Libya: the proof will be in the pudding

by Hervé Pugi.

Hard-fought by the UN Mission in Libya, the Government of National Accord (GNA) remains, according to all, in a very fragile and worrying condition. In Tripoli, where it finally took its quarters after hard negotiations with local authorities, unpopular Fayez al-Sarraj is scrutinized with disbelief. In a capital where good living has long been gone and where some areas see their residents demonstrate regularly against various shortages, we want results and… fast! Let it be clearly noted, more than from overcoming the Group Islamic State in Sirte, national unity will depend on the new leaders’ ability to meet the expectations of the Libyans.

Severe fatigue in Tripoli. Difficult to speak of a hangover. Frankly not really fit for the local culture and most importantly, five years after the jubilation, the feeling of drunkenness has had enough time to disappear. Just speak with Nadia E. This Tripolitanian, who is piled up with a dozen people in a three-room flat on the outskirts of the capital, sighs and concedes, completely beat down, that she is “tired… tired… tired…” Her relatives do not need to speak. The same feeling is all over their faces. The young woman has a hard time putting together her list of grievances… There is insecurity of course, even if the term seems low in view of the situation: “There not a single week when someone is not abducted by strangers or arbitrarily detained by militias. Tripoli, now it’s the Wild West but without any Sheriff!” Everyone nods in agreement.

Khaled B. shares the frustration. Without really dwelling on violence issues, “this is nothing”, and this thirty-year-old has no issue making a list of the daily problems he faces everyday: “No electricity, no water, no gas, no money in the banks!” This is a reminder of the many shortages that regularly affect the capital. This vigorous character protests: “What happened to the dough? Who took it? The banks were full of it under Gadhafi!” Not that Khaled B. regrets the Jamarahiya era, he himself fought in 2011, it’s just that he is infuriated by the fact that he feels that “his” revolution, “their” revolution, was kidnapped. By whom? For this mechanic, who cares, he blames all those that count, and principally those who are harmful to Libya, while singing “they’re all rotten!” Then, answering his own question, he declares, with as much disgust as anger: “Money, we must go get it from militias. They’re the only employers who are still paying. Where do you think they get the money?”

The Libyans are spent. Above all, Libyans want no more of these intra-state wars, of these ill-disciplined armies fighting side-by-side one day and shooting at each other the next, of this life of sacrifices when they were promised democracy, peace and prosperity. “Libya needs less of NATO and weapons and more food assistance and medicines. Daesh, it’s 3,000 people in Libya but thousands of Libyans who will die of hunger and lack of care”, says Nadia, worried. An image of the reality which challenges on the other side of the Mediterranean. When experts scream out loud when describing this war-torn Libya, abandoned to chaos and at the mercy of the Islamic Group, some bring some beneficial nuances.

For Khaled, “there’s only a few hot spots in the country where the battle is rough but most of the country lives quietly and suffers from the vacuum left at the top of the State.” Same thing for Nadia and same feeling of abandonment while the country has never had so many “representatives”. A Presidential Council established by the international community has more or less rallied the General National Congress of Tripoli that supports it as much as it threatens it, but also a Chamber of Representatives in Tobruk, subject to the blackmail of a general they appointed at the head of his army but cannot remove… Antagonistic blocks where each is causing harm in order to better exist. For the administrative attaché, no doubt, “nobody wants to lose his small influential power and the benefits that go along with it. They have no other visions for Libya than benefit they, and their circles, will draw from it. They have money and weapons, that’s all they need…”

Khaled is on the same page, and with irony, dares to joke about this country where “everyone rages his own little war”. Waving his arms, he mimics: “One day I’m shooting at Daesh, the next I’m shooting at you! Daesh takes a shot at me then they’re shooting at you! So, I am going to shoot at you again because you shot at me, then if I have a bullet left, maybe I’ll take a shot at Daesh…” Absurdity at its climax. Now back to being serious, the mechanic is frowning and shares his bewilderment at the future: “Sarraj who is it? The militias of Misrata are behind all the victories of his Government. What does Sarraj think? That they will come home without asking for anything in return? This is a never-ending story!”

Nadia, on her side, gives little credit to the character also but believes that “since he was put there by Westerners, he has a better chance to be successful”. She concedes the fact that “he is not from one side or the other” but, once again, his greatest merit is ultimately to be “the one who was chosen” by the international community. Having a “puppet” President/Prime Minister, as his detractors call him, at the head of the country does not bother her, she even thinks that it would not be a bad thing “if Libya was temporarily managed from the outside”. Just enough time, she says, to ensure that leaders “are there for the right reasons and that the money is not siphoned”. Above all, she says, “if Sarraj manages to improve the daily lives of Libyans by restarting the economy and providing safety, they will follow him. In fact, the Libyans will follow anyone capable of giving some life back to the country”.

A point of view more or less shared by Khaled. As far as he is concerned “the Libyans must figure it out by themselves”, however he acknowledges that “everyone is tired of this situation. That’s why people could not care less about who gives them dinars, bread and peace as long as they get it. If Sarraj offers all this, we will take it and thank him.” Rubbing his hand under his chin, he bolts “if it is another, it’s the same…”

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