Major demonstration planned today by thuwar demanding removal of ministers

By Umar Khan.

The National Congress . . .[restrict]has been subjected to repeated protests by demonstrators in recent days. (Photo: George Grant)

Tripoli, 2 November:

Three major groups of Libyan revolutionaries plan to mount fresh demonstrations outside the General National Congress building in Tripoli today after Asr prayers (around 4pm).

The Tajjamah el Watni Thuwar Libya (National Union of the Revolutionaries of Libya), Majlis Aala Thuwar Libya (High Council of Revolutionaries of Libya) and Itihad Saraiya Thuwar (Union of the Revolutionary Brigades) are demanding the removal of six ministers from Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s cabinet. They allege the six — Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Al-Aujali, Justice Minister Salah Bashir Margani, Interior Minister Ashour Suleiman Shuwail, Health Minister Nurideen Abdulhamid Dagman, Culture Minister Habib Mohammed Al-Amin, and Religious Affairs Minister Abdulsalam Mohammed Abusaad — had links to the Qaddafi regime.

The cabinet was approved by the GNC on Wednesday. However, within hours, around 100 revolutionaries from different towns arrived in front of the GNC building to protest the inclusion of the six. Numbers later reached several hundred.

The demonstration resulted in scuffles with GNC security guards who shot their guns into the air in an attempt to intimidate the protestors. Leaders of the revolutionaries say that they came with the intention only of talking to the GNC members about their approval of the cabinet. They say they were humiliated when the members left by a back entrance.

Ahmed Ben Naji, who trained as a computer programmer and is a member of the Tripoli Forum of Professionals was one of the revolutionaries’ leaders who protested the cabinet approval.

Ahmed told the Libya Herald that they all came unarmed: “Initially there were only the leaders from different areas and we wanted to talk. There is absolutely no way we would carry firearms. Abu Ubeida, a known revolutionary from Zawiya, was on crutches as he still cannot walk freely.”

Ahmed says that despite the response from the security guards they stayed, insisting on speaking to GNC members. “The security guards were not disciplined at all. One of them told us that he would kill us if we entered the gate”, he claimed. “Then one of them fired shots in the air from a 23mm gun. We told them we had heard this more times than they could imagine — on the frontlines fighting Qaddafi forces. We were surprised that they wanted to scare us. We came here only to talk.”

He said that the guards later agreed to take a list of ten names who would then be allowed inside the GNC building to meet the members. However, they never heard any more.

“After giving the names, we waited for an hour before we were told by one of the GNC members that they all had left from the back entrance. We felt insulted. We had no intention other than to talk but they insulted the revolutionaries twice. First, by including ministers with ties to the former regime against whom we were fighting and lost our brothers and, secondly, by making us wait for the meeting and then leaving in a secret manner.”

Asked about the reason they besieged the GNC building, Ahmed says it was to demonstrate to Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and the GNC the lack of trust on the part of the thuwar.

“Revolutionaries can only be reintegrated into society when they feel that the revolution will not be betrayed. But then they appoint controversial people as ministers. This will not help anybody.”

As reports of the demonstration spread on Wednesday, numbers increased. “We were from Tripoli, Zawiya, Sabratha, Khoms and Gharian but later as the news about the cabinet and the protest reached our brothers, many came from different towns of Jebel Nafusa and Misrata, Emselata and other coastal areas.”

Ahmed says that later some GNC members appeared and we talked with them on the demands: “A few GNC members later came to talk with us including Mohamed Addurrat, Salaheddin Badi and Mohamed Abu Esnena and we explained our position to them.

“We never attacked the building, after the members left the GNC, we went in along with a GNC member to have a meeting. We were surprised later when some members said that it was an attack on the GNC or a try to overthrow the GNC. We just want them not to include former regime figures in the new cabinet.”

Yesterday, Thursday, over 100 vehicles belonging to revolutionaries were parked along the road next to the GNC buildings. The men themselves could be seen standing on both sides of the road eating and chatting although only 20 or so were in front of the GNC building and the adjacent Rixos hotel.

During the day, Prime Minister Zeidan met with a number of them to discuss the situation. According to sources who attended the meeting, he agreed to make changes in the cabinet.

“He asked us to provide him the profiles of independent people for the main ministries and some of the deputy ministers. The changes will be made in the soonest possible time. Discussions have already started”, said one of the revolutionaries who claimed to be present.

It has also claimed that the prime minister was earlier asked by the revolutionaries, when he was choosing his cabinet, to take them into confidence over the four ministries that affect them directly — Interior, Defense, Youth and Labour — but that he refused.

The six names the thuwar now oppose have been forwarded to the Integrity Commission. 

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