Benghazi protesters stay put

2011-12-13 18:40

Benghazi - Around 500 disgruntled protesters from Benghazi, cradle of the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, demonstrated for a second day on Tuesday against the nation's new rulers despite assurances the former rebel bastion will be Libya's economic capital.

The National Transitional Council has come under fire from angry protesters for the first time since the ouster of Gaddafi, with crowds in the eastern city Benghazi pressuring the ruling Libyan body to come clean about its activities.

NTC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil was singled out by the protesters on Monday for a lack of transparency and his willingness to forgive those who had fought for the slain dictator.

"It is not that we are attacking Mustafa Jalil personally, but he is surrounded by corrupt NTC members. He is unable to control things," said one, Osama Obeidi, adding that various groups had prepared a joint list of demands.

The protesters' main demand, according to the list, was that top priority be given to former rebels and those wounded in the revolution.

Economic capital

It also said that NTC members must not participate in the election of a national congress.

An AFP correspondent at Shajara Square - where the first anti-Gaddafi rally was held on February 15 - said several protesters had spent the night there after the demonstration started on Monday.

Faced with angry calls, the NTC late on Monday announced that Benghazi would be the future economic capital of the North African country.

"Benghazi will be the economic capital of Libya," NTC member Abdelrazzak al-Aradi said, adding that ministries related to the economy would be located there.

Asked by AFP if the decision was taken after protests against the NTC and Abdel Jalil, he said: "Yes. Since the revolution the people of Benghazi feel they are marginalised and forgotten."

On Monday, Abdel Jalil himself called on people to be patient.

"I want to reassure Libyans that a lot will be done. Be patient," he said, promising more transparency.

"The NTC will start its own website on which the list of its members and the activities of the NTC will be made public."


Calling for "restraint and preservation of public property", Abdel Jalil said the NTC was investing in priorities including the integration of former rebels into society.

Abdel Jalil also said a budget would be allocated to each city and regional council, depending on its population and the extent of damage caused in the eight-month conflict.

But protesters furious over Abdel Jalil's remarks on Saturday that the new Libyan rulers can "forgive and tolerate" Gaddafi fighters, dismissed the assurances.

"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.