By Hadi Fornaji.
Tripoli, 27 September 2013:
A group of tribal elders in southern Libya are reported to have held a preparatory meeting in Obari on Thursday to discuss the possibility of setting up a “Fezzan Supreme Council” similar to the Cyrenaica Transitional Council set up last year by Cyrenaica federalists.
However, reports that the meeting declared Fezzan, one of the three Libyan historic provinces, a federal state within Libya have been denied by a local source. He said that a meeting to decide on the future of the Fezzan would be held next week. “Yesterday’s meeting was like an advertisement for the main meeting next week in Obari,” the source said.
In a statement at the end of yesterday’s meeting, the elders – reportedly from Sebha, Waddan, Wadi Al-Shatti, Jufra and Obari – said that they were responding to “the GNC’s poor performance and inability of the government to meet public requirements, especially in the Fezzan region”. Participants also reportedly expressed their rejection of what they called, “decisions that differentiate between Libyans in respect of rights and duties”.
The statement claimed that the Fezzan Supreme Council would appoint a military governor whose duties would include the activation of the army, police, judiciary, protection of borders, oil and gas fields and water resources located within the region.
The head of the Preparatory Committee of the Forum of the Tribes and Social Components of Fezzan, Ahmed Ibrahim, was quoted by Ajwaa Al-Bilad news saying that “we feel that the government is oblivious to Fezzan and has no real existence. If the government has been in existence, we would not have raised the federal option”.
Some 120 delegates are reported to have attended in addition to other local observers. A Tebu spokesman said they were mainly Arab but with a few Tebu and Tuareg as well. The numbers, though, are disputed.
In response to the meeting, the Council of Elders of Sebha as well as the town’s Shura Council and the Federation of Civil Society Organisations in Sebha today said they “strongly” condemned any move towards federalism. Those who took part in the Obari meeting, they said, represented only themselves, the Libyan new agency LANA reported.
Others stated that there were only a few people attending, stating that federalism was deeply unpopular in the south.
The three organisations said that they themselves were committed to the national unity and the legitimacy of the state as represented by the General National Congress and the transitional government. Libya’s oil and water they said, was for all Libyans.
After Cyrenaica, Fezzan is Libya’s other main source of the two resources.
Support for federalism is reported to be growing in Fezzan and there has been much talk about it, particularly among the Tebu and Tuareg, but yesterday’s meeting was the first concrete step taken in support of the idea.