Why Libya’s Uprising Has Lost Its Shine

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Culled from APA

It is coming up to seven years since the battered and bloodied corpse of Muammar Gaddafi was laid on a stretcher surrounded by a ragtag group of unconventional fighters of the Libyan revolution.

After battling him for months, Gaddafi’s regime crumbled in October 2011 and opened the floodgates for disparate armed groups to battle for supremacy and fill the vacuum left by him.

He was stone cold dead! The evidence was there but Libyans could hardly believe it.

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 for 42 years, and the supposed start to something more progressive and exciting for Libyans.

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Fast-track to February 2018 and Libyans like Ali Almahdi are no longer enamoured of the revolution, which was supposed to usher in meaningful change – political pluralism, and 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 back.

“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 with a sullen expression on his face.

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

Before this interview, his mind was not on the heady days when Gaddafi was toppled, 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 as the scenes around him exuded energy, the toil and noise of preparations for February 17, the day in 2011 when the uprising against Gaddafi began.

However hard major cities and districts of Libya try to live the energy and spirit of celebration with flags and the photos of freedom fighters 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 up in front of banks, spending all day to withdraw money that the finance houses have been reluctant to part with give the runaway inflation which makes the Dinar’s value nothing to write home about.

Suaad Hassan, a middle age mother of six was one of those braving the cold night to stand in line for hours, hoping to retrieve some cash which she will use to buy victuals for her family.

“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 said.

For many like her, Libya has never been the same since change dawned on its citizens.

In fact it is a failed state, a country where the state no longer exist as several militias battle for control of small parcels of territory, from the capital Tripoli to Sabha and Benghazi in the east, she said.

The country currently has two governments, one in Tripoli, the other in Benghazi, backed by armed factions that regularly do battle with rivals.

Libyan intellectual Waheed Jado said the insecurity in people’s lives is a serious concern particularly during public events which are easy targets for armed attacks and suicide bombings blamed on factions sympathetic to IS which has gained more than 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 felt very happy that the revolution will take Libyans to a better life with unprecedented improvement to the country as a whole”.

Ali said it took him a few years to realize that Libya had graduated from the Gaddafi debacle to an even more complicated problem.

He said since the revolution has failed to lie up to expectation, thousands of Libyans have left the country for safer and more economically vibrant shores, notably in Europe and the Middle East where they take menial jobs to survive.

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

But despite all the sense of despondency, some Libyans like Khaled Mohamed still entertain hope that perhaps the nightmare Libya is going through is part of a wider 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 dream.

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