TRIPOLI – There has been a huge build-up to the 15th February, the anniversary of the actual start in Benghazi of Libya’s 17th February Revolution.
A combination of the dissatisfied and Federalists in Benghazi were initially planning a large demonstration yesterday to express their discontent and frustration at the GNC and the current government.
The demonstration was labeled the “correction of the course of the Revolution” and its main demands are decentralization, more local government and the transfer of government organizations that used to be located in Benghazi, such as the NOC, back to the city.
Taking advantage of this planned demonstration, dark unknown forces opposed to the new political order attempted to, virtually via the internet, hijack the demonstration. Various posts on social networks attempted to turn the political demonstration into a mini revolt against the present state.
These perceived threats originating locally or from abroad were no more than that – threats and perceptions of threats by shady intangible persons unknown. There is no quantitative indication of them and in all honesty they could be as little as a handful or even one active troublemaker.
Whatever the reality of the threat was, the relatively weak and vulnerable state that Libya still is, took the threat very seriously. Some felt that the newly empowered Interior Minister, Defence Minister and Chief of Staff over reacted with their checkpoints and state of alert.
Foreign airlines cancelled flights, foreign personnel took short breaks abroad and the government closed down airports and border crossings. The country battened down the hatches in anticipation of a storm. Others, on the other hand, felt that this mini state of alert was a good exercise for the government and security forces to test their capabilities and their ability to impose some law and order. Interviewed celebrating on the streets live on TV yesterday, many ordinary citizens felt reassured and comforted by the show of strength put on by the government.
The recent terrorist events in Algeria, the military operation in Mali and the various security incursions all over Libya had added to the tension and fear in the lead up that the 15th February demonstrations could be infiltrated and hijacked by terrorists and forces wishing to destabilize Libya.
The Libyan authorities as well as civil society had reacted to these threats by attempting to take the tension out of the lead-up to the 15th. Prime Minister Ali Zidan and Magarief made visits to Benghazi and there was a concerted effort to make more TV appearances to calm the nation down. Political parties, local councils and leading NGOs have all lined up to show allegiance to the new status quo: democracy, the rule of law, and the right to demonstrate peacefully.
And to a huge extent, these counter 15th February initiatives succeeded, judging by yesterday’s demonstrations all over Libya – including Benghazi. To be fair, the Federalist movement in Benghazi pulled out from holding their demonstration, which neutralized the whole day.
In reality, yesterday’s events were a series of happy celebrations, speeches and pledges of support to the new order. Speeches were made, flags were flown, fireworks were let off and car horns were blown all day and night with no security incursions reported by the end of the night.
The proposed 15th February counter revolution to “correct the course of the Revolution” was at the end itself revolted against by the overwhelming majority of Libya’s population – including the people in the east and specifically in Benghazi. – Libya Herald