Libya: Clinging on hope amidst the daily grind

APA-Tripoli (Libya)

Surrounded by the grim infrastructural decay stretching over a wide area outside the main airport in the Libyan capital Tripoli, Hatem Mohamed refuses to give in to despair.

The tall and languorous middle aged man still stubbornly clings on hope for his country’s deliverance from the monstrous jaws of a deadly and destructive civil strife that has turned everything in Libya upside down.

 It is eight years since the battered and bloodied corpse of Muammar Gaddafi was laid on a stretcher surrounded by a ragtag band of unconventional fighters who called themselves the vanguards of the Libyan revolution.

Those heady days of the immediate post-Gaddafi period have long gone but the trauma of conflict still wreaks havoc in a nation that prided itself in being stable even if it suffered under the yoke of autocratic rule for 42 years. 

Public infrastructure lay in ruins in Tripoli, as residents go through the daily grinds of making a living and approaching each days with the sometimes naïve conviction that there is something realistically achievable to live for.

Guns, mortars, bayonets and RPGs are everywhere in the hands of disparate trigger-happy groups vying for military supremacy since Gaddafi’s overthrow left a political power vacuum that invited fierce rivalries and turned the country into a killing field.

The rule of chaos also meant that illegal migration, human traffcking and militancy have been put on a long leash.

Life in Libya’s biggest cities Tripoli and Benghazi mirrors the daily tension and struggle between the natural urge for social sanity and the militaristic instinct for power and control, the chief spoils of war for protagonists to the conflict.

Amidst this bedlam, social and economic life has all but come to a grinding halt.   

Banks no longer readily cough out the money belonging to clients who line up for hours in the hope of retrieving them simply because monies are running thin and foreign exchange is a luxury beyond the means of many. 

Even simple money wire transactions that used to be a given in the national trading system, are now a laborious affair as Libya’s ability to do business with the rest of the world continue to be buffeted thanks to protracted insecurity.

Buying basic commodities including foodstuffs is therefore a daily struggle notwithstanding the acute shortage of cash to acquire them. 

Since the revolution that saw the back of Gaddafi, Libya has been tottering on the brink of total security and economic collapse. 

 Libyan inflation was at -1.60 percent in February of 2019 after reaching an all time high of 32.80 percent in May 2017.

By all indications, Libya is a country with two Central Banks, and two petroleum corporations competing for stakes in its oil sector.

People in the south of the country feel margenalised, neglected and left at the mercy of crimes, including smuggling and human trafficking.

Like other parts of Libya in the past eight years the south is far removed from what remains of the functioning national economy. 

Life there is characterized by the lack of electricity, medicine and money.

But Libyans like Hatem remain determined that as hard as the realities of life may be, their country will eventually pull through these daunting crises to a future that delivers the goods. 

“We used to be a united, safe and comfortable country. Now we are enemies to each other”, ventures Hatem Mohamed, flinging his war-weary hands around and gesturing to the ruins around him, his words meaning the consequences of the conflict without literally referring to them.

“But we shall overcome because Libya is a great country and Libyans are more than Gaddafi and any other leaders combined” he adds for good measure.

Salma Ghariani, an employee at a public company who he regularly spends hours queuing in front of banks to receive his salary agrees, could not be more optimistic about the future of the country.

He says the sense of public weariness about the conflict will sooner or later catch up with the armed militias themselves, being as they are the only stumbling block to the return to normalcy.

When Libyans of all hues trooped out in February 2011 to reject the supposed injustices and exclusion of the Gaddafi era, they believed the alternative will bring something better.

For Mohamed Nayli although Libya has lost its stability, nothing could pay for the absence of the spectral figure of Gaddafi in their daily lives.

He says overthrowing an intolerant and bloodthirsty regime was an end in itself and anything that followed such as the freedom to speak out against the wrongs of the past and present was a great beginning for the country.

He and other Libyans say solutions to the country’s divisions will be eventually found and an indivisible state will emerge from the recrudescent embers of war to reign supreme and bring back stability and order to their lives.

Many Libyans such as Hatem Mohamed are resting fresh hopes on the outcome of a UN-sponsored national conference aimed at bringing the different armed groups to the negotiating table.

This would be chaired by the UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salama.

Many more are convinced that proposed elections once they come to pass will give less political reason for armed militias and their leaders to continue holding out against the tide.

In the meantime, Libya remains divided and run by two governments, one based in the eastern city of Benghazi which distinguishes itself as the birthplace of the anti-Gaddafi revolution where what remains of the Libyan army is led by Khalifa Hafter.

He has been pursuing an offensive in the south, hoping to rid the area of militias with sympathies for the so-called Islamic State.

The other government is based in the capital Tripoli where other militias battle for the soul of the city and its surroundings.

Hatem says, Libyans are a proud and resilient people and after surviving the long season of political depravity under Gaddafi, it would be foolhardy to bet against them through the course of the next few decades.


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