Why Libya’s revolution has lost its shine

APA-Tripoli (Libya)

It is almost eight years to the day the battered and bloodied corpse of Muammar Gaddafi was laid on a stretcher surrounded by a ragtag band of unconventional gun-totting fighters of the Libyan revolution.

After battling the Libyan strongman for months, his regime finally crumbled in October 2011 and opened the floodgates for disparate armed groups to battle for political supremacy to fill the void.

Gaddafi dead? It was too good to be true for the armed band of renegades who had fought tooth and nail to wrest Libya from his grasp, a grip that had lasted 42 years. 

As Libya's version of the Arab Spring, February 2011 heralded the beginning of the end for the charismatic strongman who had had his people under his impulsive thumb since 1969.

As the celebrations unfolded all over Libya, this political sea change was supposed to herald the start to something more progressive and exciting than the autocracy which Libyans had been used to under Gaddafi.

Fast-track to 2019 and the sense of hopelessness had permeated all strata of Libyan society especially the capital Tripoli where instability had worsened with the invasion in April by forces led by warlord Khalifa Hafter.

The ensuing stalemate in the conflict has seen the deterioration of life in the city and little or no social serrvices by the weak internationally backed government.

Libyans like Ali Almahdi are no longer enamoured of the so-called revolution, which was supposed to usher in lasting peace and tranquility to start with, economic prosperity, political pluralism, and a culture of free speech which they had yearned for all these years under Gaddafi's iron-fisted grip on power.  

Almahdi, a resident of the capital Tripoli told the African Press Agency that the biting economic hardship is a more urgent matter for citizens than celebrating an event which has lost its shine, taking his country several decades backward.   

“When the anniversary of the change comes around I will not go out to celebrate because I have been running out of money for months even though my salary is in my bank account” he burst out, a sullen expression etched on his face.

“All the time they say there is no liquidity in the banks” he added quickly to illustrate his cheerless point.

His mind had long since forgotten about the heady days of the revolution when Gaddafi's capture was confirmed, triggering waves of celebratory gunfire and cheers in several towns and cities across Libya. 

Instead it was revving with the urgency of catering for his family which in his opinion the revolution was undermining everyday. 

“I cannot find happiness again as long as I keep asking where the next meal to feed my family will come from” he chuckled while the scenes around him showed the ruins of war.

However hard major cities and districts of Libya try to live the energy and spirit of a new reality, with national flags adorning squares, walls and streetlights, the expression on people’s faces appear forlorn, subdued and distant.

Against this colourful but muted backdrop, citizens including the elderly and infirm queue in front of banks, spending all day to withdraw money that the finance houses have been reluctant to part with given runaway inflation, making the Dinar's value nothing to write home about.

Suaad Hassan, a middle age mother of six was one of those who braved the cold Libyan night to stand in line for hours, hoping to retrieve some cash for victuals her family desperately needed. 

“Revolution?…what revolution… I am not happy with the revolution and I will not celebrate it because it has brought only hardship to my life…no money, no security and things are expensive” Suaad complained.

For her and many like her, Libya has not been the same since change dawned on the horizon and brought a new unsettling reality in its wake.

Libyans are looking at their country as a failed state, a country where the state no longer exist as conventional wisdom knows it. 

Militias are everywhere battling for control of small parcels of territory, from the capital Tripoli to Sabha and Benghazi in the east.

It has two governments, one in Tripoli, the other in Benghazi, backed by armed factions that regularly do battle amongst themselves.

Libyan intellectual Waheed Jado said the insecurity in people’s lives is a serious concern particularly during public events which are soft targets for armed attacks and suicide bombings blamed on factions sympathetic to IS.

The militants have taken advantage of the instability to gain a foothold in the country since it disintegrated post-Gaddafi.

“Because people do not feel secure after the revolution, they will cower in their homes away from celebrating an event that has not given them anything tangible to be cheerful about” Jado added.

As a staunch opponent of Gaddafi, Mohmoud Ali said with the former regime gone, he had felt elated that the revolution would give Libyans a huge lift to a progressive future with unprecedented improvements all round.

Ali said it took him a few years before the harsh reality began sinking in as Libya graduated from its debacle under Gaddafi to an even more complicated problem.

He said since the revolution is failing to live up to expectation, thousands of Libyans are leaving for safer and more economically vibrant shores, notably in Europe and the Middle East where they take up menial jobs to survive by the barest minimum.

Looking back at the Gaddafi years with some reluctant fondness, Ali conceded: “At least during that time Libya could afford to treat its sick and see after the welfare of poor people”.

 He added regrettably: “But now Libya cannot even take care of itself as a state”.

But despite an overwhelming sense of despondency, there is no shortage of Libyans such as Khaled Mohamed who still entertain hope that perhaps the nightmare Libya is going through is part of a dream which will deliver better days.

“Libya will one day correct itself and the killings and armed robberies will somehow disappear and its citizens will regain control of their lives” he said confidently.

In the meantime, the standoff between two diametrically opposed governments and their armed surrogates makes Khaled’s hopes a distant, fading dream and the revolution they had fought for in vain.


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