Across 'liberated' eastern Libya, volunteerism and a pulling together
In Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, one member of the transitional city council says that 'we have surprised even ourselves' as residents have stepped forward to maintain order.
In Pictures Libya uprising
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As US officials struggle to understand the quickly unfolding events, a predominant concern is that chaos and civil war could emerge after Mr. Qaddafi’s one-man rule is dispatched – if he doesn’t manage to sow it himself first.
“Yes, there are no police, no institutions. Law and order as defined doesn’t exist,” she says. “But in practice, Benghazi is incredibly safe. Safer than it was under Qaddafi. People are all volunteering, the banks are opening. We surprised even ourselves.”
President Obama, citing Qaddafi’s use of “wanton violence” against his own people, issued an executive order Friday freezing the assets in the US of the Libyan government and Qaddafi’s family, less than an hour after the last US diplomat was evacuated from Tripoli. The UN is considering sanctions of its own in New York today.
Qaddafi is still reportedly holed up in his Tripoli stronghold of Bab al-Aziziya, a neighborhood filled with his friends, clansmen, and thousands of soldiers who answer to his sons. He has remained defiant, barking threats and insisting that all true Libyans love him. There were reports today from the capital that he’s distributing weapons to his supporters.
Though his rule seems finished, his rhetoric and actions are strong indications that there will be more blood to pay before this revolution succeeds.
Benghazi residents band together
But across 'liberated' eastern Libya, a spirit of volunteerism and pulling together is evident. At the “Voice of Free Libya,” the country’s first uncensored radio station in decades, people working there tell of strangers showing up with baskets of food. In the courthouse, an old man scrubs toilets – his way of doing something for the country, he says.
Jalal Galaal, a businessman who’s acting to bring together the city council and local interests, says businessmen and government officials started showing up last week at the courthouse – a focal point for protesters – asking what should be done.
“The guy who runs the gas pumping station that feeds the power plants here showed up and said 'I need help,' ” says Mr. Galaal. “We simply told him to get his people together and come up with a list. Wahda Bank said it needed protection. I think we sent a few guards, but once they saw things were safe here, they mostly organized things for themselves.”
He says it’s all evidence that fears of tribal divisions coming to the fore and Libya coming apart are false. “We’ve been direct and consistent with our message,” he says. “Benghazi is an important city and a proud city. But we want one Libya with Tripoli as its capital.”
That message is a response to Qaddafi’s attempts to paint the uprising as variously committed to breaking up Libya into a series of Islamic emirates, or as funded by drug lords, or as part of a joint Al Qaeda and US plot to destroy the country.