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Libyan Rebel Government Works To Boost Legitimacy

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Libyan Rebel Government Works To Boost Legitimacy


Libyan Rebel Government Works To Boost Legitimacy

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

In Libya, the rebellion against the regime of Moammar Gadhafi is being waged on two key fronts. First, on the battlefield with critical air support from NATO. Those efforts saw some progress last week in the west of the country after many days of brutal stalemate. But the rebels' success also hinges on their ability to create a representative government that is respected at home and recognized abroad.

From the rebel-held city of Benghazi, NPR's Martin Kaste reports on what this nascent rebel government is doing to bolster its legitimacy.

(Soundbite of rally)

MARTIN KASTE: It's the rebels' weekly pep rally in Benghazi and this time they have some special guests.

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

KASTE: On stage, the emcee introduces delegates from areas of western Libya that are still under Gadhafi's control. The delegates are here to take their places in a 30-seat National Transitional Council, a kind of proto-parliament.

(Soundbite of applause)

KASTE: Eastern Libyans like Mansour Makhlouf say they're glad to see them.

Mr. MANSOUR MAKHLOUF: (Through translator) Gadhafi's people were spreading rumors that we are all divided. But we're not divided. We are all brothers.

KASTE: Some of the western delegates took a gamble getting here. The council's press liaison, Shamsiddin Abdulmolah, says the delegate appointed by rebels in the western city of Misrata was targeted by Gadhafi forces.

Mr. SHAMSIDDIN ABDULMOLAH: And they arrested him. Nobody knows where he is right now. So Misrata had to reappoint somebody else, and did not name him until he made it to Benghazi.

KASTE: The delegates got here via the friendly Gulf state of Qatar. It flew them all to Benghazi on a military plane. And they've agreed to stay in Benghazi and participate in the council to increase its legitimacy.

The move comes as this rebellion drags into its fourth month, and some Libyans start to ask more questions about a government that's not so transitional anymore.

Jilal Mobruk Bessiouni grew up in Benghazi but now lives in Dallas, where he raised funds to bring to the rebels.

Mr. JILAL MOBRUK BESSIOUNI: I gave the money to the council, to pass it to the needy people that could use it.

KASTE: What do you make of the council? What is your impression of that organization?

Mr. BESSIOUNI: Well, the jury is still out on that. So, you know, Libya was Gadhafi and nothing else. So it left a huge gap in the thought and the process of governing a state. So I give them a lot of credit. They're crawling and hopefully they're going to be walking soon.

KASTE: Bessiouni says he's troubled by the rebel government's lack of transparency. Meetings are often held in secret, and it's sometimes hard to find out who's in charge of what.

Professor ZAHI BASHIR MOGHERBI (Political Science, Qar Younis University): You're not talking about the New England City Council.

KASTE: Zahi Bashir Mogherbi is a political science professor at the local university. He says day-to-day decision making was traditionally a closed-door process in Libya.

Prof. MOGHERBI: Only the officials who are responsible for the different sectors - sectors of the services, the economy - meet and they decide about the issue that are facing them.

KASTE: And he says you can't expect this to change in the middle of an armed conflict. But once there's peace, Mogherbi says he's confident the rebel government will transition toward something that's more transparent and accountable.

Martin Kaste, NPR News, Benghazi, Libya.

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