Al Jazeera reports: Tribal leaders and militia commanders in oil-rich eastern Libya have declared their intention to seek semi-autonomy, raising fears that the country might disintegrate following the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.
Thousands of representatives of major tribal leaders, militia commanders and politicians made the declaration on Tuesday in a ceremony held in Benghazi.
They promised to end decades of marginalisation under Gaddafi and named a council to run the affairs of the newly created region, extending from the central coastal city of Sirte to the Egyptian border in the east.
Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston, reporting from the capital, Tripoli, said the announcement in Benghazi was only the beginning of a process.
“It is certainly significant, but we need to put it into context: first of all, they have announced the formation of a new regional council, and this will actually take a couple weeks to form,” she said.
“At this stage, they say they would like independence, but they have not declared independence. At this stage they haven’t even declared a degree of semi autonomy.”
The gathering in Benghazi also rejected an election law which allocated 60 seats for the eastern region out of 200-member assembly set to be elected in June.
Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), the interim central government based in Tripoli, has repeatedly voiced its opposition to the creation of a partly autonomous eastern region, saying it could eventually lead to the break-up of the country.
Reacting to Tuesday’s declaration, Waheed Burshan, a senior NTC representative, said the tribal leaders were looking for political power, whereas ordinary people of the east wanted a unified Libya.