By Maha Ellawati.
Benghazi, 21 October:
The president of Benghazi’s local council tendered his resignation today, less than two months after taking office.
Juma Sahli, who took office on 3 September, cited the “desperate” situation regarding non-payment of local salaries and the government’s failure to fulfill promises of support to Benghazi as reasons for his decision.
He is the second president to stand down from the beleaguered council since elections on 19 May.
The local council’s greatest impediment is a lack of funds, but residents have also complained of poor leadership and ill-thought out decisions that have exacerbated Benghazi’s many problems.
“Thirty-thousand people lost their incomes in Benghazi during the war. They badly need financial support and the local council is failing to provide it”, said one local lawyer who has been closely following proceedings.
Sahli was subjected to verbal abuse by protesters at a demonstration at the local council offices yesterday, in which he was accused of embezzling funds allocated by the government in Tripoli for his own benefit.
Criticisms have also been leveled at the council for its failure to resolve an ongoing rubbish crisis and its delay in unfreezing funding for two local television stations, the Benghazi Broadcasting Network and Benghazi TV.
In a statement, Sahli gave six reasons for his resignation, most of them aimed at the government. Tripoli was accused of a failure to provide an emergency budget, requested over four months ago; a failure to address security problems; and a failure to address problems relating to the war-wounded, the missing and martyrs.
Last week, the council dispatched one of its members to Tripoli to discuss the problems, but to “no avail”.
In particular, “the problem of salary payments is desperate”, the statement read. “There are people who did not receive any salaries for a whole year, and we all know the expenses expected at this time of year, when schools have just restarted and with the approach of Eid Al-Adha.”
Sahli’s predecessor Shahat Awami, himself criticised for poor decision-making, tendered his resignation on 16 August complaining of “unworkable” conditions.