Libyans March in Tripoli, Benghazi Calling for Less Secrecy
By Chris Stephen
Dec. 13 (Bloomberg) — Libyans took to the streets of Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi, accusing the ruling National Transitional Council of being too secretive about its membership structure and finances.
“We sacrificed a lot in this war,” Salwa Bugaighis, a lawyer in Benghazi and a former member of the NTC before she resigned in August over a lack of transparency in its decision- making process, said in an interview. “We want democracy.”
Bugaighis said protesters set up a tented encampment today at Benghazi’s Maidan al-Shagera, or Tree Square, and will not leave until the NTC enacts new rules on transparency and releases the names and resumes of all its members.
The NTC was formed by rebels in March and took control of the capital Tripoli in August, sending the late leader Muammar Qaddafi into hiding. After Qaddafi died in October, the NTC began the process of trying to centralize political and military authority while preparing the country for elections due by June.
While the official NTC website states it has 33 members, not all of whom are identified, the council said it had 48 members when announcing the election of Prime Minister Abdulrahman El-Keib in November.
Libya’s access to $168 billion in former regime funds worldwide frozen under United Nations sanctions is dependent on the governing authority being able to demonstrate accountability and transparency in its banking system, Alastair Burt, Britain’s foreign minister for Africa and the Middle East, said last week.
The Temporary Financing Mechanism, an organization set up by the Libya Contact Group in April to finance humanitarian aid from frozen funds, is due to hand over financial responsibilities for assets released to the Libyan government on Dec. 31, TFM official, Mazin Ramadan, said in an interview.
Some 20,000 protesters marched through Benghazi today in the largest demonstration against the NTC so far. In comments to Libyan television stations, protesters also complained that salaries were not being paid and that the city had been without a government since the NTC moved to Tripoli.
Smaller protests took place outside Tripoli’s luxury Rixos hotel, state television reported.
Shebab Thwar, or Revolutionary Youth, a small student group, says protesters also want the NTC to state whether any of its members have relatives recently appointed to government jobs and release records of member’s salaries and meetings.
“The demands we have are not high, they are just basic demands of the revolution,” Osama Khofi of Shebab Thwar told Libya’s Al Ahrar television. “We have liberated Libya for all Libyans, not for some Libyans to have a nice position.”
–With assistance from Caroline Alexander in London. Editors: Andrew Atkinson, James Hertling
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