Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) Deputy Chairman Abdul Hafiz Ghoga 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 former leader Muammar Qaddafi’s 42-year rule, has witnessed a number of protests over the past few months demanding the nation’s new rulers sack officials who served under Qaddafi.
The NTC denounced the incident, saying it was an attack on the Libyan people and the revolution.
Ghoga, who also serves as official spokesman for the interim government, had to be escorted away after being mobbed by angry students at the University of Ghar Yunis in Libya’s second-largest city. He escaped unharmed, but had to endure a tirade of abuse from the crowd, who accused him of opportunism because of his belated defection from the Qaddafi regime, witnesses said.
Students have been demonstrating on the Ghar Yunis campus for weeks to protest a perceived lack of transparency in the administration that took over after Qaddafi’s ouster and the prominent position in it of a number of his longtime lieutenants.
“Some people pulled me away from the mob,” Ghoga 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 Qaddafi.
Ghoga said the incident was a result of what he described as an incitement campaign against him.
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 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 Qaddafi’s rule ended, more progress should have been made.
The NTC reacted by saying “every attack or aggression against the National Transitional Council represents an attack on the sovereignty of the Libyan people and its glorious revolution.”
A statement said Ghoga represented the “highest legitimate authority” until the election of a constitutional assembly in June.