Libya’s Draft Constitution: Compromise or Compromised?

Qaddafi’s brand of Arab nationalism left no room in Libya for linguistic or other cultural expression by minority groups like the Berbers and the Tebu. Given the discrimination and political manipulation ethnic minorities suffered under Qaddafi, it was no surprise that they were among the first groups to join the revolution. The Berbers viewed the revolution as an opportunity to regain their cultural rights and ancient identity.

With the overthrow of the Qaddafi regime, they demanded official recognition of their language, cultural identity, and contribution to Libyan history. When the General National Congress ignored their demands and the 60-member CDA reserved only two seats each for the Berber, Tebu, and Tuareg ethnic minorities (the Berber community alone is estimated to constitute upwards of 10 percent of the population and thus should have been allocated six seats), the Berbers boycotted the constitutional drafting process.

Given this history, provisions in the second draft that support inclusive and diverse principles and claim to cherish all social, cultural, and linguistic elements are open to interpretation, but appear to address some Berber demands. The second draft declares Arabic to be the official language of the state as was true in the 1951 constitution and the 2011 Draft Constitutional Charter, but it also considers languages spoken by a part of the Libyan people to be national languages with article 65 dedicated to the protection of national languages and cultures. The second draft clearly goes some way towards addressing the demands of the Berbers and other ethnic minorities, but it remains unclear whether or not it goes far enough to regain their support.

One Response to Libya’s Draft Constitution: Compromise or Compromised?

  1. Dr Satya P.Bindra 15th March 2016 at 6:56 pm #

    UNCSD Rio+20 hails the second draft of the Libyan constitution that seeks to accommodate the wishes and demands of the many stakeholders as interest groups. We urge CDA to further refine and fine tune it after reviewing the best practices & lessons learnt.

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