By Asmaa Elourfi
Benghazi youths staged a protest last Friday (January 6th) following Asr prayers to voice their disapproval with the selection of Libya’s new army chief. Residents of eastern Libya fear that their region is being marginalised by the nation’s new government.
“We are not against Youssef al-Mangoush himself, but we reject the way he was selected,” said Ahmed al-Mansouri. “There is some sort of domination in this issue and a type of circumvention that is rejected by the revolutionaries.”
Defence Minister Osama al-Juwali told satellite TV channels that the January 3rd appointment of al-Mangoush as army chief of staff was final and irreversible. The post had been vacant since the July murder of General Abdel Fattah Younes, who had strong support in the east.
“We were tired of marginalisation under the former regime,” said Ali al-Mariemi. “Today, we, the residents of the eastern region, still suffer from marginalisation from the National Transitional Council (NTC) although the February 17th Revolution started in the eastern region which sacrificed thousands of its young people for our nation. We just want recognition rather than marginalisation.”
Meanwhile, Salem al-Raidi said that revolutionaries in the east had chosen Colonel Saleh Zeibag as head of the Cyrenaica army.
“In my opinion, Col. al-Mangoush is an honest man with a known history and there is no question about it,” commented Abdallah al-Mebri. “However, some people in Cyrenaica are opposed to that because of the marginalisation we’ve been suffering from. As you can see, Cyrenaica didn’t get any sovereign ministry portfolio in this government, unlike Tripoli.
Therefore, yes, I do say that Cyrenaica, which includes the entire eastern region, is not getting its rights.”
However, a number of Libyans have voiced their support for the new army commander.
Colonel Solayman Mahmoud, who worked throughout his life with the former regime but defected with the outbreak of February revolution, denied any legitimacy for the Cyrenaica army and praised the selection of Youssef al-Mangoush as chief of Libyan army.
“We support Col. Youssef al-Mangoush and condemn any rejection of his appointment based on tribal factors from one tribe only so as to pass its own interests,” said Othman al-Fallah. “We shall impose the NTC’s decision by force and won’t allow anyone to object to or undermine efforts towards stability.”
“I support what the NTC approves because I trust it a lot,” said Adam Mohammed, adding that “all those who oppose that selection show that they don’t want stability for the country and are for tribal strife”.
Citizen Wanas al-Gamati explained the discontent by noting that eastern Libya was side-lined under the Kadhafi regime while members of the Warfalla tribe and Sirte residents were rewarded with jobs and scholarships. He suggested the economic divide was at the heart of the controversy over the al-Mangoush appointment, with residents weary of the issue repeating itself.
“I have a lot of friends in Tripoli and the west, and you would find that their financial dealings are very easy, as the limit of withdrawal is set at 2,000 dinars, and it was 700 dinars before, while we in eastern countries still face difficulties in withdrawing our limit, which is 200 dinars,” he said.
“Won’t such things make voices get high?” al-Gamati added. “We’re all Libyans and we don’t want to divide the country, but why don’t the brothers in the west and NTC pay attention to these issues and absorb people’s anger rather than test their patience?”