By Ahmed Ruhayam.
Benghazi, June 1, 2013:
Several thousand Cyrenaic supporters of federalism today attended a large rally in Marj at which Sheikh . . .[restrict]Ahmed Zubair Senussi, head of the Cyrenaica Transitional Council, declared self-government for Cyrenaica. “Cyrenaica is a federal territory within the framework of the Libyan state and from this day, June 1, 2013, will begin to manage its own affairs,” he said at the event, intended to commemorate the 64th anniversary of the 1949 declaration of independence by the Emirate of Cyrenaica.
“Cyrenaica will activate the Libyan constitution of 1951, establish a Senate and a Congress to form the Parliament of Cyrenaica, as well as a regional government,” Zubair announced. He also called for the formation of a defense force to protect Cyrenaica.
Furthermore, he demanded that the General National Congress transfer funding for Cyrenaica to the Benghazi branch of the Central Bank and allocate budgets for the development and employment of young Cyrenaica.
There were no bombings or assassinations in the east of the country and no forest fires in the Green Mountains while the NTC was based in Benghazi, he said. These only started after the move to Tripoli. He accused unnamed political forces based in the capital of targeting Cyrenaica because they were not following their agendas.
According to Moammar Al-Arafi, head of the media committee for today’s rally, at least 6,700 people attended. There is no independent confirmation of the figure.
They did, Arafi told the Herald of Libyain response to recent developments in western Libya – in particular the manner in which the Political Isolation Law was passed and the current uncertain political outlook for the country.
Support for federalism has grown steadily in eastern Libya over the past year as the government has struggled to cope with security and the public has grown increasingly impatient. lack of political and economic progress.
Last month, a senior Cyrenaian official with close ties to Zubair told the Herald of Libya that due to the growing chaos in the country and the government’s inability to take decisive action, Cyrenaica would declare its autonomy and continue to govern itself, while waiting for the rest of the country to pull itself together.
Two weeks ago, 3,000 Cyrenaic leaders and community representatives came together and decided to proclaim regional autonomy on June 1, 2013.
In his speech today, Zubair referred to security concerns in Tripoli and elsewhere. “The people of Cyrenaica will not wait for the end of hostilities in Tripoli and Fezzan,” he said. In a reference to the Political Isolation Act, he also rejected any law passed at gunpoint.
He also attacked Congress for rejecting demands for federalism. “We have officially asked the General National Congress to organize a referendum on federalism; they ignored our requests.
Today’s rally started at 10.30am this morning when people started gathering in Marj. Around noon, Zubair arrived to open the event which began with a recitation of the Holy Quran and the national anthem. This was followed by remarks from Yousef Ali, head of Marj’s council of elders.
Zubair’s proclamation of self-government as head of the Cyrenaica Council formed in March last year included messages to the international community. The council respected the rights of women and children, he said, praising the important role of women in Libya’s history and saying they would continue to play a major role in the country. Cyrenaica would also focus on collecting weapons and fighting corruption and terrorism.
“Federalism was furiously attacked by the media and some respected political leaders when Cyrenaica first expressed its desire for a federal state,” said Faraj el-Kezza, Secretary General of the Democratic Union Party, who attended the ceremony. But opinions were changing, he said.
A recent national survey conducted by the University of Benghazi
The research and advisory center, sponsored by the GNC and the government, showed conflicting views, he said.
“Although the survey shows that only 8% of Libyans want a federal state, the survey also shows that 47% favor limited local legislative and executive powers. In addition, 36% are in favor of extended local legislative powers and 48% in favor of extended local executive powers. By any definition, this means that the Libyan people are looking for a federal state.
El-Kezza added: “The Libyan people want to manage their lives, which means managing their future, planning and developing their regions and economies.”
Whether today’s event is just one more statement or a bigger departure remains to be seen.
Cyrenaica’s declaration of independence on June 1, 1949 followed negotiations between the Emir, Idris Al-Senussi, future King Idris, and the British military forces that had ruled the province after expelling the Italian colonial authorities in 1943 In fact, Cyrenaica was not fully “independent” and the British continued to control some aspects of its government. The emirate then joined with British-administered Tripolitania and French-administered Fezzan to form the fully independent Kingdom of Libya in 1951.