Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Leaders declare oil-rich eastern Libya semi-automatous

Tribal leaders and militia commanders have declared oil-rich eastern Libya a semi-automatous region. The decision was announced at a gathering dubbed the “Congress of the People of Cyrenaica,” attended by more than 2,000 people near the eastern city of Benghazi.

One of the organisers, a Libyan-US citizen Mohammed Buisier said: “We would like in Cyrenaica to take care of housing, education and other things and would delegate national security, defence ... to the central government… We believe in one Libya….People in Cyrenaica have for 40 years suffered from negligence ... If we keep this negligence towards the east, I cannot guarantee that Libya will be united in 25 years-time.”

The National Transitional Council (NTC) argued against federalism, amid fears that it would break up the already fragile country. Albeit it is not yet clear what degree of autonomy people of Cyrenaica are seeking, it is bound to drum-up a lot of debate within the NTC in Tripoli.

The move, however, has also gathered some opposition as several thousand people marched to Benghazi's courthouse on Monday 5 February to express their dismay. The protesters chanted: “Libya is united!” and “Do not break up Libya!"

Speaking about the situation, a spokesman for the NTC Mohammed al-Harizi said people were free to lobby for regional autonomy, but added: “This is not the vision of the NTC ... and I am sure that the Libyan people, as a whole, do not support this idea.”

Buisier said there were no plans to unilaterally declare autonomy from the rest of Libya. He added the first steps would be to create a 300-member “High Council for Cyrenaica” and to lobby for Cyrenaica to be given more representation in an election, scheduled for June, to choose a new national assembly.

Sources: Al Arabiya, BBC News, Bloomberg

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

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