Libya eyes port city for parliament

Comment on this story
IOL pic may5 libya parliament Reuters Ali Tarhouni, the head of the committee drafting a new constitution for Libya, speaks during a news conference in Benghazi on May 4, 2014. Picture: Esam Omran Al-Fetori

Benghazi - Libyan authorities signalled on Thursday they would press ahead with plans to move the country's parliament to the eastern port city of Benghazi despite a collapse in law and order there.

The plan to move the newly elected national assembly from the capital Tripoli to the country's second largest city is part of efforts to rebuild state authority in the underdeveloped east, neglected by Libyan governments for decades.

Justice Minister Saleh al-Merghani said the government had decided to allocate 25 million Libyan dinars ($20.83 million) to moving the new assembly, elected last month in a vote marred by a very low turnout and violence.

“There is nothing to stop us having the legislative authority in this city,” he told reporters, adding he hoped further funds would be found for helping to turn Benghazi into the permanent home of the assembly.

Diplomats and some lawmakers from the previous parliament have questioned how the assembly plans to meet in a city where the weak government forces hold little sway.

Security has worsened since a renegade general declared war on militant Islamists in May, turning parts of Benghazi into a battle ground, with fighting continuing even during the holy Muslim month of Ramadaan.

Speaking after talks with lawmakers and local security officials, Merghani said security forces would work out a plan to protect the assembly in Benghazi.

Lawmakers from outside Benghazi will live in the Tibesti hotel, which will also serve as the seat of the assembly, he said. A landmark tower-shaped building, the hotel has struggled to attract travellers since the ousting of veteran Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 in an armed uprising.

Asked about security for the building located in the city centre, lawmaker Amal Bayu who attended the meeting said: “We hope the people of Benghazi will protect the assembly like they protected the National Transitional Council during the revolution (against Gaddafi).”

Benghazi was the cradle of the 2011 uprising during which it hosted the rebels' headquarters.

Results of the June election are expected on July 20, but fewer than half of eligible Libyans voted, a disappointing turnout that reflected disillusion with the chaos prevailing in the oil-rich North African country since Gaddafi's overthrow.

In a reminder of the lack of security in Benghazi, gunmen shot dead on election day Salwa Bugaighis, a prominent female human rights activist who helped organise the city's protests against Gaddafi that kicked off the uprising. - Reuters

sign up

Comment Guidelines

  1. Please read our comment guidelines.
  2. Login and register, if you haven’ t already.
  3. Write your comment in the block below and click (Post As)
  4. Has a comment offended you? Hover your mouse over the comment and wait until a small triangle appears on the right-hand side. Click triangle () and select "Flag as inappropriate". Our moderators will take action if need be.

  5. Verified email addresses: All users on Independent Media news sites are now required to have a verified email address before being allowed to comment on articles. You are only required to verify your email address once to have full access to commenting on articles. For more information please read our comment guidelines