Berbers occupy an oil-port in western Libya

Libya: Ethnic minorities call for a boycott of the Constituent Assembly elections

This weekend, a large oil-port in western Libya was occupied by Berbers. According to the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), this is a form of protest against the ongoing exclusion of ethnic or racial minorities from the Arabic majority. "The ethnic tensions in the northern Africa are getting out of hand," warned Ulrich Delius, the STP’s expert on questions regarding Africa, in Göttingen on Monday. Because they feel underrepresented in the committee, the Berbers, Toubou, Tuareg and representatives of the displaced black African people from Tawergha have called for a boycott of the Constituent Assembly elections.

The STP sent an appeal to the Libyan National Congress, demanding more seats for the minority groups in the Constituent Assembly, in order to be able to protect the interests of the non-Arab population. Tomorrow, on Tuesday, the National Congress will meet to discuss ways to resolve the dispute. Of the 60 seats in the conference, the government has agreed to grant the Berbers, Tuareg and Toubou only two seats each.

Last Saturday, some Masir – which is what the Berbers call themselves – occupied the Mellitah loading port in the west of the country, which is operated by the Italian energy group ENI oil. Following the closure of oil ports in eastern Libya, this will probably reduce Libyan oil exports even further. Nine percent of Germany’s oil supplies come from the North African country, which is the world’s fourth-largest oil supplier.

The 35,000 African refugees from Tawergha have now joined the protest of the non-Arab population. They are disappointed about the fact that the Libyan authorities provide no support for the planned return to their hometown of Tawergha. The government had stopped a spectacular mass return that was originally planned for July 2013. "However, the authorities took no alternative measures, so most of the displaced people still have to live in camps," said Delius. "The people from Tawergha will no longer passively accept their expulsion, so they have joined the protest of the Tuareg, the Toubou and the Masir."