28 January 2013

Libya: Security Woes Plague Benghazi

Benghazi — Instability in Benghazi is having an impact on everything from the investment climate to drafting the new constitution, officials say.

In the wake of a wave of assassinations and bombings in Benghazi, officials are voicing renewed concern about the impact of persistent insecurity.

Just last Thursday (January 24th), a number of Western governments advised their citizens to leave Benghazi out of fear for a potential terror attack.

Fathi Baja, a member of the outgoing National Transitional Council, said that the continuous security unrest, series of assassinations, kidnappings and bombings as well as repeated attempts to disrupt the judiciary were just a pretext for delaying many important issues, such as the election of the 60-member committee and the drafting of constitution.

"It's not difficult to choose the 60-member committee, and the drafting of the constitution is also not difficult," Baja told Magharebia. "Frankly, all that is happening is related to who actually rules Libya. There are different forces with conflicting interests that create a tense atmosphere, and these primarily include those who carry arms, and not all those who carry arms are revolutionaries."

In addition, Baja said there were people who benefited from the former regime who now have lost their life of luxury. "There are also power-seekers. All of these groups have contributed to security instability," he said.

While the new government had proposed making Benghazi the country's economic capital, bombings and terror attacks are deterring investment. Attacks on consulates and embassies have led many to close and caused a drop off in foreign business.

After an assassination attempt on the Italian consul, ten Italian investors in aquaculture, sea fishing and boat building cancelled all of their hotel reservations and air tickets to Benghazi, according to Mahmoud al-Maawaj, head of the promotion department at the Investment Promotion and Privatisation Authority in the eastern region.

The businessmen were supposed to visit Benghazi to examine investment projects. However, they put their visit on hold out of fear for the security situation.

For his part, Colonel Hamed al-Hassi said that religious radicals in the east opposed the return of the national army and security forces.

"As you can note, there are radical Islamist voices that say that the army shouldn't return, given that the allegiance of the army and police, even if they were far from the regime, was for the ruler due to the repression, starvation and torture that he had practiced against them, and therefore, their loyalty was for the tyrant. That is why the building of the army was rejected or became somewhat difficult," the colonel explained.

Suleiman Zoubi, a General National Congress representative from Benghazi, noted that the interior ministry has presented a proposal for establishing security that is now being implemented.

The strategy requires concerted and intensified efforts from all entities, and from the Libyan people themselves, as this will produce a positive effect soon, according to the congressman.

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