By Sami Zaptia.
London, 9 August 2021:
Employees of the Cabinet Office (the Prime Minister’s Office) in Benghazi yesterday denounced the (Tripoli) authorities concerned with revealing the circumstances of the abduction in Tripoli of the Chief of the Benghazi Cabinet Rida Fretees.
In a group statement in Benghazi, the employees called on the responsible authorities, led by the Ministry of the Interior and its affiliated agencies, to exercise their duties and assume their responsibilities towards this incident, and to expedite the search for Fretees without any complacency or inaction that might endanger his life.
They emphasized that the rule of law can only be achieved by fighting crime, holding those who violate it accountable, and imposing the prestige of the state on everyone with all its might.
Meanwhile, the official Libyan state news agency LANA reported that ‘‘informed sources’’ had reported that contact with Fretees had been lost since 2 August while he was in Tripoli.
LANA reported that the sources had confirmed that Fretees was kidnapped by masked men in the Dahra region of Tripoli, and his fate is still unknown.
It said preliminary information indicates the disappearance of Fretees happened after he had left the Office of Deputy Prime Minister Hussain Al-Gatrani at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tripoli.
Notably, the video statement of by Fretees’s colleagues was posted on the Deputy Prime Minister Gatrani’s official Facebook page – but not the official Libyan government’s pages.
Analysis – Libya’s National Unity?
There is still no publicly available official proof that Fretees has been kidnapped or that he has been kidnapped by Tripoli/Western Libyan-based militias.
Nevertheless, the kidnapping of someone with political standing from Benghazi in Tripoli would be a huge embarrassment for PM Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba – and especially one of his senior employees.
Aldabaiba had warned all his Ministers that he would only employ a Minister/Deputy Minister if they were prepared to travel across all of Libya – irrespective of their tribal or political allegiances/sensitivities/enmities. So, in a way, he is ultimately responsible. This is probably why he and his government have been quiet about the incident hoping that soon they can announce his safe liberation.
Moreover, Aldabaiba prides himself on being the Prime Minister of the Libyan Government of National Unity (GNU) – the government of all Libya for all Libyans. The kidnap counters this narrative, a narrative which he needs and finds empowering in terms of enforceability. If the mask of the narrative of the ”GNU” falls, it could empower political opportunists wishing to do away with Libya’s new political order.
If it is proven that Fretees had been kidnapped by a Tripoli militia for his eastern Libyan political allegiances, this would (further?) prove how little control the Prime Minister and his government have over Tripoli’s militias. It would undermine the weak narrative favoured by Tripoli that the state and its institutions are making a comeback.
Undermine the GNU and elections?
It would send a negative message to all those that had been on the opposite side of Libya’s political divide – but now want to reconcile. It would make those with known political views fear travelling to the other side.
It may also give an incentive to political extremists and those who want instability and division to carryout tit-for-tat kidnappings. These could easily spiral out of control completely undermining the GNU and its narrative and scuppering any hope for holding the 24 December 2021 elections.
The Tripoli-based security forces need to find Fretees well and alive and soon – to avoid his kidnapping exploding into a political bombshell.