Minority Rights in Libya: the Berbers

Berber flag. Image from wikipedia

Protesters have shut Libya’s gas export pipeline to Italy, its only customer, demanding more rights for the c, or Berber, minority and depriving the weak government of a major source of income.  The closure worsens turmoil in Libya where Prime Minister Ali Zeidan warned that the government might face budget problems next month after protesters cut oil production to a fraction of its capacity.

The North African country faces anarchy as the government has failed to rein in armed militias and radical Islamists who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but kept their weapons.  Although the closure on Nov. 11, 2013 of the Greenstream pipeline will take several hours to register at the other end, it adds to Italy’s energy headaches after Ukraine halted gas imports from Russia, which could also impact supplies. Italy depends heavily on Russian gas.

Amazigh protesters last month seized the port at the Mellitah complex, some 100 km west of Tripoli, and have already shut down oil exports from there. The oil and gas complex is operated by Libya’s National Oil Corp and Italian energy company Eni.”We tried to convince them not to close the pipeline, but it’s closed now,” Munir Abu Saud, head of the local oil workers’ union, told Reuters…

Tripoli has seen its authority crumbling over its restive regions and fears an exodus of foreign oil companies and investment.  The Amazigh minority in September shut a pipeline feeding gas from Eni’s Wafa field to export facilities at Mellitah. Although this squeezed exports, much of the gas Libya sends to Italy comes from offshore fields.

The Amazigh protesters want their language guaranteed under Libya’s planned new constitution and a bigger say in a committee to be elected to draft the constitution. They say Berbers are treated as second-class citizens in the Arab country.

Excerpt, By Ghaith Shennib and Ulf Laessing, Libyan Berbers shut gas pipeline to Italy, cut major income source, Reuters, Nov. 11, 2013

 

 

 

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