obsession, Al-Siddiq, Mr Haftar’s eldest son announced he was running for Libya’s presidency on the very same day the floods hit Derna. Again, this announcement proves how and why Haftars are viewing Libya as their family business. Unfazed, the 32-year-old Saddam Haftar, the other son who heads Libya’s Disaster Response Committee, mustered shameless courage to move in quickly to project himself as the one controlling the flood relief. https://www.theafricareport.com/315005/libya-10-things-you- need-to-know-about-saddam-haftar/
Pathetic Human-Rights Record
This tussle for power within the Haftar family is expected to get more intense as global flood relief continues to pour in. Already, Saddam Haftar is projecting himself to Libyans and to the outside world as the legitimate heir to reign over Eastern Libya. As he heads the Tariq Ben Zayed Brigades, one of the militias that make up the Libyan National Army coalition, his claims strike a sympathetic chord among Libyans.
However, Saddam Haftar has a pathetic human-rights record. Amnesty International accused him recently with a range of illegalities, which include murders, torture, forced displacements, enforced disappearances, rapes and other sexual violence. Amnesty went to the extent of charging him, which evoked little fear in him. As he too jumps in to gain control over global flood relief, his entry is applying brakes over management and distribution of relief. https://www.france24.com/en/africa/20230920-haftar-s-sons- rise-in-libya-s-east-bringing-corruption-death-destruction
Selfishness Dominates the Narratives
The Haftars prove that placing all Libyan eggs in their basket helps to tighten their controls over Eastern Libya, not flood victims’ access to relief. Meanwhile, the internecine conflict between Eastern and Western Libya is making things difficult for everyone who needs help. The Haftar family’s military interests have been in focus since NATO intervened in Libya to back a revolt against former tyrant Muammar Qaddafi.
Despite deep divisions between Western and Eastern Libya, Saddam Haftar is selling himself as Libya’s future boss in North Africa. As long as such selfishness dominates the narratives of the Haftar clan, Libyan flood victims have only themselves to look up to. For proof, it is shocking to see Eastern Libyans not even protesting against the concentration of flood relief, economic and political power within the empowered Haftar family. https://www.barrons.com/news/libya-flood-feeds-unrest-but- political-system-unchallenged-analysts-34147e22
The Poliphoon’s Last Word
As self-interest, self-projection and self-perpetuation reign supreme in Eastern Libya, they will force the region pit itself against the globally-recognised Tripoli-based government in Western Libya. This will trigger a fresh series of conflicts between the two Libyas. Mr Qaddafi did immense damage to Libya’s unity and integrity. The Haftars will keep up with him to prove they are no less destructive for Eastern Libya. This is a tragedy and it is worse than the recent floods.