23 July 2013

Libya Prepares Constitution Amid Insecurity

Tripoli and Asmaa Elourfi in Benghazi — Libya on Saturday (July 20th) took the first step towards drafting its new democratic constitution.

Interim Prime Minister Ali Zidan, former National Transitional Council President Mustafa Abdel Jalil and other dignitaries were on hand in al-Bayda as General National Congress (GNC) President Nouri Abu Sahmein formally authorised a panel to create the historic document.

The 60 seats on the new Libya constitutional commission will be equally distributed among the country's three main regions. Six seats will be reserved for women and six for ethnic minorities. The panel members will be decided through an election.

Speaking at the al-Bayda signing ceremony for the constitutional commission draft law, former GNC President Mohamed Magarief called on Libyans not to let the historic opportunity slip through their hands.

"We must free ourselves from the constraints of ignorance, backwardness, tyranny, oppression, corruption, chaos, envy and hatred. We must resolve never to go back to them," Magarief said.

In his address, Prime Minister Zidan also focused on the security crisis, describing the "easy shedding of Libyan blood, senseless violence and lack of respect for responsibility".

"This matter calls for an enhancement of our interdependence and cohesion and to stand in front of all those who want to destroy what we are building. I call on the Libyan people to persevere," Zidan told attendees.

One of the men who contributed to writing the 1951 constitution, Taher Alem, agreed that a modern Libya required peace and security.

But even as Libya moved forward with the democratic transition, violence continued across the country.

The same day as the constitutional panel ceremony, the Libyan military mourned a senior Libyan Air Force officer found dead Friday in Benghazi.

Colonel Aqila Mailoud al-Obeidi, head of the Search and Rescue division, was kidnapped Thursday evening while returning from al-Bayda, where he had been visiting the family of a colleague murdered earlier in the week in Derna.

Al-Obeidi, a skilled linguist, worked as a translator for Kadhafi interior minister turned rebel military chief Abdel Fattah Younes, who was assassinated in 2011.

Also on Saturday, the son of the Western region military chief and two of his friends were murdered in Tripoli. Mukhtar Fernana, known to be close to the Zintan tribe, was targeted by unidentified gunmen while driving.

Then in Benghazi, military explosives experts dismantled two bombs placed inside the medical college complex at the university.

The explosives were the same type used in all the previous explosions in the city, Benghazi Joint Security Room spokesman Mohammed Hijazi said.

"What is happening in Benghazi is a settling of scores, in the absence of law and efficient justice," commented Ali Ben Youssef, a 37-year-old electricity engineer.

"We await the establishment of the constitution for these problems to disappear," he said. "What we fear is the approval of the constitution at gunpoint."

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