Derna protesters call for accountability over flooding disaster

Sep 18, 2023 | Libyan actors

On 18 September, a crowd gathered in front of al-Sahaba Mosque in Derna to express their anger against the authorities who let the disaster happen and to call for justice and accountability. Some 1200 – 1600 people were involved, mainly young men. They called for the resignation of House of Representatives (HoR) Speaker Aqeela Saleh and the overthrow of the Derna Municipal Council (which was dismissed by the Government of National Stability (GNS) Prime Minister Osama Hammad the same day) due to their corruption. The house of the (now suspended) Derna Mayor Abdul Moneim al-Ghaithi was partially looted and set on fire.

In a statement, a group of Derna citizens mourned the loss of the graves of 77 companions of Prophet Muhammad who had been buried in Derna since the 8th century, then recalled 60 years of injustice against the city, which has become a symbol of oppression. The group called for a speedy investigation by the Attorney General into the disaster, the punishment of all those guilty of the disaster, the establishment of a UNSMIL Branch Office in the city and the immediate start of the reconstruction of the city, which must be supervised by the UN and the EU. It called for a detailed and transparent audit of funds allocated for Derna’sreconstruction, as well as an investigation into previous budgets. The statement said that a new Municipal Council should be formed to lead the reconstruction of the city and demanded that the will of the city (i.e. the new Municipal Council) be respected.

There was extensive media coverage of the protests from both international and Libyan (including those opposed to the Libyan National Army) journalists on the ground – a rare situation for Derna in recent years. Overnight, there were reports of some Libyan journalists being arrested or being prevented from reporting. Some journalists indicated that there were security concerns related to the protests and the alleged role of Islamist actors within them.