Interesting Article: "A Benghazi Breakaway HighlightsLibya's Uncertain Future" by Abigail Haulohner / Benghazi published Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
An interesting article mentioned that Libya's increasingly precarious post-Gaddafi stability was further clouded Tuesday, when a conference of tribal leaders and militia commanders unilaterally declared a semiautonomous state in the country's oil-rich east. The plan hatched in Benghazi calls for a revival of the pre-Gaddafi three-state system, with Libya governed on the basis of the old Roman provinces of Tripolitania in the west, Fezzan in the southwest and Cyrenaica in the east. Would you like to know more?
Libya has struggled to overcome the legacy of corruption and abuse — as well as the complete absence of political infrastructure and the impact of months of civil war — left by the 42-year dictatorship of Col. Muammar Gaddafi, overthrown last summer. Cyrenaica — or Barqa in Arabic — would have its own parliament, police force, courts and capital in Benghazi, while the central government would control the national army, oil resources and foreign policy, the Associated Press reported. Delegates at the conference said its purpose was to establish independent administration, rather than create division. They explained the move as a safeguard against the sort of marginalization from Tripoli that the east had endured under Gaddafi.
But western Libyans aren't impressed with the easterners calling for fairness through autonomy. "They view it as a separatist movement," says one Western observer in the country whose job required speaking on condition of anonymity. "Most of the oil is in the east, so they view it as dividing the country." Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, head of the NTC, accused the federalists Tuesday of being foreign-funded. "Some sister Arab nations unfortunately are supporting and financing this sedition that is happening in the east," he said at a press conference hours after the Benghazi event, according to Agence France-Presse.
Libya is set to hold national elections in June for a national assembly that will designate a new Prime Minister and draft a constitution. Last month, the NTC published the final draft of its election law, which awards 102 of the assembly's 200 seats to the west, allocating just 60 to the east. That would give the west — if acting as a bloc — the power to overrule the rest of the country in a vote. And that's likely what spurred Tuesday's move toward autonomy, says the Western observer. "They feel that if it came down to it, they wouldn't get their way in the federal state. So they've unilaterally decided that they are one," he says. The danger in this regional schism, of course, is that all of the rival claimants are well armed.
Thousands of representatives of major tribes, militia commanders and politicians said they want their region to remain part of a united Libya, but needed to do this to stop decades of discrimination against the east.
The conference declared that the eastern state, known as Barqa, would have its own parliament, police force, courts and capital (Benghazi) to run its affairs. Foreign policy, the national army and oil resources would be left to the central government in Tripoli in the west. Barqa would cover nearly half the country, from the centre to the Egyptian border in the east and down to the borders with Chad and Sudan in the south.
Fadl-Allah Haroun, a senior tribal figure and militia commander, said the declaration aims for administrative independence, not separation.
The Benghazi conference illustrated one of Libya’s fundamental weaknesses — the lack of political institutions. Over 42 years in power, Gadhafi stripped the country of any credible representative bodies. As a result, since his ouster, towns, cities, tribes and militias across Libya have largely taken authority into their own hands. The local power centers have confused and often thwarted the NTC’s attempts to establish any national control.