Friday, November 25, 2011

Berbers Protest New Libyan Government

The Berber's Amazighs flag flys in new Libya

TRIPOLI — Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) on Tuesday named a new government featuring several surprise appointments that suggested the line-up was aimed at trying to soothe rivalries between regional factions.

Earlier, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor conceded that the captured son of Muammar Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam, may be tried in Libya rather than in The Hague, meaning he faces the death penalty if convicted.

In forming a government, the NTC faced the tricky task of trying to reconcile regional and ideological interests whose rivalry threatens to upset the country’s fragile stability, three months after the end of Gaddafi’s 42-year rule.

“All of Libya is represented,” prime minister Abdurrahim El-Keib told a news conference as he unveiled the line-up. “It is hard to say that any area is not represented.”

The new cabinet will include as defence minister Osama Al-Juwali, commander of the military council in the town of Zintan.

Juwali appeared to have staked his claim to the job after his forces captured Saif al-Islam at the weekend and flew him to their hometown.

The foreign minister was named as Ashour Bin Hayal, a little-known diplomat originally from Derna, in eastern Libya.

His appointment was unexpected as diplomats had predicted the job would go to Libya’s deputy envoy to the United Nations, Ibrahim Dabbashi, who had rallied diplomats to turn against Gaddafi early in the revolt against his rule.

Hassan Ziglam, an oil industry executive, was named as finance minister, and Abdulrahman Ben Yezza, a former executive with Italian oil major ENI, was made oil minister.

Libya is struggling to build new institutions out of the wreckage of Gaddafi’s one-man rule, when corruption was rampant and state institutions were left to decay.

The Hague-based ICC has indicted Saif al-Islam for crimes against humanity. But chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said on a visit to Tripoli that Saif al-Islam could be tried inside Libya as long as the trial complies with ICC standards.

“Saif is captured so we are here to ensure cooperation. Now in May, we requested an arrest warrant because Libyans could not do justice in Libya. Now as Libyans are decided to do justice, they could do justice and we’ll help them to do it, so that is the system,” he told reporters on his arrival in Tripoli.

“Our International Criminal Court acts when the national system cannot act. They have decided to do it and that is why we are here to learn and to understand what they are doing and to cooperate.”

Libyan officials have promised a fair trial but the country still has the death penalty on its books, whereas the severest punishment the ICC can impose is life imprisonment.

“The law says the primacy is for the national system. If they prosecute the case here, we will discuss with them how to inform the judges and they can do it. But our judges have to be involved,” said Moreno-Ocampo.

Saif al-Islam was captured in an ambush deep in the Sahara desert and is now being held in the town of Zintan, in the Western Mountains region where his captors are based.

An NTC spokesman in Tripoli had described the arrest of Saif al-Islam, the last of Muammar Gaddafi’s offspring whose whereabouts had been unaccounted for, as “the last chapter in the Libyan drama”.

An official in Zintan told Reuters steps were already underway for Saif al-Islam’s prosecution. “A Libyan prosecutor met with Saif (on Monday) to conduct a preliminary investigation,” said Ahmed Ammar.

‘The voices that we see now are the voices of the elite’ - more-113073

One of the most senior figures in Libya’s outgoing government has denounced its leaders as an unelected elite, supported by “money, arms and PR,” and warned that 90% of Libya is politically voiceless.

Outgoing acting Prime Minister Ali Tarhouni’s comments were the strongest criticism to date by a senior politician of the country’s new rulers, who led the rebellion that ended Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year rule and have been in charge since his fall.

The National Transitional Council (NTC) also had a say in Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib’s provisional government line-up, which was announced on Tuesday and mandated to steer the country toward democracy.

“The voices that we see now are the voices of the elite, the voices of the NTC who are not elected and the voices of other people who are supported by the outside by money, arms and PR,” Tarhouni said on Thursday, hours after a new cabinet was formed.

“It’s about time we heard the true voices of the masses … we need to start rebuilding this democratic constitutional movement,” he told a news conference.

Tarhouni was in charge of the oil and finance portfolios in Libya’s outgoing transitional government and briefly served as acting prime minister until Thursday, when a new cabinet was sworn in.

Having been a frontrunner for a post as finance minister in Keib’s cabinet until the eleventh hour, Tarhouni said he had been asked to join but declined due to the challenges of the transitional period and because he wanted to speak freely.

“I see danger for the sovereignty of Libya. I see a threat for the wealth of the Libyan people,” Tarhouni told reporters, without elaborating.

“I see the economic issues as a major challenge,” he added.



Tarhouni said that NTC had “failed miserably” in melding the myriad armed militias that still roam the country into an official national army.

Listing the many security and economic challenges that lie ahead for a nascent government as the country emerges from a bloody civil war, he said the safety of oil installations was a critical issue.

“My hope that the new government will take this issue seriously,” he said.
However, Tarhouni repeatedly wished the new line up “success” and said “they should be given a chance.”

On Tuesday, the NTC named a cabinet favoring appointees who will soothe rivalries between regional factions, but specific groups, including the Amazigh, or Berber, have boycotted the new government complaining of the lack of representation.

Libya’s newly named government features several surprise appointments
Reuters Nov 22, 2011 – 3:40 PM ET

Libyan Berbers protest against new government

TRIPOLI — Dozens of Amazighs -- or Berbers -- protested in Tripoli's Martyrs Square on Friday for being shut out of the new government and demanded that their language and rights be recognised in Libya.

"We want our rights and now!" shouted protester Wail Eln Moammer after the long-awaited Libyan government unveiled earlier this week failed to include a minister from the minority Amazigh community.

"We are the indigenous people of Libya. Give us our rights and we want them now," said Eln Moammer in fluent English as he held a banner demanding equal rights for Libya's Amazighs.

During the 41 years of Moamer Kadhafi's hardline rule, the Amazighs -- whose name means "free men" -- were banned from publicly speaking, writing or printing anything in their own tongue, tamazight.

The Berbers, who make up some 10 percent of Libya's six million people, are now angry after this week's cabinet list was absent of members from their community.

"The thinking that was prevalent in Kadhafi's rule is still continuing," said another protester Ibrahim Byala, an engineer residing in Tripoli.

"If we don't show our strength now, we will lose," he told AFP as behind him a group of fellow Berbers held posters saying "All Libyans are brothers!", "We hope (for a) great future for Amazighs!" and "No constitutional legitimacy without Amazighs!."

"Thousands of my brothers have died in the revolution. Our blood can't go to waste. We will keep protesting," Byala said.

The Berbers were present in Libya before the Arab conquest in the seventh century and are remembered for their military resistance to the Italian occupation which ended 60 years ago.

A minority nationwide, the Amazighs form a majority in the northwestern Nafusa mountains, in Zuwarah region 120 kilometres (75 miles) west of Tripoli and in Ghadamis province on the frontier with Algeria.

Active from the start of the revolt against Kadhafi, the Berbers worked with the Arabs to topple the regime. With the war over, they now want to contribute and take their place in Libya's political and cultural life.

On Thursday after the unveiling of the government, the National Amazigh Congress called on all Libyans, and Berbers in particular, to end cooperation with the National Transitional Council and with the interim government.

The appointment as defence minister of Osama Juili, commander of the fighters who seized Kadhafi's most prominent son Seif al-Islam last Saturday and who comes from Zintan, a hilltown in the Nafusa, has also failed to satisfy the aspirations of the Berber community as Juili is an Arab.

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