By Sami Zaptia.
London, 11 August 2021:
Prime Minister Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba told Khalifa Hafter, the Commander of the eastern-based Libyan Arab Army (formerly known as the Libyan National Army -LNA), that the Libyan Army cannot be affiliated to an individual.
Aldabaiba made his statement yesterday in his role as the Defence Minister at a Tripoli ceremony commemorating the 81st anniversary of the founding of Libya’s pre-independence army.
The Chief of General Staff (of the western-based Libyan Army), Lieutenant-General Mohamed Al-Haddad, the Commanders of the Military Regions, and several ministers were also present.
In his speech, Aldabaiba stressed that the military institution cannot be affiliated with a particular person, whatever his capacity, noting that the mission of this institution is to protect us and preserve the sovereignty of Libya without any loyalties.
Aldabaiba did not mention Hafter by name, but his remarks were clearly a response to Hafter’s comments on the army the day before.
The Prime Minister added that the army could not point the barrel of its guns at the chests of the people of the country, regardless of the reasons.
Referring to Hafter’s war on Tripoli, Aldabaiba said that capitals are precious pearls and armies were found to protect them, not to storm them, terrify their people and destroy their property.
He added that the army was born to protect peace, and its strength should be a constructive tool, not a tool of demolition and fighting, and not everyone who takes war as a political means or for arrogance and adventures will succeed.
This was a reference to Hafter’s attempt to solve Libya’s political impasse on the battlefield rather than in the negotiating rooms.
Concluding his speech, the Prime Minister stressed that Libya will only be a civilian state with a strong army whose goal is to protect the country.
The government reported that the anniversary celebration included a military parade of the Libyan Army units affiliated to the Ministry of Defence and the General Staff.
Responding to Hafter
Aldabaiba’s comments were no doubt a direct response to Hafter’s own comments made at the alternative 81st anniversary celebrations of the establishment of the Libyan Army held in eastern Libya a day earlier.
During that celebration, Hafter had said that his Libyan Arab Army (formerly the Libyan National Army – LNA) will never be subject to any civilian authority unless it is elected directly by the Libyan people.
He said the army will not accept deception in the name of civilian (rule) or otherwise and that despite the sharp differences in attitudes towards the homeland, he extends his hands for a just peace.
Haftar said that his eastern-based Libyan Arab Army has never been a tool of oppression and that it has not been authoritarian or arrogant over the people or biased towards a tribe and that it will not be subject to any authority.
He also stressed that the Army is committed to confronting the waves of terrorists who stormed Libya, who raised slogans of death by slaughtering and beheading, and he considered the Libyan Army as the main pillar on which it is based.
Hafter said to the Libyan people, when their future, fate and present were at risk, the Libyan Army was the obstacle to terrorist currents.
He referred to the role of the Army in forming the Joint Military Committee (5+5 JMC) and that the Army played a role in preparing the country for the (Libyan Political Dialogue Forum – LPDF) Road Map, and that without it, the planned 24 December 2021 elections would not have a place on the (political) map.
New military promotions, appointments and reorganizations
Haftar had also announced a series of military promotions, appointments and reorganizations, including the appointment of former Prime Minister Abdalla Thinni as the head of the Army’s Political Administration.
Clash with Presidency Council
Hafter’s announcement of the appointment of military personnel in the eastern region had come a day after the Presidency Council had made a statement, in its capacity as the Supreme Commander of the Libyan Armed Forces, in which it stated that issuing decisions to promote officers, appoint commanders of military regions and establish military units, are all the original jurisdiction of the Presidency Council. It had added that any decision that contradicts this from any party or position is null and void.