By Hadi Fornaji.
Tripoli, 2 May 2103:
Militiamen supporting the Political Isolation Law that would see Qaddafi-regime officials banned from holding senior government . . .[restrict]and state institution jobs took their armed campaign to the Ministry of Electricity today.
Since Monday, they have been blockading the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, claiming that Qaddafi-regime officials were working there. They also blockaded the Interior Ministry the same day. On Monday, they attacked the Finance Ministry, smashing equipment in offices, and on Tuesday took action at the Ministry of Justice.
“We are not against demonstrations,” said the Electricity Minister, Ali Muhairiq, this evening, confirming today’s protests. “They have legitimate demands.” But he did not confirm reports that the militiamen had entered the building and ransacked offices.
The militiamen continue their blockades of the ministries, vowing not to leave until their demand that Qaddari-era officials be sacked is met.
Today they rejected an appeal from Prime Minister Ali Zeidan to end the sieges.
Their actions have deeply divided Libya. There has been a growing backlash against them with opponents stating that they have gone beyond the law by trying to achieve their aims by force. But others say that there is no other way to ensure that Congress passes the Isolation Law.
The militiamen’s apparent willingness to go outside the law was seen today. Witnesses saw one man being chased, beaten in public and dragged, screaming, into a vehicle by people believed to be militiamen. The vehicle has been seen parked alongside gun-mounted militia vehicles outside the ministries.
A number of local councils have been rallying to the government’s side, with statements against the militiamen.
“The way they have acted is against the law”, Zintan council leader Mohamed Wakwak told the Libya Herald earlier today. “We support the government.” Zawia council put out a statement saying that the militiamen do not represent the town.
At an inaugural meeting today in Zintan of a new nationwide youth organisation aimed at coordinating local youth groups across Libya, youth leaders from all of the country spoke out against the blockades, saying that the government should be supported.
The divide also saw about 100 demonstrators from Zawia arrive in the capital to protest at the militiamen’s action. However, as many as 280 vehicles from Kikla, Misrata and Zliten were also reported to have arrived to reinforce the blockades.
This evening the capital appeared to heading for a showdown tomorrow over the blockade with both sides reportedly planning demonstrations in Martyr’s Square.
The militiamen are reportedly led by Adel Al-Ghariani, who stood for Congress for his native Ghariyan last July, Jamal Al-Hajji from Qasr Khiyar near Khoms, and Osama Kabbar from Zawia. Most of the men, however, are from Misrata.
Condemnation of their action today came from France. A statement from the French Foreign Ministry in Paris said that “such unacceptable acts are impeding the proper functioning of government”.
The statement called on “all Libyans to come together around the transitional government and the General National Congress, the only legitimate authority following the elections of 7 July 2012”.