Magharebia (Washington DC)

4 June 2013

Libya: Cyrenaica Declares Autonomy

Tripoli — Libya's oil-rich eastern region declared self-governance on Saturday (June 1st). A day after the announcement by the Cyrenaica Transitional Council, the General National Congress (GNC) discussed the issue and promised to release a statement condemning the declaration.

"Cyrenaica is a federal territory within the framework of the Libyan state, and as of Saturday June 1st, will start to run its own affairs," said Cyrenaica council chief Ahmed Zubair al-Senussi, speaking in the eastern city of Marj.

Two weeks ago, 3,000 eastern leaders and community representatives met and decided to proclaim regional autonomy on June 1st, the anniversary of the 1949 declaration of independence by the Emirate of Cyrenaica.

The eastern region will "activate Libya's 1951 constitution, establish a Senate and Congress to form Cyrenaica's Parliament representing all segments of the territory without exclusion until elections are held in the region, as well as establish a regional government in co-operation with all political parties without exclusion putting the interests of the territory first", he added.

The growing chaos in the country and the "inability of the government to take decisive action" led Cyrenaica to declare autonomy" and "get on with running itself, while awaiting the rest of the country to pull itself together", a senior official close to al-Senussi told Libya Herald last month on condition of anonymity.

"The people of Cyrenaica will not wait for hostilities in Tripoli and Fezzan to end," al-Senussi said Saturday.

The Cyrenaica Transitional Council approved a defence force in accordance with two resolutions issued on May 11th and 24th. The defence force will operate alongside the army and public security.

"We are serious in fighting terrorism and corruption and we will work to protect the Libyan state," al-Senussi said.

He called on the GNC to deposit Cyrenaica's budget in the Central Bank, to prioritise development create opportunities for young people.

"We will co-operate with our neighbours to address security, to fight immigration and drugs and to respect all agreements with the countries of the world," al-Senussi said, adding that he no longer trusted the GNC and the government.

"The positive side in the declaration of Marj is that federalists refused to recognise the political isolation law," al-Bayda-based Naji al-Harbi said. "This should be enough pressure to drop this law if the federalists choose to do so, which would be a hard blow to the Islamists."

Journalist Mohammed Amer from the city of Benghazi opined, "Federalism has returned and is stronger than before."

Media figure Fatima Marimi from Benghazi said that the dismantling of the centralised system was "needed to calm the worries of citizens in the east and the perception that everything is located in the capital".

Derna native and blogger Abdel Nasser Bah was doubtful, however, that Libya would adopt the federalist system.

"When the federal system was discussed first on the grounds of the large size of Libya and the lack of communication and transportation, three cities clearly rejected the idea, namely Tripoli, Benghazi and Derna, despite the approval of the majority of Libyans at the time," he said.

"Twelve years later the federal idea was dropped, and today only 8% of Libyans are demanding a federation that is not justified on the ground," he added. "We are the descendants of those opponents. We have become 92% and we will not allow the division of the country."

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