|Libya: The partition begins|
|Friday, 09 March 2012 00:00|
the eye of a storm but now the winds are blowing again. The re-taking of Ben Walid by Gaddafi loyalists and the recent declaration of autonomy by tribal and militia leaders in oil-rich eastern Libya, are just harbingers of the strife to come.
While the NATO-installed head of the Tripoli-based National Transitional Council has threatened the use of “force” to prevent the country’s partition along regional lines, his words are bound to fall on deaf ears for the simple reason that he does not have the authority to back his words. He is just a Western mannequin.
In a televised address on Wednesday from the city of Misrata, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the chairman of the NTC, categorically rejected the autonomy bid.
At a Press conference in Tripoli, Jalil charged unnamed Arab states with funding “sedition” in Libya. “Some sister Arab nations unfortunately are supporting and financing this sedition that is happening in the east,” he declared. Jalil, a former minister of justice in the Gaddafi government, went on to declare the NTC “the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people” and Tripoli, Libya’s “eternal capital.”
Earlier, the NTC’s interim prime minister, Abdel Rahim al-Kib, also rejected any move towards a federated state in Libya, declaring, “We don’t want to go back 50 years.” The unstated reference was to the reactionary and corrupt regime of King Idris, which governed Libya until its overthrow by the Nasserite-inspired Free Officers Movement, led by
Gaddafi. Idris served as a puppet of US and British imperialism, granting both military bases in Libya, including the giant Wheelus US Air Force base in western Libya.
The connection between Idris’ reign and the separatist movement in the east is very direct. The former king ruled a federated monarchy in which the imperialist powers and foreign corporations dominated. The states — Cyrenaica in the east, Tripolitana in the west and Fezzan in the south, territorial jurisdictions inherited from Italian fascist rule and before that the Ottoman Empire — had as much power as the central government. Idris himself lived in Benghazi and considered himself first and foremost the ruler of
Cyrenaica. Sheikh Ahmed Zubair al-Senussi emerged from the conference in Benghazi as the choice of the 3 000 assembled tribal, militia and political representatives for chief of a new interim council of Cyrenaica, or Barqa, as it is known in Arabic. The stated goal of the new council is to revive the constitution of 1951 imposed under Idris.
Benghazi council had no interest in changing the country’s flag or national anthem and would leave foreign policy to the NTC in Tripoli.
According to the Benghazi-based Arabian Gulf Oil Company (AGCO), the territory of Cyrenaica holds fully three-quarters of Libya’s oil reserves. Asked by Reuters whether the creation of the new council in Benghazi would change the way in which AGCO operates, a company spokesman answered equivocally, “Nothing until now.” The autonomy declaration in Benghazi is widely seen as a step toward grabbing control over the region’s energy wealth, which would entail choking off resources for the rest of Libya.
The move to create an autonomous government based in Benghazi is part of a broader fracturing of Libya along regional lines. Over 100 separate tribal and city-based militias — the forces which Nato backed with arms, advisers and aerial bombardments in the war to overthrow Gaddafi — control much of the country. The NTC, while installed by the US and Nato as the official government, has proven incapable of exerting its control even over the capital, Tripoli, where the main airport remain under militia control.