Libya's Berbers press for govt inclusion

AFP , Sunday 27 Nov 2011

Hundreds of Libya's minority Amazigh Berbers marched Sunday to the premier's office for the second time in three days, stepping up pressure to be represented in the government

Chanting "Take our minister," more than 500 members of the Amazigh Berbers -- men, women and children -- waved their blue, green and yellow flag as they set out from a gathering at Martyrs' Square in Tripoli. They demanded that their rights be accepted, also yelling: "Tamazight is our language and it must be recognised!"

"We are marching to the prime minister's office to... ask why our representative was not included in the new Libyan government and also demanding that our language be officially recognised," lawyer Milod Ahmed, a member of the National Amazigh Congress, told AFP. The protest comes two days after a similar rally by dozens of Amazighs.

During Muamer Gaddafi's 42 years of hardline rule, the Amazighs -- whose name means "free men" -- were banned from publicly speaking, writing or printing anything in their own tongue, tamazight.

The Berbers, who make up about 10 percent of Libya's six million people, are angry after their community was left unrepresented when a new cabinet list was unveiled this week. They have been present in Libya since before the Arab conquest in the seventh century and are remembered for their military resistance to the Italian occupation which ended 60 years ago.

A minority nationwide, the Amazighs form a majority in the northwestern Nafusa mountains, in Zuwarah region 120 kilometres (75 miles) west of Tripoli and in Ghadamis province on the frontier with Algeria.

Ahmed said that the local council of Zuwarah had "frozen its ties with the National Transitional Council over the past five days" in protest against the new government. The Berbers are also angry after being active from the start of the revolt against Gaddafi as they worked with the Arabs to topple the regime.

With the war over, they now want to contribute and take their place in Libya's political and cultural life.

Interim prime minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib "had said that his cabinet would be made of technocrats (but) where are these technocrats?" asked Khaled Zikri, an adviser to the finance ministry who himself is an Amazigh.

"If this is true, then we have several qualified technocrats," he said. After Thursday's unveiling of the cabinet, the National Amazigh Congress called on all Libyans, and Berbers in particular, to end cooperation with the NTC and government.

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