LIBYA. Outside Ras Lanuf. March 9, 2011. Anti-Gaddafi rebels in combat with pro-Gaddafi troops. The rebels, who controlled the east of the country, had been trying to push back the Gaddafi troops to be able to take control of the town of Ben Jawad. They had used Katyusha rockets and other weapons.
In February 2011, an uprising against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s 41-year-old autocratic rule, has left an estimated 1,000 people dead and many wounded. Several parts of Libya, including Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi, have been taken by anti-government rebels, who have since formed an Interim Transitional National Council. Benghazi, where rebel headquarters are located, has sustained air strikes and ongoing clashes by forces loyal to Gaddafi and is threatened by heavy fighting in nearby Ajdabiya, near the Egyptian border. In the capital, Tripoli, pro-government demonstrators take to the streets with support for their leader. The conflict has led to an immense exodus of people by land, sea and air, while many remain stranded.
Clinton announced Friday that Washington accepts the Transitional National Council as the legitimate governing authority of the Libyan people. Diplomatic recognition of the council means that the U.S. will be able to fund the opposition with some of the more than $30 billion in Gahdafi-regime assets that are frozen in American banks.
In other words, Gaddafi may claim he’s the leader, but he doesn’t have a handle on the money situation.
Libya Protests Spur Shake-Up in Interim Government
By Liam Stack, NY Times, January 22, 2012 Libya’s post-Qaddafi transitional government faced a political crisis Sunday after protesters ransacked its offices in Benghazi, highlighting growing nationwide unease with its leadership and triggering a shake-up in which the governing council’s No. 2 official resigned and several members were suspended.
For months, youth groups with a range of complaints have been protesting against the Transitional National Council in Benghazi, the eastern city whose protests sparked the nine-month revolt and which once served as the rebel capital. Protests have cropped up elsewhere, too, including in Tripoli, the capital, where activists have erected a small tent city across from the prime minister’s office.
Protesters are demanding more transparency from the transitional council, which holds executive power and is tasked with overseeing the election of a constituent assembly to draft a new Constitution. It is dominated by figures from the eastern rebel movement, much to the suspicion of other regional factions, and there are accusations, too, that many of its members are tainted by past ties, real or suspected, with the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
On Saturday night, those frustrations boiled over when a crowd of mostly young men attacked the council’s offices in Benghazi, tossing a grenade, smashing windows and forcing their way into the building while the council’s chairman, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, was inside.
The spark appeared to be the online release of a draft election law to govern the selection of the 200-member constituent assembly. Activists said it was prepared without consultation or public oversight and that its winner-take-all rules would encourage Libyans to vote along tribal lines or for rich or prominent citizens in their region, and undercut those seeking to form new parties.
Seeking to contain the fallout from the attack, Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, the transitional council’s deputy chief, resigned Sunday, telling the Arabic satellite channel Al Jazeera, “My resignation is for the benefit of the nation and is required at this stage.”
Speaking to reporters in Benghazi on Sunday, Mr. Abdel-Jalil warned that continued protests could lead the country down a perilous path and pleaded with protesters to give the government more time.
“We are going through a political movement that can take the country to a bottomless pit,” Reuters quoted Mr. Abdel-Jalil as saying. “There is something behind these protests that is not for the good of the country.
"The people have not given the government enough time, and the government does not have enough money,” Mr. Abdel-Jalil said. “Maybe there are delays, but the government has only been working for two months. Give them a chance, at least two months.”
The interim government suspended several members from Benghazi and announced that it would form a council of religious figures to investigate government officials and council members accused of corruption or ties to the Qaddafi government. It also delayed the official release of the election law.
Both the incident itself and the leadership’s response were met with widespread anger in Benghazi, according to Salwa Bugaighis, a lawyer and political activist who was a leading figure in the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi.
“We are worried,” she said. “We are afraid that maybe it becomes worse.”
Ms. Bugaighis said that the protesters in Benghazi were particularly angry about allegations that millions of dollars–and possibly billions–in government money was unaccounted for.
“They want transparency. They want people from the Qaddafi regime to go,” she said. “If there’s no transparency, everything will collapse.”
Both Saturday’s protest and its political fallout demonstrated the challenges Libya faces, said Fred Abrahams, a special adviser on Libya for Human Rights Watch.
“Ousting Qaddafi will prove more straight-forward than getting a representative and transparent government to replace him,” he said.
Critics of the interim government also complain that its performance has faltered on even the nuts-and-bolts level.
Basic services have yet to be restored in some areas, while towns seen as sympathetic to Colonel Qaddafi, like Surt and Bani Walid, remain in ruins after months of fighting.
The interim government has struggled to exert authority even in Tripoli, where the streets are largely controlled by a patchwork of regional militias whose members defer to their own commanders, not government security forces.