Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Discord reigns in... ...ranks of rebel leaders

Apr 5, 2011 region in revolt Movement's heads appear at odds with one another, and lack trust of public

BENGHAZI (LIBYA): With the rebels' battlefield fortunes sagging, the three men commanding the opposition forces were called to a series of meetings here in the rebel capital last week.

Little was accomplished in the meetings, the participants said. The meeting was a study in the struggles of an inexperienced rebel movement trying to assert its authority and learn on the job how to run a country.

In a country where politics was dominated for decades by Col Gaddafi, the rebels have turned for leadership to people they seem to know by reputation alone, and whose motives they do not always trust.

It has become increasingly difficult to locate the centre of rebel power. Many rebels have never met two of their most prominent leaders: Mr Mahmoud Jibril, an exiled former government official, and Mr Ali Essawi, former Libyan ambassador to India.

Mr Jibril, a planning expert, has not returned to Libya since the uprising began, spending much time meeting foreign leaders overseas. The two sit on a rebel executive council, one of several groups the rebels refuse to call a government.

There have been several hopeful signs, however. Experts on oil and the economy have joined the rebel ranks, and a rebel spokesman prone to delusional announcements was quietly replaced. Police officers appeared on the streets of Benghazi this week, in crisp new uniforms.

Despite the dismal progress on the battlefield, thousands of Libyan men volunteer to travel to the front every week.

Still, many decisions remain shrouded in secrecy and are leaked to Libyans piecemeal. But with each day that Col Gaddafi remains in power, the self-appointed rebel leaders face growing questions about their own legitimacy and choices.

After the Benghazi meetings, a screaming match broke out when Mr Heftar's supporters berated a rebel leader for choosing Mr Younes to lead the army.

Watching the argument, Mr Wahid Boughaigis, recently appointed to oversee the oil industry, said the tumult was the result of Col Gaddafi's long dictatorship.

Even so, he was cautiously hopeful. 'At least they're not shooting each other,' he said, before security guards escorted a reporter away from the scene.


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