Haftar’s sons rise in eastern Libya, bringing ‘corruption, death and destruction’

by MMC
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Khalifa Haftar, the strongman of eastern Libya, has placed his six sons in positions of political and military power. The deadly floods in Derna saw his youngest, Saddam, rise to the top of disaster relief management and to the top of his succession chart. For Libyans, this is still bad news.

Dressed in camouflage fatigues and his usual scowl, Saddam Haftar bends over a map of Libya in a ventilated room identified as the “Libyan emergency room” in a post on X, formerly Twitter. At his side are three Russian officials, part of a Russian Defense Ministry team that arrived in eastern Libya a few days later dams collapsed in Dernatriggering a disaster of biblical proportions.

“Libyan emergency chief Brigadier General Saddam Haftar is following the latest developments in search and rescue operations,” notes the message from a local Libyan news site barely a week after the September 11 disaster, dubbed “the catastrophe of Libya”. September 11th “.

The youngest son of Khalifa HaftarSaddam is often cited as the “possible successor” to the 79-year-old strongman who has controlled eastern Libya for nearly a decade.

As head of the Tareq Ben Zayed Brigade (TBZ) within his father’s self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA), the younger Haftar is best known for seizing money from the Central Bank’s coffers Libyan, according to the UNand “inflicting a catalog of horrors” in eastern Libya, according to Amnesty International.

At 32, Haftar’s descendant has no experience in administration or relief management. But last week he was named head of the Disaster Response Committee to manage a humanitarian crisis of shocking proportions.

As millions of dollars in humanitarian aid flow into eastern Libya, the international community will be forced to coordinate relief operations under the leadership of a strongman’s son with a documented history of embezzlement and of human rights violations. For the Libyan people, this is a new source of despair linked to the losses and trauma of the floods, caused by decades of state neglect.

Gaddafi falls, the Haftars rise again

Saddam Haftar was born in 1991, a year after his father, a senior commander in Muammar Gaddafi’s army, went into exile in the United States.

The youngest of Haftar’s six sons grew up in Benghazi, eastern Libya, with his mother, while his father lived in the United States, according to The Africa Report. “Little is known about his early life, other than the fact that he had no high school diploma,” noted The Africa report.

He was 20 when the anti-Gaddafi uprising broke out in 2011, bringing his father home from exile. The young man’s fortune began to rise after 2014, when his father attacked rival armed groups, sparking the second Libyan civil war, which put Khalifa Haftar’s LNA in control of the eastern region of Cyrenaica.

In 2016, Saddam Haftar was named head of the TBZ Brigade, one of the most powerful armed groups operating under the LNA. “Since then, TBZ fighters have committed violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, some of which may amount to war crimes,” Amnesty International noted in “We are your masters”, a chilling 21-page report detailing widespread violations committed with impunity in areas controlled by the LNA.

Saddam Haftar’s name also appeared in a 2018 statement. report of a UN group of experts on Libyawhich accused him of taking control of the Benghazi branch of the country’s Central Bank in 2017 and transferring “large sums of cash and money to an unknown destination.”

The contents of the bank safe included $159,700,000, 1,900,000 euros and 5,869 silver coins, the report notes. “Several bank directors reported that ANL commanders put them under heavy pressure to grant them access to cash and letters of credit. Some had decided to go abroad for security reasons,” notes the UN report.

Avoiding the wrath of the Haftar family is a basic survival strategy that residents of eastern Libya have adopted for almost a decade, and rightly so. On November 10, 2020, Hanan al-Barassi, a Libyan human rights lawyer and women’s rights activist, was shot dead in broad daylight in Benghazi a day after posting a Facebook message promising she would reveal Saddam’s corruption allegations Haftar, according to Amnesty International.

The brothers compete but are loyal to the patriarch

The younger Haftar draws his power from his father, an indispensable Libyan actor who has repeatedly engaged with the US, Russia, France, Italy, the EU, Egypt and the UAE , even if it dismays officials in world and regional capitals.

