Magharebia (Washington DC)

Libya Struggles to Assert Control in Benghazi

Benghazi — Libya's interim government allocated an emergency budget for Benghazi late last month as authorities seek to restore order and get the economy moving.

Prime Minister Ali Zidan held a meeting December 26th with Benghazi city chief Mahmoud Buraziza and the local council's policy chief Mohamed al-Zouaoui in the presence of Deputy Prime Minister Dr Awad Barasi, Interior Minister Ashour Shuwail and Defence Minister Mohammed al-Barghathy.

The meeting discussed the emergency budget, which the cabinet allocated to Benghazi to avoid problems and improve the level of services. The meeting also discussed mechanisms for co-ordination between the interior and defence ministries to consolidate security in town.

Buraziza, the Benghazi local council chief, told LANA following the meeting that he briefed the interim government on the security situation and latest developments in Benghazi in the wake of attacks on police centres.

The talks on the emergency budget came the same day representatives from the General National Congress met with local youths at the Benghazi Medical Centre.

Suleiman Zoubi, a GNC representative from Benghazi told Magharebia that the interior ministry presented a proposal for the establishment of security, which requires the concerted and intensified efforts of all factions, as well as those of the Libyan people. He added that this would have a positive impact soon.

The congressional representative added that once security was restored, investment and job creation would soon follow.

"Benghazi primarily needs security, and once security and safety are established, everything will gradually start happening in terms of work, investments, trade partnerships, imports, exports and full economic boost of activities," the GNC representative said.

"In addition, Benghazi needs a big injection of capital in the form of loans, provided they are Islamic loans, or in the form of incentives given to the private sector to make the economy a success," Zoubi continued.

Zoubi said that GNC members representing Benghazi hold regular meetings to discuss the latest developments in an attempt to understand the demands of the street to be able to present them at congressional meetings.

But public trust in the new Libyan government remains low.

Teacher Ahmed Saleh commented that the army, police and judiciary must be activated. "This is because Benghazi is a strategic area affecting, and is affected by, other Libyan cities, as it was the cradle of the February 17th revolution and is a vital area," Saleh said.

"Yet, it was marginalised, whether intentionally or unintentionally, by the General National Congress, and only after 37 assassinations in Benghazi did they come to the city to try to know what its problems are," he added.

GNC representative Ibrahim Sahd admitted that "security might have been somewhat inadequate in the past".

"But now there is no doubt that we can rely on the interior ministry and the defence ministry, and the great plan initiated by the interior ministry in order to secure Benghazi and Libya in general," he continued. "However, this requires the concerted efforts of all so this plan can be a success."

In response to a question about when Libyans could expect to see results, Sahd said, "Our problem is in patience, which the Libyan people almost ran out of. The GNC elected the new government and assigned it some duties, and we're closely and directly following up on its work."

"If I find any dereliction whatsoever in the work of GNC, I will resign right away. I've said that on the first day," Sahd said. "However, I see that the new government is adequately moving forward. Therefore, why don't we give each other a chance to make our work a success?"

But Libyans continue to question the pace of progress, particularly when it comes to working with outside help.

"Although Zidan's government moved clearly and tangibly to establish security and stability in Libya, especially with neighbours, like Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan and Chad, the meetings of the interior ministry with Benghazi local councils haven't so far met the demands of street in Benghazi, and the series of assassinations is still on-going in Benghazi," noted Ayman al-Shuwaihedi.

Libya is already working with some foreign partners in aerial reconnaissance over-fights, with unmanned drones spotted in the skies above Benghazi and Derna.

"Security in Libya is scary," Fatima Ali Barasi commented. "As to internal security, exactly like a resolution was passed by the UN for NATO's intervention, I believe that another resolution must be passed for UN intervention to establish security in Libya."

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