The eighth anniversary of Libya’s revolution comes just months before the country prepares for municipal election, held for the first time after years of violence.
TRIPOLI, LIBYA (FEBRUARY 16, 2019) (REUTERS) – Scanning through the photos of his son who was killed during the revolt against former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, al-Hadi al-Shaibani Khamaj believes that Libya today is not the country that his deceased son once dreamt of.
Khamaj’s son, Mussab, is among the youth who lost their lives during the 2011 revolt that toppled Gaddafi from his 42-year rule. The protesters sought freedom and hoped for a better life, fuelled by the uprisings in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt.
But shortly after, the North African country was marred with violence and political deadlock.
Khamaj believes the death of his son did not reap the rewards he had hoped for, namely, stability and free elections.
“We kept telling ourselves that things will get better but they just didn’t, we dreamt we would have a decent life, that we’d have infrastructure and roads and cars, that people would be given their rights, but none of this happened, unfortunately,” he said.
A certificate granting Mussab an honorary degree from the University of Tripoli stands as the only recognition he can get for his sacrifice. Khamaj is displaying it in a corner he dedicated to his son in the family’s home in Tripoli.
Khamaj often visits the graveyard where Mussab is buried, and kneels on the ground to pray. A friend of his son, Mansour al-Mahdy, believes the country is still wrought with blood and weaponry.
“We really can’t see any tangible change, conflicts arise for the simplest reasons. We fought in the beginning against Gaddafi, against the domination of tribalism, now tribalism is even more dominant than before,” Mahdi said, while kneeling next to his friend’s tombstone.
The internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli is opposed by a rival government and allied factions in eastern Libya. Towns and cities are largely carved up between militia groups, many of which draw salaries from the state but answer only loosely at best to either government.
Elsewhere in the Libyan capital, celebratory music blares from speakers set up across the streets. Men, women, and children wave flags and carry pictures of their loved ones who died during the chaos that enveloped the country in the past eight years.
And with the anniversary falling just weeks before planned municipal elections, Libyans are hoping they might pave the way for local leaders to focus on issues affecting their everyday lives.
“We hope in the eighth anniversary, for Libya to stabilise and for it to get back to security through national reconciliation, elections and constitution. We need a constitution, stability, a civil and democratic state,” Libyan citizen, Mesbah al-Warfelli, said.