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Libyan Opposition Seeks to Build Self-Styled Government

  • Scott Bobb

A soldier walks past a wall of posters appealing for information about missing people, at a hospital in Benghazi, Libya, April 17, 2011

A soldier walks past a wall of posters appealing for information about missing people, at a hospital in Benghazi, Libya, April 17, 2011

With fighting between opposition forces in Libya and forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in its third month (on April 17th), the rebels have begun to take steps to govern and administer the areas under their control. VOA’s Scott Bobb spoke to opinion leaders in the opposition-controlled city of Benghazi and has this report.

Every Friday thousands of people gather in front of opposition headquarters at Benghazi’s courthouse. Its walls are a memorial to the hundreds of people who died in the struggle against the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

National Transitional Council

The preacher denounces the abuses of the Gadhafi regime. Despite the military stalemate on the ground and the continuing conflict, opposition leaders have set up a National Transitional Council to replace the 41-year dictatorship.

Heavy gunfire pockmarks houses in the Bira neighborhood in Misrata, a rebel bastion 120 kms (75 miles) east of Tripoli, on April 15, 2011

Heavy gunfire pockmarks houses in the Bira neighborhood in Misrata, a rebel bastion 120 kms (75 miles) east of Tripoli, on April 15, 2011

Council Spokesman Mustafa Gheriani says there is a lot of work to do.

"We are building a country from scratch and it’s testimony that we are doing great job that the entire east part of the country is functioning better than ever before and better than the areas that Colonel Gadhafi is ruling," said Gheriani.

The Council has 31 members representing all of Libya’s political districts. Only 10 have been announced. The others are kept secret for security reasons and because the Gadhafi forces still control large parts of central and western Libya.

Crisis Management Team

The Council acts as an interim legislature and oversees a Crisis Management Team that administers opposition-held areas. A member of its political advisory committee, Professor Zahi Mogherbi, says a panel of experts eventually will draft a new constitution.

"We have very good chance of transforming our country into a really democratic, constitutional and civil society with all the ingredients for branches of government that rule according to the law and its people with all the rights, political, civil, are guaranteed," said Mogherbi.

An Egyptian expert on Libya, Zaki Akl of Cairo’s Al-Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, says the interim council so far appears to be fulfilling these goals.

"There is a feel of a social democracy-kind of a state that is evolving inside Libya. If you look at the plans of the National Transitional Council, they are very different from the Jamahiriya system that Gadhafi invented," he said. "And the Council itself has evolved on the basis of those who were, yes, members of Gadhafi’s regime yet were very much in conflict with the procedure by which Libya was administrated."

Concern over extremists

Some observers fear that what they call the Libyan revolution could be hijacked by Islamist extremists. But Professor of Islamic Law Osama el-Salladi says Libyan society is not radical.

Mohammed Tajouri, 54, a local elder, distributes bread to rebel fighters on the outskirts of Ajdabiya, Libya Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mohammed Tajouri, 54, a local elder, distributes bread to rebel fighters on the outskirts of Ajdabiya, Libya Thursday, April 14, 2011

He says Libya aspires for freedom, and will prove to the world that its moderate understanding of Islam is very positive and the future will prove that.

Mogherbi says Libyans will reject any system that undermines social institutions in order to prop up the rule of one man.

"Right now the only consensus that I can see and agree with, that we are not willing and we don’t want to live under any kind of dictatorial regime under any guise, be it Islamic or liberal or Communist," he said.

Common good

Gheriani says the people want to build a Libya where everyone has access to adequate housing, health care, education and a good diet.

"I’m quite optimistic in Libya’s future," said Gheriani. "And I think Libya can be a modern state, part of this world. And it can be used as the example in the Third World of democracy and how democracy can benefit the people of Libya."

Businessman Mohamed el-Sheki, attending Friday prayers with his son, echoes the sentiment.

He says I hope for a Libya with the rule of law, freedoms of all types and security, that is the most important.

Libyan leaders acknowledge the road will be difficult and full of risks but they are adamant in the belief that they will succeed in building a new, modern state.

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