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Libya's Defacto Government Is Being Reorganized

Aug 10, 2011
Originally published on August 10, 2011 5:13 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Let's follow up, now, on the consequences of a murder in Libya. The murder victim was the chief of staff of the Libyan rebel army. The body of Abdel Fatah Younis turned up near the rebel capital last month, far from any battlefield. And that led to suspicion he was killed by one of his supposed allies within the rebel government. Now that government is being reorganized just weeks after the U.S. extended formal recognition to it. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing in foreign language)

LOURDES GARCIA: It was meant to be a display of unity and professionalism. The head of the rebel National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdul Jalil presided over a ceremony flanked by senior military officers in full uniform while the rebel anthem played.

Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA: Reporters here attended in the expectation that the rebel government would explain its recent actions. But after a brief statement, Jalil marched off without taking a single question.

The rebel council here is on the defensive and in disarray. There's still been no official word on who killed Ahmed Fatah Younis, or why.

NTC: procedural errors in how the NTC operates.

SHAMSUDDIN ABDUL MOHAL: Deputy prime minister, defense minister, interior minister, health, education, all of them, they're all now been asked to resign or have actually been sacked, one way or another. You can term it as you like.

GARCIA: Spokesman Shamsuddin Abdul Mohal says the move is a sign of the rebel council's democratic credentials

ABDUL MOHAL: During a time like this, you are going to have to be firm. And I think they showed their firmness quite clearly and loudly.

GARCIA: The United States has welcomed the firing of the executive committee, saying the NTC was clearly taking time for reflection and renewal. But for many it only signals a deeper crisis.

Fathi Terbil is a member of the National Transitional Council, but he's not a minister, so he's keeping his job.

FATHI TERBIL: (Arabic language spoken)

GARCIA: The killing of Ahmed Fatah Younis has effected our relations with our allies and friends, he says. It sent the wrong signals about what we're doing here. Domestically and internationally. There are many repercussions. It happened at a difficult time, he says.

TERBIL: (Foreign language spoken)

GARCIA: We are trying to implement the principles of democracy, he says. We as people are not used to this. We were ruled by one man for 42 years under a dictatorship.

In many ways the government in Benghazi is one in name only. The ministers don't really preside over ministries; they are a kind of government in waiting. There has been a feeling for some time that the NTC needed to clean house. Its membership is made up of former exiles, who are seen as out of their depth. And there seem to be many competing agendas among in its ranks.

So after Younis's killing, some are now asking why the world was so quick to anoint it as a real government, ready to rule the Libyan people.

NABILA RAMDANI: The killing of General Younis was an absolute disaster, as far as the image that the rebels were projecting.

GARCIA: Nabila Ramdani is a London-based commentator on the Arab world. She says the international community was too quick to recognize the NTC.

RAMDANI: It's an un-elected, disorganized rebel force. And it is disorganized on many levels, militarily and politically. The only common point that all these people share is that they want to get rid of Gadhafi.

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GARCIA: On the streets of the rebel capital, Benghazi, there is frustration and worry. Many laud the council for it role in fighting Gadhafi, but the daily realities here are grim. Some feel the NTC has been working too hard to appease the international community and not taking care of the part of the country it already governs.

SABER ABDUL SALAM AL: (Foreign spoken)

GARCIA: Saber Abdul Salam al-Majbary is 23 years old and unemployed. He says the war has been going on for almost half a year now. There is no electricity, no security, no transportation, he says. Everything is hard.

GARCIA: But like many here, he repeats this mantra: Everything will be better once we get rid of Gadhafi.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Benghazi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.