Libyans protest against NTC stealing the revolution

Tens of thousands of Libyans are protesting in Benghazi and Tripoli accusing the National Transitional Council of "stealing the revolution." The protestors demand transparency, accountability and payment of wages in a movement that connects democratic and economic demands. 

Benghazi December 12Benghazi December 12, pic by @ahmadalgamatyThe current wave of protests against the NTC  and its head Mustafa Abdel Jalil started on Monday when a few thousand gathered in Benghazi. The demonstration was called by youth groups, military organisations and others. 

“We sacrificed a lot in this war,” said Salwa Bugaighis, a Benghazi lawyer who resigned from the NTC in August. She summed up the demands of the protestors: “We want democracy.” 

Amongst the demands of the protestors are that the composition of the NTC should be made public as the names of its members have not yet been revealed. They also want the voting records and the decisions taken by this body to be publicised. The protestors fear that the promised elections in June 2012 will never take place as there seems to be no progress at all and no clear timetable. There is also a strong feeling that current NTC members are just appointing friends and relatives to different positions. 

In an attempt to calm the angry crowds, Abdel Jalil made a statement appealing for patience and declared that Benghazi would be the "economic capital". This did not fool the masses. Bassem Fakhri, a political science lecturer at the Benghazi University  responded: "Benghazi is not expecting only to be the economic capital. We want transparency, representation for women, decentralisation, representation for youths and the full list of NTC members."

According to a BusinessWeek report, 20,000 then marched on Tuesday, December 13, while a group of a few hundred have set up a tent camp and said they will not leave until their demands are met. "The NTC (National Transitional Council) must quit. Jalil must go out! The people want another revolution!" chanted the crowds as they waved Libya's new flag.

The demands of the protestors in Benghazi have been summed up in the following points:

Demands of the movement
List of demands, pic by @ahmadalgamaty

  • the resignation and reelection of all local councils and the NTC
  • NTC and local councils to present their accounts
  • no prominent officials from the old regime to be considered for any position
  • the full CVs of current NTC members and other officials to be published
  • the NTC and the Transitional Executive Office to publishd details of the funds received from businesses and the names of these businesses and how the money was spent.
  • making the building the national army one of the priorities of the Transitional Council and the interim government.
  • to help the rebels to return to normal life.
  • all those guilty of crimes against the Libyans should be held accountable before there can be any national reconciliation 

One of the groups organising the protests is Shabab Thwara (Revolutionary Youth).  Yahia al-Kawafi, one of its activists says: "They say there will be this conference and that conference and another conference – this is the way the NTC delays things." There is deep resentment that it is mainly returned exiles and former Gaddafi officers that are in control, as opposed to the people who actually fought against the old regime. "We did not liberate Libya to give it to old Gaddafi officials," adds al-Kawafi.

Another member of Shabab Thwara Osama Khofi  told Al Ahrar TV: “The demands we have are not high, they are just basic demands of the revolution. We have liberated Libya for all Libyans, not for some Libyans to have a nice position.”

Opposition to the NTC is not limited to Benghazi and there were also smaller demonstrations in Tripoli outside the Rixos Hotel which serves as the office of the government. NTC member Fathi Baja had to admit that the demands of the protestors "reflect the beat on the streets of Benghazi and other eastern cities."

An AFP report carried quotes from some of the protestors which reveal how for the masses democracy means bread and jobs:

"We are fed up of promises. Gaddafi did the same thing for 42 years. We want action," said protester Majdi al-Tajuri.
Another demonstrator, Mohammed Shibani, said all that Libyans wanted was a "decent living".
"People want salaries and a decent living. You go to banks and there is no money. What is this government doing?" asked Shibani, a 43-year-old Benghazi resident.
"There is no control. Look at the prices. They are only rising."
Protester Suleiman Masba also lashed out at the NTC.
"We want to know what NTC is doing. We think nobody is doing anything," he said."

Since the overthrow of Gaddafi in August, economic and class issues have started to come to the fore. There have been a series of strikes by workers in state institutions and state owned companies demanding the removal of managers linked to the old regime (like the oil workers as we reported in October). The latest one is the strike of air traffic controllers who oppose the new management. In Benghazi there have also been protests by municipal employes about the lack of payment of wages.  


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