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Libyans Ransack Interim Government’s Headquarters

Libyans Ransack Interim Government’s Headquarters

Protesters stormed the offices of Libya’s transitional government, the National Transitional Council, in Benghazi on Saturday. Armed with hand grenades, several hundred protesters banged on the building’s doors and demanded that government officials meet with them. NTC chief Mustafa Abdul Jalil tried to speak from a second-floor balcony and was pelted with bottles, after which protesters torched his armored Land Cruiser and broke windows to get into the building. They then seized furniture and computers as 50 plainclothes security forces sought to calm them.

The immediate reason for the protests was the release online of a draft election law for the 200 members of the constituent assembly to be held in February. Activists said that this draft had been “prepared without consultation or public oversight and that its winner-take-all rules would encourage Libyans to vote along tribal lines or for locally rich or prominent citizens,” rather than for those seeking to form new parties.

Three months after the end of the civil war that ousted Muammar el-Gaddafi, many Libyans have grown frustrated with the pace of reforms and the NTC’s lack of transparency; others have accused the NTC of sidelining anti-Gaddafi fighters. As Salwa Bugaighis, a lawyer and political activist who played a prominent role in the uprising, told the New York Times:

“We are worried,” she said. “We are afraid that maybe it becomes worse.”

She said that protesters in Benghazi directed much of their rage at allegations that millions of dollars — and perhaps billions — in government money had gone unaccounted for.

“They want transparency. They want people from the Qaddafi regime to go,” she said. “If there’s no transparency, everything will collapse.”

In response to the protests, the deputy head of the NTC, Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, resigned on Sunday. Ghoga, who has been accused of being an “opportunist” because he belatedly switched allegiances from Gaddafi to the rebels and the NTC, said that “My resignation is for the benefit of the nation and is required at this stage.”

Jalil addressed the protesters on Sunday and asked them for more patience as the NTC struggles to establish a government in Libya after three decades of Gaddafi’s authoritarian rule and the civil war. According to Reuters, Jalil said:

“We are going through a political movement that can take the country to a bottomless pit. There is something behind these protests that is not for the good of the country.

“The people have not given the government enough time and the government does not have enough money. Maybe there are delays, but the government has only been working for two months. Give them a chance, at least two months.”

The NTC has also been criticized for not being able to address issues such as restoring basic services to some areas and to assisting Surt and Bani Walid, towns that were loyal to Gaddafi.

In the capital of Tripoli, regional militias controlled by their own commanders, rather than government security forces, police the streets; protesters have set up a tent city in Tripoli, across the street from the Prime Minister’s office. Protests have also occurred in Misurata, which is run by a rival leadership council and where the local government is planning to hold elections in February but without the NTC’s approval.

Fred Abrahams, a special adviser on Libya for Human Rights Watch, told the New York Times that the protests and the ensuing political crisis show the “extreme challenges after four decades of dictatorship.” Removing Gaddafi was only the start; “getting a representative and transparent government to replace him” is proving far more complicated.

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Photo of Libyan fighters from Adjebia taken in March 2011 by America-Aboard

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18 comments

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5:10PM PST on Feb 20, 2012

Noted.

9:38AM PST on Jan 25, 2012

Given the sheer brutality of the rebel forces when they fought and overcame the Gaddafi regime, I predicted that the new government wouldn't be any better than the old one. You can't trade a cruel regime with another cruel regime and expect a better outcome. Conditions will get worse in Libya until the various factions commit to peaceful negotiation and collaborative government.

3:19AM PST on Jan 24, 2012

I am very sorry for everything that has gone down here in Libya and the part my country has played in it across the years. The great Libyan people deserve the right to make their own choices and determine their own destiny without any more interference. I wish them well, inshallah.

10:44PM PST on Jan 23, 2012

Thank to American Govt for destroying a peaceful country and now you are following Gaddafi policy by gagging your own people to express them self was this the crime of Gaddafi ?

5:19PM PST on Jan 23, 2012

Thanks for the update.

10:33AM PST on Jan 23, 2012

I hope Libya doesn't turn into another Somalia.

9:50AM PST on Jan 23, 2012

The Libyans have a long way to go and they know it!
I know many Libyans and the majority are so happy that Gaddafi has gone, they supported the uprising with everything they had, from fighting and giving their lives to sending huge sums of money fro medical equipment etc.
The Libyans need to be allowed time to get their act together, Libya is Libya with lots of tribes etc and as Gene F pointed out what works in USA and Europe will not work in Libya. They are very hard working people, many of whom are highly educated. God willing they will move forward overcoming their differences and Libya will be a fantastic place to live. Loads of historical places to visit, as well as the beaches, mountains and deserts! The people are welcoming. I pray that Libya will find true peace soon.

9:28AM PST on Jan 23, 2012

Transparency, great word, getting a lot of use lately. The problem with transparency is, its in the eye of the presenter.

9:07AM PST on Jan 23, 2012

@ Ian. It wasnt a dictatorship in Libya rather a grassroots governing system that worked well there. As much as you'd like the rest of the world to adopt English style of government (ie Parliments) it doesnt work. Hell this first-past-the-post doesnt even work in England! But Libyans will sort it out once they've rid themselves of the CIA backed thugs who usurped power thanks to NATO intervention-it wasnt a popular uprising from the git-go and now the chickens are coming home to roost.

8:25AM PST on Jan 23, 2012

Patience is a virtue, you can't go from dictatorship to Swiss-clock precision democracy in a fortnight.
Greece, where democracy started 2500 years ago, is still trying to improve its version. (and failing)
Safi! shokran bzef

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