Libya protesters demand end to secrecy by ruling council
Protesters set up tent city in Benghazi and call for interim government to make its membership and voting decisions public
Anti-government activists have set up a tent city in the eastern city of Benghazi in a second day of demonstrations against Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council.
The protest camp sprang up in the city’s Maidan al-Shagara (Tree Square) after thousands of people joined demonstrations in Benghazi and Tripoli to demand transparency from the interim government.
The protesters are calling for the NTC, led by Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Muammar Gaddafi’s former justice minister, to make its membership and voting decisions public.
“We want to know who is the NTC,” said Salwa Bugaighis, a Benghazi lawyer who quit the government earlier this year. “We want all the names.”
Formed in March, the NTC last month appointed a cabinet, but it has yet to release the names of its members – or even confirm how many there are. Meetings are held in secret and voting records are not released. This lack of transparency is compounded by a log jam in many areas of government, from payment of salaries to rubbish collection and confusion over who has control of Libya’s security forces.
One banner accused the NTC of “stealing the revolution” while others accused it of being dominated by former personalities from the Gaddafi era.
The NTC website lists 33 membership posts, but in November it said 48 members had voted in a new prime minister, Abdurrahim el-Keib. The British embassy in Tripoli says the NTC has not provided it with a full list of members or how many there are.
Protesters say they are concerned that the NTC may not meet its promise to hold elections in June next year, given the absence of work on compiling an election register or any announcements on the format of the new assembly.
“They say there will be this conference and that conference and another conference – this is the way the NTC delays things,” said Yahia al-Kawafi, an activist from Shabab Thwar (Rebel Youth), a protest group formed by students at the weekend. “We did not liberate Libya to give it to old Gaddafi officials.”
This lack of transparency is also handicapping Libya financially as it tries to persuade the outside world to hand back an estimated £100bn in frozen assets.Last week, Britain’s minister for north African and Middle Eastern affairs, Alistair Burt, became the first senior western official to raise doubts about the ability of the NTC to process this cash. “We have to be absolutely certain that it [Libya’s government] can handle the assets and that the banks can use it effectively,” he said.
The NTC’s press office, in a Tripoli hotel, has been closed and locked since Saturday, reportedly because the single employee is out of the country and not answering his phone.