Five years on from Britain’s ‘ill conceived’ military intervention to dispose of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, ordinary people in Libya say life was better under the European labelled despot than the anarchy and threat of ISIS in the country today. Crippled by power black-outs, a five-fold increase in the cost of food, salaries unpaid for months and the threat of terror, citizens who took up arms against Gaddafi now say their quality of life was better under the feared dictator.
They claim his execution has led to a power vacuum that has created ‘six million little Gaddafis’ and they no longer feel safe to leave their homes after dark.
Amid the chaos and lack of security, 8 000 African migrants a day cross the border into Libya and live along its coastline waiting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
“I joined the revolution in the first days and fought against Gaddafi,” former revolutionary fighter Mohammed, 31, said from the southern city of Murzuq.
“Before 2011, I hated Gaddafi more than anyone. But now, life is much, much harder, and I have become his biggest fan.”
Taxi driver Mahmoud added, “Before Libya was much better.”
Oil worker Haroun, 41, said, “Getting rid of Gaddafi was clearly a mistake because we weren’t ready for democracy and we needed support from the international community, which just wasn’t there.”
Activist Fadiel added, “It should be better than Gaddafi’s time now but, because of the chaos and everyone fighting each other, it’s just a mess.”
Their comments echo the findings of influential British politicians who have condemned former Prime Minister David Cameron’s ‘chaotic’ 2011 intervention in Libya.
In a devastating verdict, the House of Commons foreign affairs committee this week savaged former prime minister David Cameron’s judgement in rushing to war – and said the intervention was based on ‘erroneous assumptions’.
An international coalition led by Britain and France launched strikes against Gaddafi’s forces in March 2011 after the regime threatened to attack the rebel-held city of Benghazi.
Cameron claimed the intervention was necessary to prevent a massacre of civilians, but the new report says that, despite appalling human rights abuses over 40 years, Gaddafi had no record of large-scale attacks on Libyan civilians.
However, the cross-party committee accused the Conservative of ignoring military chiefs and a lack of reliable intelligence to pursue an ‘opportunistic policy of regime change’ in Libya.
It says Cameron gave little thought to how Libya would fare following the removal of Gaddafi, setting the scene for the country’s descent into chaos.
Libyans today confirmed to the politicians’ findings as they have described their daily battles to survive.
Ordinary people now face daily electricity cuts of up to nine hours, a serious cash crisis, which prevents them from accessing their salaries, sky high prices for essential goods and shortages of medical supplies.
Widespread corruption has also prompted the black-market rate for foreign currency to triple against the increasingly worthless Libyan dinar.
Nuri, 34, a businessman from Tripoli added, “It’s not so much about being pro-Gaddafi because he was a crazy leader who was actually quite embarrassing internationally.
“It’s just that people’s lives are so difficult now compared to under Gaddafi.”
The situation is so bad some Libyans, previously among the richest people in the Arab world, are considering fleeing the country on migrant boats to start a new life in Europe.
Medical student Salem, 26, from Tripoli, said, “We thought things would be better after the revolution, but they just keep getting worse and worse.
“Far more people have been killed since 2011 than during the revolution or under 42 years of Gaddafi’s rule combined.
“We never had these problems under Gaddafi.
“There was always money and electricity and, although people did not have large salaries, everything was cheap, so life was simple.
“Some of my friends have even taken the boat to Europe with the migrants because they feel there is no future for them here.
“I would like to escape this mess and study abroad but I have been waiting a year for a new passport and, even when I do get one, it will be hard to get a visa because all the embassies left in 2014.
“So now I feel like a prisoner in my own country. And I have started to hate my own country.”
An ex-pat British housewife, who moved to Libya with her Libyan husband 20 years ago, says it is no longer safe to go out at night.
Sara, 50, a mother-of-one said, “I used to walk home alone at midnight with no fear.
“But now I don’t like to go outside alone after dark. I don’t feel safe.”
As well as a lack of security, the very fabric of Libyan society has broken down with provinces, towns and tribes retreating into themselves.
“Libya died with Gaddafi,” Tebu Mohammed said.
“We are not a nation anymore. We have become just warring groups of tribes, towns and cities.
“Before, there was just one Gaddafi but now we have six million little Gaddafis.”
Successive post-revolutionary governments, parliaments and leaders have all failed to provide ordinary Libyans with basic security, let alone address their daily struggles.
“We have had seven governments since 2011 and what have they achieved?” asked Mahmoud.
“The only thing we can see is new dustbins because one of the early governments installed these new large bins across Tripoli.
“We still point to them and laugh, saying it’s the only achievement of the revolution.”
With two rival governments, a democratically-elected one now operating beyond its mandate in eastern Libya, and the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, some say Libya is already on the verge of partition.
“The country is already divided. We have two governments, two parliaments, two Central banks and two National Oil Companies,” said former Libyan diplomat Abdusalem, 48.
“The so-called revolution was lies, all lies. We Libyans did not even know what the word revolution meant. We had been sheltered under Gaddafi for 42 years.
“It was not Libya’s revolution, it was NATO’s revolution because they wanted to get rid of Gaddafi.’
Riots have broken out at banks as people are forced to queue for hours in the stifling heat at banks to withdraw a restricted amount of money.
Bank security guards shot and killed three people in a bank queue in May this year. The price of basic goods, including imports, have gone through the roof as shipping company insurers have classified Libya as a war zone.
And food subsidies have been cut.
Fadiel, from Ras Lanuf, said, “(Under the Gaddafi regime) You could buy 20 loaves with one dinar but now you can only buy five, and they are smaller.
“Cooking oil was subsidised under Gaddafi and cost 1,75 dinar per 1 litre but because of shortages, some businessmen buy it from warehouses and resell it for 5 Libyan dinar. Bread and oil are the most basic commodities.”
He added, “Hospitals are running out of basic medicines, for epilepsy and diabetes, and people are now buying them from private pharmacies at double their previous prices. And we are struggling to get our children vaccinated because of shortages, particularly in rural areas.”
As their dreams of a prosperous post-Gaddafi Libya lay in the dust, most people say now they only want peace.
One said, “I cannot see how there will be peace in this country for another 10 years, but peace and stability is all that ordinary Libyans want.”
Meanwhile, the United Nations special envoy to Libya has warned that there are some 235 000 migrants on the country’s shore’s preparing to make the dangerous Mediterranean Sea crossing to Italy.
In a stark warning at the escalation of Europe’s migrant crisis, UN envoy Martin Kobler said, “We have on our lists 235 000 migrants who are just waiting for a good opportunity to depart for Italy, and they will do it.”
In an interview with Italy’s La Stampa newspaper, Kobler called for greater international intervention to restore security in Libya. – MailOnline.
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