"Challenging the country’s transitional leaders in the nation’s capital, Tripoli, the 3,000 people assembled in an old soap factory near the regional capital, Benghazi, also announced unilateral plans to begin establishing their own autonomous government...
"Participants in the conference said their eastern state, known as Barqa, would have its own legislature, budget, police and courts, with Benghazi as its capital. But they said the federal government would continue to control foreign policy, the national army and the oil.
"'We sent our sons and weapons to liberate the entire western area, so where is the division?' asked Dr. Ezza el-Hwaity, a speaker at the conference, alluding to the east’s place at the forefront of the uprising. 'Are our demands too high compared to the sacrifices we made?'
"A regional contest for power erupted immediately after the overthrow of Colonel Qaddafi six months ago. Militias organized in several cities during the war have yet to turn over their weapons or submit to a central authority, and the transitional government has struggled to devise a formula that could reconcile competing demands for representation in the planned constituent assembly."
Prior to the Italian conquest, what is now Libya had a population concentration in the west called Tripoli that was culturally Maghrebi and an eastern region of Cyrenaica which was more Middle Eastern. Barqa is the Arabic name for Cyrenaica. The two regions were separated by the desert coast of the Gulf of Sirte. After independence, the two regions were joined in a loose federation united mainly by the person of King Idris. Only after Qadhafi came to power in 1969 was there an attempt to create a strong central government, and a question has been the extent to which that government and the accessability of oil wealth had fostered a united national identity. That is clearly still and open question.