Protesters in Benghazi angry over interim Govt, demand Jalil's resignation--interim Govt's solution: decentralization and government works--national security structure to be announced in 100 days--Gaddafi family in Algeria looking for an exit.
--Interim Govt's Solution: Decentralization and Government Works
--National Security Structure to Be Announced in 100 Days
--Gaddafi Family in Algeria Looking for an Exit
Protesters gathered on Monday in the eastern city of Benghazi, the capital of the Libyan revolution, against the National Transitional Council (NTC), its president Mustafa Abdel Jalil and the interim government, reported the pan-Arab daily ASHARQ AL AWSAT Tuesday. The daily noted that "tens" of activists gathered in Benghazi, while AFP reported "nearly 400 demonstrators camping in the square," AP reported "around 2,000" and Reuters claimed "between 20,000 to 30,000" protesters.
The protesters held placards demanding the "correction of the revolution's path" amidst chants of "the people want to cleanse the country," "the people want the end of corruption" and "Ya Benghazi the revolution is still alive." This marks the first time, according to ASHARQ AL AWSAT, that activists protested in front of the NTC's Benghazi offices, the former headquarters of the revolution.
One protest organizer said that they want to cleanse the NTC from the top of former Gaddafi officials, beginning with NTC president Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the government led by Dr. Abdul Raheem al-Qeeb and the remaining state institutions from the Gaddafi era, to be replaced by the people. This is the first time that protestors have asked for Jalil to resign. Jalil had previously promised to step down after the liberation of the country and protestors want to hold him to his word. They also called for Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, Jalil's deputy and official NTC spokesman, to resign, wrote ASHARQ AL AWSAT. Jalil was the former Minister of Justice under the Gaddafi regime, but defected at the beginning of the revolution and assumed the role of NTC president.
The NTC has been surrounded by controversy since its inception, especially of its mismanagement of the revolution's wounded. Protesters also demanded national reconciliation, the doling out of punishment, assisting the youth in forming trade unions and in studying abroad. AFP reported that protesters were angry with Jalil over his call for forgiveness: "Abdel Jalil is asking us to forgive Gaddafi fighters. Would he say the same thing if his son were killed or wounded in the revolution?" asked lawyer Tahini al-Sharif.
On Saturday, the NTC held the first post-Gaddafi conference on national reconciliation in which Jalil said the new rulers were ready to forgive the slain dictator's former loyalist fighters. "Despite what the army of the oppressor did to our cities and our villages, our brothers who fought against the rebels as the army of Gaddafi, we are ready to forgive them," Jalil said. "We are able to forgive and tolerate," he added.
One demonstrator told ASHARQ AL AWSAT that they are calling for transparency as a fundamental principle, and that "each official, once a week at the least" should come out to the people and say "where the money was spent and how it was spent."
In response, Jalil called for patience and promised more transparency and decentralization, said ASHARQ AL AWSAT. "The NTC will start its own website on which the list of its members and the activities of the NTC will be made public," AFP quoted him as saying. Jalil also said the NTC was investing in priorities including the integration of former rebels in society. An NTC statement said "decentralization of government work" would be the primary strategy, while Jalil said a budget would be allocated to each city and regional council, depending on its population, geography and the extent of damage caused in the eight-month conflict.
The NTC has in particular sought to pacify the Benghazi protesters, declaring that the city would be Libya's future economic capital while adding it "needed time to build a state for which many people sacrificed their lives." NTC member and Tripoli representative Abdelrazzaq al-Aradi told a news conference in Tripoli that "Benghazi will be the economic capital of Libya," with the economy and oil ministries relocated there, wrote AP. Misrata, a business hub that played a key role in the fight against Gaddafi's forces, will be home to the Finance Ministry, while the eastern city of Darna will host the Culture Ministry, he said. Most of the remaining ministries will be in Tripoli, he said. There will also be 50 local councils and administrative offices with their own budgets across Libya as part of decentralization efforts, Jalil said earlier in the day.
NTC member Fathi Baja who is in charge of political affairs for the Council, backed protesters, saying their demands were "legitimate" and that they "reflect the beat on the streets of Benghazi and other eastern cities" of Libya. The NTC responses may not be sufficient as ASHARQ AL AWSAT reported that protests have begun in Derna and Misratah.
National Security Structure
Also in response to protestor's demands for better security, Jalil promised that a security and army structure will be announced, especially for the border" and that "law will prevail under this government," reported ASHARQ AL AWSAT. Jalil told reporters in the capital Tripoli on Monday that he hopes to have a working army and police force up and running in 100 days' time, and that the timeline should suffice to restructure the nation's security apparatus and build confidence it its forces, wrote AP. "We will announce a system for the security structure of the army and have established police and border guards in no more than 100 days," Jalil said.
General Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the fledgling national army, said he believes the 100-day timetable gives new recruits enough time to train and reorganize after the eight-month civil war that ended with Moammar Gaddafi's death in October. But Haftar told AP it will take at least three to five years before Libya can have a strong enough army that is able to protect the vast desert nation's borders.
Neither Haftar nor Jalil provided any information on the size of either the army or security forces they hoped to put together, but Libyan Interior Minister Fawzi Abdel-Al said that the interior ministry has a plan to accommodate about 25,000 rebels on its payroll, and that proceedings are under way to form an integrated force that will secure border crossings, wrote the daily.
Rival militias in an area southwest of the Libyan capital exchanged heavy gunfire on Monday after a dispute flared up between them that local residents said had killed at least four people, reported Reuters. The conflict, rooted in an old tribal rivalry, is one of the hundreds of fault lines running through Libyan society that have left the new rulers struggling to hold the country together since the overthrow of the former leader.
Abdullah Naker, leader of the Tripoli Revolutionist Council and who was born in Zintan, told ASHARQ AL AWSAT that the clashes were part of a military campaign against remnants of Gaddafi's forces. Naker said that members of the Mashasha tribe killed Salama al-Mabrouk, leader of Zintan's Brigade Number 14 and his companion while he was traveling on a public road. According to Reuters, one local man said the commander was related by marriage to Osama al-Juwali, the former head of Zintan's militia who was last month appointed as new Libyan defense minister. Naker said on Monday that the area had yet to be combed for Gaddafi forces and that the Mashasha rebels had used Grad rockets against Zintani fighters, wrote the daily.
Meanwhile, Libyan Interior Minister Fawzi Abdel-Al downplayed the clashes that broke out two days ago between the national army and some of the Libyan rebels from the area of al-Zintan at the Tripoli International Airport, wrote ASHARQ AL AWSAT. He said that it was blown out of proportion and posed no danger. Major General Khalifa Haftar, who is chief of staff of the national army, was in the Libyan army convoy that was fired on by rebels from Zintan.
Gaddafi's family in Algeria, which includes his wife Safia Farkash and her three children Aisha, Hannibal and Mohammed, are considering several options to leave Algeria where they fled to after the revolution, according to ASHARQ AL AWSAT. Algerian News reported that Aisha Gaddafi may move to South Africa next month after the Algerian government decided to end her residency over her lack of respect for the rules of asylum and incitement against the new Libyan authorities. Venezuela and Mexico may also receive her.
Sources linked to the family told the pan-Arab daily that none of the family members have yet to receive any official notification from the Algerian government terminating their residence. They noted that among the countries under consideration by the Gaddafi family are the Sultanate of Oman in addition to South Africa, which has long been associated with the Gaddafi regime through its president, Jacob Zuma. France has also said that it will welcome remnants of the Gaddafi family.
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|Publication:||The Daily Middle East Reporter (Beirut, Lebanon)|
|Date:||Dec 13, 2011|
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