Anger has been escalating in the region — centred around the Sirte Basin and including towns such as Sirte, Ajdabiya, and Kufra — which was once known as Barqa al-beida (White Cyrenaica).
This refers to the Accord of al-Rajma of October 1920 when Italy agreed to give Idris al-Senussi — the head of the Senussi Order and then Libya’s king between 1951-1969 — autonomy over the interior oases which had white sand, while the Italians controlled the more fertile red-soiled Barqa al-hamra (red Cyrenaica) composed of Benghazi, the coast, and the rest of eastern Cyrenaica.
In recent weeks, some of its prominent figures have issued a number of statements calling for the need for their oil-rich region to be represented in the current political negotiations. They also expressed their support for a selection mechanism for the new executive authority which would favour the selection of: the Misratan businessman, Abdul Hamid al-Dabaiba, for the post of prime minister; and Abdul Jawad Faraj al-Obeidi — the former GNA National Reconciliation Minister and a cousin of the House of Representatives’ speaker, Aguila Saleh — as the head the new Presidency Council.
One statement, which was a kind of declaration of the establishment of the White Cyrenaica region, also demanded: ‘the involvement of the southeast in all international and national negotiations that would determine the fate of the Libyan state;’ as well as ‘the allocation a specific share of oil revenues in the constitution to be distributed among the municipalities of the southeast in order to bring about sustainable development to the region.’ It called for its designation as a Libya’s fourth region — together with Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan — and ‘the adoption of international and national standards used in local administration to distribute financial and administrative quotas, with geography and natural resources being primarily taken into consideration.’
Whether such demands can be converted into actual political power remains to be seen. But they provide further evidence that eastern Libya’s political establishment is far from unified, and that figures such as Aguila Saleh do not have support in all quarters. White Cyrenaica cannot, however, be easily dismissed because it produces more than 75% of the country’s oil production, has important oasis agricultural, and vast reserves of fossil water which supply the Great Manmade River (GMR) upon which the coastal cities are virtually totally dependent.