But within the family, persistent rumors point to competition between Haftar’s six sons.

Saddam was once commander of the LNA’s 106th Battalion, which serves as Khalifa Haftar’s personal guard. He was replaced as battalion commander by his older brother, Khaled, who has a university degree and is considered more refined than his younger brother.

Loyalty to the patriarch is paramount among Haftar’s sons, who lack the military training and experience of their sire.

On September 11, when the Derna dams burst, another son, Elseddik Haftar, was in Paris, where he declared himself open to a Libyan project. presidential candidacy in the future.

In an interview with a Belgian television channel about the Derna Dam collapse, Elseddik expressed gratitude for his father’s “wise leadership.” He then contradicted the accounts of Derna residents and experts, insisting that the LNA had issued an alert before Storm Daniel hit eastern Libya, ordering “all citizens to evacuate all The area “.

Disaster relief master answers press question

In the aftermath of the Derna disaster, Libyans in the country and the diaspora are on alert as aid payments pour in from around the world, wary of corruption and the “securitization of aid”, according to Tarek Megerisi, senior politician. researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

The signs are worrying. “In the evening after the Derna disaster, you could see the guilt and incompetence shaking the ranks,” Megerisi said. “From the third day, Derna was transformed into a military zone. The area was filled with armored personnel carriers and multiple checkpoints.

LNA-controlled areas of Libya have long been an “informational black hole,” says Reporters Without Borders (RSF)Foreign journalists are denied access while local journalists are unable to criticize the Haftars or their cronies. “In the east of the country, journalists are under Haftar’s power and no media can criticize the army,” notes RSF.

As news of the scale of the Derna disaster spread last week, a few international news teams managed to travel to the flood-hit town. They were confronted with scenes of utter devastation as well as surreal displays of Haftar’s power.

A Sky News team spotted Saddam Haftar touring Derna in a van filled with armed guards. But when the 32-year-old crisis management chief was asked a few questions, his face was “a picture of irritation with me,” correspondent Alex Crawford noted.

The rare, brief exchange with a reporter quickly went viral on

On Tuesday, international news crews were ordered to leave Derna – a day after residents protested outside the iconic gold-domed Sahaba Mosque. Telephone and Internet connections were also cut. A UN humanitarian team was also denied access to Derna, according to a spokesperson for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Officials in eastern Libya have denied that the communications and access outages were linked to Monday’s protests.

But analysts were convinced that these developments were linked. “Communications in the city are cut and Libyan and international humanitarian teams have been expelled. Residents are now terrified of an imminent military crackdown as collective punishment for yesterday’s protests and demands,” Megerisi noted on X.

The inheritance epic

The Derna disaster saw Libyans from across the divided country come together to help flood victims. But few believe the displays of unity will spread to Libya’s divided political elites.

As floods have swept away several neighborhoods of the city, killed thousands and displaced tens of thousands, Haftar and his sons appear firmly entrenched in eastern Libya’s power circles.

On November 7, Khalifa Haftar will turn 80, a milestone that has allowed the Cyrenaica strongman to place his sons in lucrative positions and high military ranks. Rumors about Haftar’s failing health have led analysts to wonder whether any of his sons would be able to replace his father.

Comparing this prospect to the TV series “Successor,” Megerisi predicts a difficult process. “Eastern Libyans, tribes and community leaders have made it clear that they do not favor a new hereditary monarch. They do not accept the idea of ​​a takeover by Haftar’s sons. Haftar’s sons are having a hard time making it in the army because they have no education or military training and they are involved in considerable corruption,” Megerisi said.

If many Libyans do not like Khalifa Haftar, they recognize that the prospect of seeing his sons take over their father’s networks could plunge the country into a new wave of instability.

“Libya must be in a more stable situation before the death of Khalifa Haftar,” Megerisi said. “Structures and institutions must evolve before that. In recent years, different countries have supported different threads. Each son will try to be more feudal, protecting his interests and inflicting more corruption, death and destruction on Libya.

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