By Mohyeddin Sajedi
The power of Libya lies within unity and Egypt insists on the Libyan unity, the Egyptian foreign minister said.
The remarks were made after tribal leaders and politicians in Brega region, which has common borders with Egypt, declared it a federal state. Some Egyptian military analysts believe that given the fact that Western countries seek to establish a base in the region of Brega, Egypt will be totally surrounded by Israel (in east), split up Sudan (in south) as well as Libya.
The viewpoint may seem a little bit radical at the moment but it will not help alleviate concerns in Libya, where militia is ruling in absence of stability and refuse to lay down their arms for the sake of a unified army. Head of Libya’s National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdul-Jalil’s threats that he will deal with the demand of the Brega tribal leaders would break out a civil war in the country. Jalil has accused supporters loyal to former ruler Muammar Gaddafi and certain Arab countries of fomenting the crisis.
The significance of the issue comes to more light when we take into consideration the fact that the capital of the Brega region is Benghazi, a city that is the birthplace of the revolution that led to the ouster of the despotic regime of Gaddafi.
To justify their demand, supporters of Libya’s return to federalism refer to the 1951 constitution that was approved during the monarchy of Idris Senussi and split the country into three states of – Brega (Cyrenaica), Tripolitania and Fezzan. They insist that they do not want the breakup of Libya but their claim fails to seem reassuring for the head of the transitional council. Gaddafi maintained the three traditional parts after assuming power.
Ahmed Al-Zubair al-Senussi, appointed to lead the region of Brega, is related to Libya’s deposed king and has received military training in Iraq and Syria. He was jailed for attempting to stage a coup against Gaddafi in 1970 and was released in 2001. He is considered the longest incarcerated prisoner in Arab countries. He became a member of the National Transitional Council from the very beginning. His call on NATO to launch an attack on Libya led to the fall of Gaddafi regime.
Although Libya has been run by the central government since 1951, the elite of Brega have always been protesting the violation of rights in this region. There is no link between three states of Brega, Fezzan and Tripoli due to the existence of the vast Libyan desert. Only a highway has been built between Tripoli and Benghazi. People in Brega feel closer to Egyptians rather than Tripoli. People in Tripoli also feel close to the Arab Maghreb countries. Social infrastructure in Brega differs from the two other parts of the country. Sayyid Muhammad ibn Ali as-Senussi, well known as Grand Senussi, who was an Algerian religious cleric, succeeded in uniting the region’s tribes in mid 19th century. The Senussi is a sect spread only in east Libya. This region has always objected to Gaddafi’s policies and the first sparks of the Libya’s revolution was ignited in the city of Benghazi.
Supporters of Brega’s federalism believe that Tripoli has been equipped with more military hardware after Gaddafi’s fall and more ministries have been located there.
The new election law awards 102 of the assembly’s 200 seats to Tripoli while allocates just 60 to Brega.
The National Transitional Council (NTC) said this quota has been set based on population density and not geographical size.
The NTC has not come to power via people’s will and this will cause the problem of internal legitimacy as it moves forward. Members of the council are not completely known to the Libyans. The council has the responsibility to hold the Constitution of Assembly’s elections in June. The assembly should codify the new constitution which will define the country’s political system.
While, NTC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil is threatening to use force in order to halt a return to the 1951 constitution, Libya’s interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib is softer on the issue.
We are not forced to have centralization since it is outdated in the 21st century and we also do not have to go back fifty years when federalism governed the country, al-Keib said, adding, Libya’s government plans to decentralize power.
Recently, the work to compile Libya’s national charter, which is a model for the new constitution and stresses decentralization and empowering local councils, has been finished.
Should the problem fail to be settled between Libyan leaders inside Libya, it may be referred to the United Nations.
Sudan, one of Libya’s neighboring countries, finally succumbed to disintegration and its southern regions adopted different foreign policies from its North and allied with its adversaries.
In a less developed country like Libya, it is likely that federalism will lead to the country’s disintegration, particularly that the plan to disintegrate Libya to five region including, Brega, Tripoli, Misrata, Jebel Nafusa and Fezzan, has been put forward several times.
Local elections in Misrata (west of Libya) lead to the dissolution of the council appointed by transitional council.
In Jebel Nafusa, federal government has all but no influence.
The growing polarization of the Libyan community and the empowerment of the paramilitary organizations will increase skepticism regarding the fate of federalism in Libya, the decision made by the city of Benghazi and the Brega region.