Libyans want truly national government, wealth distribution: NGO report

(The Nov. 8 story fixes headline to read “report”)

TUNIS (Reuters) - Libyans overwhelmingly want a national government that represents all parts of society and distributes resources fairly, a U.N.-mandated group said on Thursday after rare meetings across Libya.

The findings by the non-governmental Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue highlight wide discontent of ordinary Libyans with a struggle between two governments, rival armed groups, tribes and regions since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The United Nations had mandated the center to stage 77 meetings in 43 places across Libya to engage with all parts of society, a rare grassroots experiment in a country where few dare express themselves freely for fear of armed groups.

More than 7,000 Libyans participated in the meetings, some 30 percent of whom took part online as volatile security made it difficult to come in person, the group’s 77-page report obtained by Reuters said.

For one meeting in the southern city of Sabha, shaken for years by tribal violence, rival groups agreed on a ceasefire to allow for the rare public meeting to go ahead, the group said.

The meetings were meant to prepare a national conference the U.N. wants to stage early in 2019 after having abandoned a plan to hold a vote in 2018 because of violence and political divisions.

Libya should start the process to hold an election in spring 2019 only after a national conference to discuss conflicts, U.N. Special Libya Envoy Ghassan Salame said on Thursday.

“A common grievance expressed by participants in the consultation process was the lack of any government that genuinely represents and unifies the population,” the report said.

“The great majority of participants also agreed that the immediate priority for a new government should be national reconciliation,” it added.

Libyans are demanding a share distribution of resources and an end to looting by armed groups of oil and gas revenues, the real power holders.

“A sense of anger and bitterness about the economic situation was frequently expressed, especially with regard to the National Oil Corporation, the Central Bank, and Libyan assets abroad,” the report said.

Reporting by Ulf Laessing; editing by Grant McCool