BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) - The deputy head of Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) was roughed up on Thursday by university students in the eastern city of Benghazi, in a rare incident that indicates a growing popular discontent with Libya’s new rulers.
Benghazi, the cradle of Libya’s uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year rule, has witnessed a number of protests over the past few months demanding the new rulers sack officials who served under Gaddafi.
The protesters in Benghazi also called on the NTC to be transparent about its financial dealings, including how billions of dollars in Libyan assets were being spent.
Abdul Hafiz Ghoga, vice president of the NTC, was surrounded by a crowd of angry protesters and jostled before he was pulled away to safety.
“Some people pulled me away from the mob,” he said. “I think this incident is aimed at tarnishing the standing of the National Transitional Council.”
He was attending a memorial ceremony at a Benghazi university for those killed during the civil war that overthrew Gaddafi.
Ghoga said the incident was a result of what he described as an incitement campaign against him. He said he came to the event without a security detail except for his driver.
Attiya al-Ojeli, a university professor at the Benghazi University, said a group of students outside the hall chanted “Go away, Go away!” as Ghoga entered the hall.
He said Ghoga insisted on facing the crowd against the advice of the university.
The incident is particularly embarrassing for the NTC because Benghazi was where the revolt against Gaddafi started in February last year, it was for months the NTC’s base, and it is the main powerbase for many of Libya’s new rulers.
The new Libyan government is grappling with a number of issues, including disbanding the militias who have carved the country up into rival fiefdoms, forming police and military forces and creating jobs for thousands of jobless youths.
Most Libyans still back their new rulers but some are starting to express the view that, five months after Gaddafi’s rule ended, more progress should have been made.