Libya protest over housing enters its third day
Frustrations over corruption and incompetence in government housing schemes for poor families spills over into protests across the country
Mohamed Abdel-Baky, Sunday 16 Jan 2011
An image published by Qaraina news website for vacant houses in Libya
Protests in several cities in Libya continued for a third day over the late completion of government subsided housing.
Last night hundreds of people broke into vacant houses and took over about 800 vacant units in Bani Walid city (180 kilometres south east from the capital, Tripoli).
Several activists on social network sites reported that over 600 units in similar projects in Benghazi were taken over yesterday by protesters that have been waiting for years to move in to their homes.
The Libyan government has run subsided housing projects for poor families in several cities for years. However local authorities in some projects postponed the delivery of hundreds of housing units to the owners who have already signed contracts and paid most of the installments.
A statement released by the National Front for Salvation of Libya, an opposition movement established in 1981, described the frustration of the protesters in Bani Walid: “Bani Walid has no basic services; thousands of people are without houses and the local authority is corrupted, it only delivers services with bribes. Nothing will make Bani Walid calm but freedom, justice and transparency.”
Witnesses said that hundreds of policemen were observing the protests but did not intervene, even when hundreds of people broke in to some buildings under construction.
Information and videos posted on Twitter and YouTube show hundreds of Libyans protesting in the east of the country in the cities of Bidaa, Darna and Sabhaa late Saturday.
Qourina, an independent news website, reported several lootings during the protests in Darana city.
Qourina also reported that two of its reporters were beaten by protesters on Saturday.
There are no reports of injuries or clashes with the police.
Al Jazeera TV network reported that police have been instructed by the government to avoid any clashes with protesters and to only protect government buildings and contain the protesters' anger
The government response came in a statement on Saturday by the Revolutionary Committee, an influential policy making body within the government, that described the protests as “demagogy” that undermine the legitimate authority.
“We have formed a committee to investigate every complaint, all the problems will be solved soon through the legitimate authorities,” the statement added.
Libyan state media did not mention the protests; however the Revolutionary Committee's statement condemning the protests was reported on television.