Libyan Berbers protest outside PM’s office
TRIPOLI, Nov 27 – Several hundred people from one of Libya’s biggest ethnic minority groups pushed their way to the doors of the prime minister’s office today to press their demands for greater representation.
The Amazigh, or Berber, people are seeking recognition of their language and culture now that Muammar Gaddafi’s repressive rule is over, and their demands are causing tensions with the Arab majority.
The dispute is one of dozens in Libyan society that have come to the fore since Gaddafi was ousted and are making it difficult for the country’s new leaders to govern.
Protesters, many of them waving the yellow, blue and green Amazigh flag, shoved their way past security guards into the car park in front of the building housing the offices of interim Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib (picture).
They stopped at the front door of the building, where a group of security guards prevented them from going in. There was no violence.
The crowd chanted “Where is El-Keib?” and “There is no difference between Amazigh and Arab!”
After more than an hour the door opened and the prime minister stood in the doorway trying to calm the crowd. Wearing a cap in Amazigh colour he made a brief speech using a bullhorn, but he could barely be heard.
The crowd responded by shouting “Go home!”
Libya’s Amazigh played a crucial role in the battle to force Gaddafi from power, and their militias now control several districts of the capital.
Their protests started last week after an interim government was announced with no ministerial-level posts for Berbers.
The Amazigh are just one of dozens of interest groups which are exploiting the new freedoms after Gaddafi’s fall to demand power and influence, often with little regard for public order.
Last night, a crowd of people from the Souq al-Juma district of Tripoli briefly surrounded a Tunisian passenger jet on the tarmac at an airport in the city, delaying take-off by several hours.
They were demanding a government investigation into the deaths of several fighters from the local militia. Tunisian operator Tunisair later said it was suspending its flights to Tripoli in light of the incident. – Reuters