A king falls in the opposite direction to the concrete skate park, tying tricks to his skateboards. “I love this new spot by the sea,” the teen says, wearing a hat over her braided hair. At seven in the evening, the temperature began to drop below 30 degrees in Tripoli, on the Mediterranean coast of western Libya.
Life seems to have prevailed thanks to the ceasefire signed in October 2020. But the truce is fraught with danger. On June 10, cotton candy sellers and large families took over the surrounding lawns, when bursts of fire and explosions of children’s laughter suddenly engulfed them. In the stadium, life and death: Two of Tripoli’s main rival militias waited until dark to clash in the city center. Miraculously killing an activist and civilians.
A month earlier, the leader of one of these militias had helped former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, now a member of the opposition led by Field Marshal Haftar in exchange for the position of prime minister, briefly enter the capital. He was forcibly expelled. With the support of the Parliament of the East, Fathi Bashagha installed his parallel government in the coastal city of Sirte in the center of the country, at the end of the area controlled by the forces of Field Marshal Haftar. A few hours after the clashes, a video was posted on the internet to amuse and panic the Libyans. We see the UN-recognized Head of Government talking on the phone with the 444th Brigade Chief. “It will never happen! We must silence the guns by all means and let the people have fun!” Abdul Hamid Dabaiba releases … lying in his pajamas on a sofa.
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A sudden attack is engraved in our minds
But on the part of the national unity government, they say they are ready to stop any new attempt to storm the Libyan capital. “I have two to three thousand men ready to fight,” confirms commander Salah al-Din Nimroush, who “expects further confrontations” as he approaches A symbolic date on June 21. Since May, there have been at least four clashes between militias in and around the Libyan capital.
And the fear of further escalation is growing because the residents of Tripoli are barely recovering from Field Marshal Haftar’s surprise attack, which began in April 2019 to seize the entire country. Within a few weeks, the capital found itself besieged and its suburbs occupied. The forces sent by Turkey, supporting the Tripoli-based government, had radically halted the advance of its army, with the support of UAE and Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Company. The ceasefire, especially the new national unity government appointed in February 2021, has raised real hope for peace. The plan, negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations, was to end a decade of civil war that has torn the country apart since the fall of dictator Gaddafi in 2011. For the first time, the two rival camps in the east and west agreed to rule together during an 18-month transitional period with one goal: to organize elections Presidential and Parliamentary.
Three weapons for each inhabitant
This Tuesday, June 21, ends the term of the Government of National Unity. However, no vote was taken to replace him. Since the United Nations did not anticipate this scenario, the Prime Minister, Abdelhamid Dabaiba, decided to remain in power until the organization of virtual elections. The House of Representatives threatens to replace it with its parallel government led by Fathi Bashagha.
At the crossroads of Tripoli’s main roads, militiamen signal motorists to move forward, swinging their Kalashnikovs. “There have been more checkpoints in recent weeks. We know it can get out of hand, especially on the weekends, so I don’t hang out. Sometimes all you have to do is fire your horn at a guy to pull his gun. But that can happen. Also in the banks guarded by militias,” Farah notes as he drives his SUV. Since the end of 42 years of Gaddafi’s rule, nearly 20 million weapons have been in circulation in this country of barely 7 million people. The national unity government led by Abdel Hamid al-Dabaiba has bought calm in the capital by integrating the main militias into the security services and allocating millions to them. Today we have a thousand Muammar Gaddafi plus one! The country will remain unstable as long as weapons are everywhere,” the 45-year-old headmistress predicts.
Read also: Clashes in Tripoli between the two rival Libyan governments
‘Libya can look like Dubai’
Beside the acid-colored slides, only a few burning cars and the impacts on empty buildings remind of the exchange of fire that occurred the day before. It’s not enough to annoy my son’s emotions who roll on the fresh grass. There are not many parks and our electricity is cut off for four to seven hours a day. We don’t have peace of mind in this big park in the middle of the city, but we don’t have a choice if we want to get some fresh air,” their mother explains. If the clashes continue short and local for the time being, the blackout angers all residents. Without warning, she jumps Kiryat for a few hours in Tripoli and up to half a day in the south of the country, where the temperature reaches 45 degrees. In question, the dilapidated state of the electrical infrastructure that has been abandoned over the past decade, marked by three successive civil wars in the western suburbs of Tripoli, was from The plant was scheduled to open at the beginning of the summer, but heavy fighting in May damaged it and delayed its operation.
In front of the Motul gas station, a line of cars stretches for several hundred meters. The manager is only open five hours a day, as there is no generator connected to the pumps. And in the land of black gold, it’s time for scarcity. Although Libya has the largest oil reserves in the African continent, it imports 80% of its diesel due to the lack of refineries, and that is paying the high price to the global market. To make matters worse, smugglers divert up to 40% of shipments, according to the director of the National Oil Company. “With all our oil, Libya can look like Dubai, but everyone uses the corridor,” Asif Farid, a 39-year-old businessman. The businessman, who cautiously asked to change his first name, said he gave in to paying a bribe of 50,000 dinars (9,000 Swiss francs) to the chief of his small village who prevented the municipality from building a new road. “Either I lost the contract, or I was kidnapped or even killed,” he said wistfully.
“No one lives in just one job”
As the new military elites get richer, the standard of living of the rest of the population declines. The value of the Libyan dinar, which was roughly equivalent to the dollar before the revolution, was divided by five. With the same blue dinar coin, Fathi exits the bakery with four rolls, instead of about thirty. His civil service salary of 1,000 dinars ($200) allows him to “ten days” with his family of four children, and the menu is limited to “bread and eggs.” To survive, he resells waste plastic and scrap metal for a few dozen dinars. The bloated public service inherited from the Qaddafi era where the private sector did not exist and which still employs 75% of the active population – 2.3 million people – but no longer provides some kind of minimum income for solidarity. “No one lives without a job. Combining a position in the public sector and another in the private sector has become the norm,” asserts Walid, a civil engineer who dedicates his morning to a public agency for 800 dinars before joining an oil company until 9 pm, which pays him “much more” “. “.
In 2022, inflation was about 4% according to the International Monetary Fund, but the price of basic products like rice and cooking oil jumped 75%. In response, the Minister of Economy plans to subsidize wheat, half of which is imported from Ukraine and Russia, by up to 40%. Civil servants are now only seeing a 20% pay increase, as they promised six months ago.
From funerals to weddings
The main measure boosting the government’s popularity among young people, who make up the majority in the country (60% under the age of 34), is the Marriage Grant, a fund worth 2 billion dinars (10 million Swiss francs). About 50,000 couples have taken advantage of it to finance their party and stay. “It’s a way to keep young people away from the militias, in a conservative country where an unmarried man can create a lot of problems,” explains the head of the Government of National Unity, Abdel Hamid Dabaiba. He dissolved at the expense of many women, sometimes minors, who had no say in choosing a fiancé in traditional families.
“I see my friends planning weddings instead of funerals, but the government check is frivolous. What we need is huge investments in education and health,” notes Areej, a 29-year-old single woman. Like 2.8 million of its citizens, this project manager at a local association enthusiastically registered for the electoral rolls that opened in 2021. She concludes that the promises now made sound like a “dream out of reach.”