By Jamal Adel.
Tripoli, 24 December 2013:
The main reason for the continuing closure of the Sharara oilfield near Obari in the south . . .[restrict]west of the country is not demands by Tuareg demonstrators for Libyan national ID cards but opposition to the old unelected Obari Local Council, a member of the demonstration committee has claimed.
Rejecting suggestions that there were militiamen among the protestors, Mahmoud Al-Ansari admitted to the Libya Herald that the protestors included a small group of Tuaregs demanding ID numbers but they were far from the only group taking part in the blockade. The removal of Obari’s unelected, old council was, he insisted , the sole official demand of all the demonstrators and their supporters. He claimed their number was between 1,500 and 1,700.
The local council, which he called “illegitimate”, continued to refuse to hand over power to the new elected one, he claimed. “We’ve sent a number of letters to the GNC and the government to press our demands”, he added. “We need a real development projects in Obari.”
The Sharara field, 60 kilometres west of Obari and run by Akakus Oil, a joint venture between Spain’s Repsol and the National Oil Corporation, reopened exactly a year ago after a three-week closure forced by Tebu activists. It was then closed again last August after militiamen from Zintan shut down the pipeline from it, but it reopened in September.
A month later it closed again after local protestors from Obari, mainly Tuaregs, broke into the oilfield to stage a demonstration. It was said at the time that they were demanding National ID numbers and their language be given official status in the new constitution.
Oil from the 350,000 b/d-capacity field is piped to the oil terminal at Zawia.
The Oil Minister, Abdulbari Al-Arusi, visited Sharara after it shut down in October, but according to Al-Ansari, the demonstrators refused to meet him was because he was accompanied by local Congresswoman Muna Koukla, a member of the Justice and Construction Party.
“We warned him not to come with Muna Koukla. She represents a small group in Obari and protects the old non-elected local council”, he alleged. The demonstrators felt they could not trust her, he claimed.
The Defence Minister, Abdullah Al-Thinni, had also visited, Al-Ansari said, but he too was ignored because he had met with the non-elected local council.
The issue over the two rival councils, together with claims and counter claims of overspending and corruption, may soon become irrelevant, however.
The Central Committee for Municipal Council Elections (CCMCE) says that it is planning in January to start the process to elect a new municipal council for Obari. [/restrict]