Arab Times

Libya’s eastern par­lia­ment meets af­ter protests erupt

Ral­lies over dire liv­ing con­di­tions

- Corruption · Middle East News · Politics · Protests · Crime · Social Issues · Society · Libya · Dubai · United Arab Emirates · Benghazi · Tripoli · Khalifa Haftar · United Nations · Switzerland · Morocco · Congress of the United States · National Oil Corporation

DUBAI, United Arab Emi­rates, Sept 12, (AP): Libya’s east-based par­lia­ment con­vened an emer­gency meet­ing Fri­day to ad­dress the erup­tion of rare protests over dire liv­ing con­di­tions across the coun­try’s east, ral­lies that mir­ror sim­i­lar re­cent protests in the west of the di­vided na­tion.

Hun­dreds of young Libyans first flooded the streets of Benghazi and other eastern cities late Thurs­day, set­ting piles of tires ablaze, wit­nesses said, a spon­ta­neous out­burst of anger over the area’s crip­pling elec­tric­ity short­ages. Late Fri­day, dozens of young male pro­test­ers were seen re­turn­ing to the streets, block­ing traf­fic at ma­jor in­ter­sec­tions. Many demon­stra­tors lit fires in the roads, chant­ing lyrics from pop­u­lar an­thems de­cry­ing gov­ern­ment cor­rup­tion.

“We, by God, have been de­stroyed,” said one pro­tester, Sameh al-Drissi. “We, the young peo­ple, have lost 10 years from our lives.”

The demon­stra­tions fol­lowed sim­i­lar protests over power cuts and cor­rup­tion that have roiled the cap­i­tal, Tripoli, and other parts of west­ern Libya in re­cent weeks. Un­like the ral­lies in the west, how­ever, the protests in Benghazi and else­where in the east did not ap­pear cen­trally or­ga­nized and were not vi­o­lently dis­persed.

War-torn Libya is split east to west be­tween two ad­min­is­tra­tions, each backed by an ar­ray of mili­tias and for­eign pow­ers. Mil­i­tary com­man­der Khal­ifa Hifter rules the east and south, while a U.N.-sup­ported gov­ern­ment based in Tripoli con­trols the west.

In its emer­gency ses­sion Fri­day, the eastern House of Rep­re­senta

tives sought to de­flect blame for the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of pub­lic ser­vices, ac­cus­ing the Tripoli-based Cen­tral Bank and gov­ern­ment of “plun­der­ing” the coun­try and ne­glect­ing the east. In an ef­fort to pla­cate frus­trated cit­i­zens, it promised to in­ves­ti­gate “sus­pected cor­rup­tion” and ex­pe­dite mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions.

Yet on both sides of the coun­try, an­a­lysts say, in­ter­nal splits have deep­ened amid a pause in fight­ing. Po­lit­i­cal fac­tions are seek­ing to coopt pop­u­lar fury over the coun­try’s litany of griev­ances: cash short­ages, elec­tric­ity and wa­ter cuts, col­laps­ing in­fra­struc­ture, rife cor­rup­tion and a dev­as­tat­ing coron­avirus out­break.

“Power bro­kers are try­ing to uti­lize the protests for their own gains and pur­poses,” said Mo­hamed El

jarh, co-founder of Libya Out­look, a con­sul­tancy based in eastern Libya.

In the west, the U.N.-sup­ported gov­ern­ment’s pow­er­ful in­te­rior min­is­ter, Fathi Bashaga, openly backed the protests against his in­ter­nal ri­val, Prime Min­is­ter Fayez Sar­raj - and was briefly dis­missed from his post.

In the east, Hifter has faced a se­ries of em­bar­rass­ing mil­i­tary de­feats, with his forces re­treat­ing from most of the ter­ri­to­ries they seized dur­ing their failed 14-month cam­paign to cap­ture Tripoli. This week, Hifter was side­lined from the U.N.-bro­kered Libyan po­lit­i­cal talks that took place in Switzer­land and Morocco, and is now try­ing to strengthen his hand against the east-based House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and its prom­i­nent speaker, Aguila Saleh, said El­jarh.

Saleh sent rep­re­sen­ta­tives to the talks and has po­si­tioned him­self as a ma­jor Libyan power bro­ker on the world stage, most re­cently by propos­ing a cease-fire and a po­lit­i­cal ini­tia­tive.

Al­though Hifter and his forces are known to quash even the mildest dis­sent, late Thurs­day, the wit­nesses in Benghazi said po­lice watched with­out re­act­ing and even en­cour­aged the protests. Eastern Libya’s in­terim gov­ern­ment and the coun­try’s dras­tic lack of pub­lic ser­vices be­came the fo­cus of out­rage - not Hifter.

Libya’s Tripoli-based Na­tional Oil Cor­po­ra­tion is­sued a re­sponse on Fri­day to eastern au­thor­i­ties’ al­le­ga­tions that it has failed to pro­vide fuel ship­ments to the east, where black­outs can ex­ceed 12 hours a day.

 ??  ?? Vol­un­teers wear­ing pro­tec­tive suits check the tem­per­a­ture of fol­low­ers of Shi­ite cleric Muq­tada al-Sadr, to help fight the spread of the coron­avirus, be­fore the open-air Fri­day prayers in Sadr City, Bagh­dad, Iraq on
Sept 11, 2012. (AP)
Vol­un­teers wear­ing pro­tec­tive suits check the tem­per­a­ture of fol­low­ers of Shi­ite cleric Muq­tada al-Sadr, to help fight the spread of the coron­avirus, be­fore the open-air Fri­day prayers in Sadr City, Bagh­dad, Iraq on Sept 11, 2012. (AP)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait