Tripoli, 8 March: Massive demonstrations are expected tomorrow, Friday, across Libya to protest the unilateral establishment of the Cyrenaica Transitional Council . . .[restrict]in Benghazi on Tuesday.
The creation of the council, which wants to take over the administration of the east of the country, has created considerable anger and resentment throughout the country, not least in the east. The biggest demonstration is planned in Benghazi itself, where organisers say they want a million people to protest against taking Libya back to three-state federation.
The Cyrenaica council wants Libya to adopt the 1951 constitution under which there were separate executives and parliaments in Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan.
Like last month’s clashes in Kufra and, before that, Saadi Qaddafi’s TV declaration from his exile in Niger that he would return to lead a counter-revolution, the declaration of the Cyrenaica council has created a backlash and served to rally most Libyans behind the NTC.
Much of the anger — as much in Benghazi and the east as elsewhere in the country — is not that the Cyrenaica council is standing up for itself. It is that it is seen as an attempt to dictate Libya’s future instead of letting it be decided democratically in June’s elections to the constituent assembly.
“It would have been different if they had set up a party campaigning for federalism,” said a prominent Benghazi figure and businessman who asked not to be named. ‘No ne would have objected. But this was undemocratic.” Yes, he said, Benghazi has been left ignored for years, and it needed investment and recognition. “But Jebel Nafusa too was ignored by Qaddafi. So was most of Libya.”
Ironically, despite the anger, the council announcement may have the effect of focusing the government’s attention on the need to address the dire economic situation in Benghazi — both the lack of development and its collapsing infrastructure. Prime Minister Abdurrahim Al-Kib suggested as much in his condemnation of the council on Wednesday.
Some of the public anger — as well as sadness and disappointment — is directed against Ahmed Zubair Senussi who was chosen to head the Cyrenaica body. Grandson of the Grand Senussi, Ahmed Sharif Al-Senussi (and named after him), Ahmed Zubair was Qaddafi’s longest political prisoner, kept in jail for 31 years. With the revolution he became a member of the NTC, although that is now in question.
Last year he was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament.
“He has lost all credibility,” the Benghazi businessman said, adding however that he was being used by others. “We know who’s behind him,” he added, claiming that these were people who were formally close to Qaddafi.
A similar claim was made earlier this week by NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil.
Confirming that loss of credibility, a number of anti-Zubair songs have sprung up in Benghazi in the last couple of days. The Senussiya and the Senussi family are reported to be furious with him.