x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Libya army officers want chief dismissed

Military chief of staff accused of corruption, failing to ensure security and hiring officers who served in forces loyal to the Qaddafi regime. Alice Fordham reports

ALGIERS// High-ranking officers have given Libya's government 10 days to sack its military chief, accusing him of corruption and a failure to ensure security.

If Maj Gen Yousef Mangoush is not removed, the officers will walk away from their posts, they said.

According to Libyan state media, the officers made their demands after a gathering on Saturday in the eastern city of Brega under the slogan "together to build a military institution".

The group issued a statement calling for the dismissal of Gen Mangoush - who has held the position as chief of staff for more than a year - and the formation of an independent body of military and civilian leaders to take his place.

Gen Mangoush is also accused of hiring commanders from the deposed regime of Muammar Qaddafi. The officers also demanded the dismissal of those commanders, as well as a trial of officers involved in killing rebels who fought against Qaddafi in Libya's 2011 civil war.

Libya, which is struggling to rebuild its state more than a year after the death of Qaddafi, has been riven with controversy over a law that, in some circumstances, prevents Qaddafi-era soldiers or civil servants from working.

Gen Mangoush has faced tis kind of criticism before. In February, protesters at a rally in the second city of Benghazi called for his dismissal, blaming him for the continuing lack of security there. Later the same month, the Libya Herald newspaper reported that a government defence committee had recommended that he be fired.

He presides over a troubled institution. The Libyan government has attempted to counter the problem of the proliferation of militias, following an internationally backed uprising, by employing hundreds of thousands of them in the security forces. But they remain unruly, with even security officials conceding that they cannot trust all the men under their command.

The solution lies not in military reform, but in political progress, said William Lawrence, a North Africa analyst for International Crisis Group, in an interview with the Middle East Research and Information Project this month.

"Although it's true that the security forces and army are a shambles," he said, "the more important problem is that people won't give up their arms until they are comfortable with the political evolution of the Libyan state."

afordham@thenational.ae

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