5 December 2013

Libya: Zidan Pledges Security for Derna

Tripoli — Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zidan vowed Wednesday (December 4th) to restore government control to the eastern city of Derna.

"We need to make a range of arrangements to restore Derna to its normal condition with the presence of army and police, to open army centres and support the security directorate. All these things will be implemented," Zidan said at a press conference.

Zidan's statements came after Derna residents pushed Ansar al-Sharia out of the coastal city on Tuesday following days of anti-militia protests. Demonstrators also closed shops and called for civil disobedience in an attempt to stop the security chaos, assassinations and bombings in town.

"We want peace, fraternity, compliance with state orders and respect of law to prevail," the prime minister said. "None will be pursued; none will be attacked; and no houses or places will be stormed as long as the owners of these houses don't confront the government forces that enter Derna."

"We're moving in this dangerous environment to secure the safety of citizens there and to ensure the correctness of our measures," Zidan continued.

He added, "We've been in touch with the people of Derna and their representatives to solve the problems. Today, many meetings were held with military and civilian entities to create a different atmosphere in co-operation with the people of that city to help them so stability, security and safety can be restored to town."

The Libyan premier also said a memo was submitted "to the General National Congress (GNC) to allocate funds of between 250 and 300 million dinars to support development, services and education in Derna".

Meanwhile, Mansour al-Hasadi, a member of GNC representing Derna, demanded the prime minister, defence minister and chief of staff immediately intervene to protect civilians in Derna.

Political analyst Abdul Hadi Abu Ajeela said the demonstrations in Derna were an extension of protests staged in Tripoli and Benghazi to demand the departure of armed groups.

"For a while now, I have noticed the full absence of state, including police and army, in all Libyan cities," he stated, adding that the "army and police have a timid presence given the weakness of state as a whole".

"The people demanded the departure of armed groups from town, and they did actually depart. However, where are the army and police? There are only a few units in capital Tripoli," he noted.

He said that "the government doesn't have the ability to secure the areas even after the departure of armed groups."

In his turn, Ahmed al-Faqih, a writer and novelist, said that Derna "has turned into a place of black flags and has been kidnapped by al-Qaeda operatives".

"It's the tragedy of tragedies, and I don't know whether the current brave popular uprising will be able to bring back Derna to its people and rid it of the creatures of darkness that occupy it," al-Faqih said.

"Al-Qaeda is not an enemy to the people of Derna or of Libya alone, but is an international scourge that the entire world is fighting. The world will be willing to help if Libyans seek help and support, " he said.

Ali al-Touhami, a civil society activist in Benghazi, expressed his surprise over the prime minister's demand that the people rise up against armed groups when the government itself wasn't doing anything.

"The popular movement and escalated protests will encourage all parties to step forward with their initiatives to resolve crises in town," journalist Numan al-Atrash said of the Derna protests.

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