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Ethnic group demands say in new Libyan government

November 27, 2011
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TRIPOLI, Libya—Hundreds of people pushed their way to the door of the Libyan prime minister's office on Sunday as they demanded representation in government for the Amazigh, one of the country's largest ethnic minorities.

The Amazigh, whose culture was suppressed during the decades of Moammar Gadhafi's rule, said they're angry that they are not part of a new transitional government, despite their large size and contribution to toppling Gadhafi. The new government was sworn in on Thursday.

The group has rallied repeatedly in Tripoli in recent days, just one of many groups to enjoy the new freedom in Libya to push for their interests.

The tensions reflect simmering tribal tensions -- one of many challenges facing the interim government of Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib as it tries build democratic institutions from scratch.

"We are protesting here to demand the rights of the Amazigh as they have sacrificed their martyrs, so they have the right to continue as a part of this country with us," said Salaam al-Zameti, a Tripoli resident. "Why are they being discriminated against and neglected? They are Libyan citizens."

During Sunday's rally of about 400 people, some pressed their way to a security line in front of el-Keib's office and briefly scuffled with guards. He spoke briefly with some of the group's elders, but results were not made public.

On Sunday there were new signs that a measure of normality was returning to the vast oil-rich nation after eight months of civil war.

At Tripoli's university, students and professors said they are reveling in the new freedom to speak freely -- a change from the Gadhafi years, when students said they were afraid to express political views, even to their friends.

"This place was a center of oppressions, oppressions, suppressions, denying the minimum rights," said Faisal Krekshi, the new dean. "But now everything has been changed, things have been turned upside down. Now you have a liberal and free university." The university has an enrollment of 120,000.

In a sign that business life, too, is starting to stabilize, international shipping company Aramex said Sunday it has resumed normal operations in Libya.

The Dubai-based logistics firm apologized to customers for "any unforeseen delays or difficulties" in Libya in recent months, and said it is committed to operating in the country "as Libya looks onwards to a bright future."

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