Libyan soldiers demand salaries, complain about militias
Thu Jan 5, 2012 9:40pm GMT
By Mohammed Al Tommy
BENGHAZI, Libya Jan 5 (Reuters) - Hundreds of Libyan soldiers protested on
Thursday in the eastern city of Benghazi, demanding payment of overdue wages
and complaining militia groups had taken over their bases and were not
interested in joining a new national army.
The soldiers, part of a force marginalised by ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi,
gathered outside a branch of the central bank in Benghazi in their military
uniforms and clutching their arms.
They said the new government should focus on building a new army rather than
giving cash compensation to former rebels who have formed powerful regional
militia since ousting Gaddafi.
"The revolutionaries don't want to join an organised military, they want to
keep their current situation," said Al Mabrouk Abdullah al-Oraibi, who
worked in the military's accounting department but now works in the military
The former dictator distrusted the military and effectively dismantled the
armed forces in the 1990's, leaving them with little personnel and arms.
He placed real power in the hands of his own militias which moved swiftly to
crush protests against him in February.
A large number of military officers defected in the early days of the
uprising. Some ordinary soldiers were pressured into fighting for Gaddafi
but many stayed at home or joined the revolution.
"We haven't been paid for three months," Oraibi, 28, said. "The national
council is marginalising the Libyan army, they are in favour of the
Earlier this week, Libya appointed a head of the armed forces in the first
significant move to build a new military.
At the same time, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the chairman of the National
Transitional Council (NTC), warned that intermittent turf wars among rival
militias could spark a civil war after four militants were killed in a clash
Former rebels want more cash for ousting Gaddafi after the nine-month
conflict, and want the government to cut off the salaries of top officials
who served under Gaddafi.
Oraibi said the NTC should start reorganising the army immediately, adding
that military camps were controlled by the militias rather than the
Ibrahim al-Sahati, 50, who served in the army for 32 years and joined the
military police after the civil war that ousted Gaddafi, was more concerned
about providing for his children.
"Every time I go the military camp to ask about my salary, they say I'll it
get soon, and this has gone on for four months," Sahati said.
"I have kids and the school year is about to start," the father of eight
children said. "The kids need clothes, schoolbags, books and stationary and
I have nothing to cover all these costs."
He said the bank's management had agreed to pay the protesters for two
months, but he did not know when he would receive the payments. (Reporting
by Mohammed Al Tommy; writing by Mahmoud Habboush; editing by Philippa
C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved
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Received on Thu Jan 05 2012 - 18:28:28 EST