Tripoli, Libya, March 13 – In divided Libya, the breakthrough appointment of a unity government has raised hopes for reconciliation among people exhausted by a decade of chaos but now daring to dream of peace.
After seeing a succession of ceasefires and peace conferences flake out over the years, Libyans had grown accustomed to their hopes for a better future being dashed.
“This time, it looks like it’ll work out. I’m very optimistic,” Salah, a shopkeeper in Tripoli, says with a wide smile.
Like many of his compatriots, Salah watched a live television broadcast on Wednesday of the session in which parliament approved a unity government to lead Libya to December elections.
A day after, he welcomed the move.
“We need unity, we are all brothers, we should no longer be divided,” the 40-year-old adds, dressed in a traditional djellaba robe.
The vote was widely hailed as “historic” for a country torn apart by conflict since 2011.
In February that year, inspired by the Arab Spring and backed by Western air power, Libyans rose up against Moamer Kadhafi and ousted within months a dictator who had ruled with an iron fist since 1969.
The oil-rich country of seven million people has since descended into anarchy, with two rival administrations vying for control and a myriad of militias fighting over its resources.
Libya’s infrastructure is now derelict, its economy in tatters and public services wretched. The situation has been complicated by foreign interference.
– ‘Wise decision’ –
The new administration, headed by interim prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, faces a mammoth task.
The Libyan economy is at a standstill: the dinar has plunged in value, property prices have soared, and electricity cuts are a daily occurrence.
“Life must return to normal,” says Salah the shopkeeper.
The priority should be to “address the daily lives of citizens, to solve the problems of power cuts and cash shortages,” he added.
Across Tripoli, endless queues stretch out in front of banks, and dozens of motorists wait for hours at petrol stations.
During power outages, the city vibrates to the roar of generators.
The rusty frames of huge cranes sit on top of unfinished buildings that are overgrown with weeds.
“The new government will, God willing, unify the institutions,” says Nader Mansouri, 46.
“It now has to deal with the crises facing citizens, the lack of cash, the power cuts, the coronavirus vaccination campaign.
“The most important thing is to succeed in organising elections in December,” the civil servant says, adding, “there’s foreign interference; we must end it now.”
Miftah al-Malis, 36, says the vote of confidence in the government was a “wise decision”.
“The Libyan people are tired and fed up,” he says.
“The conflict has gone on too long and there is no need for it,” he says, adding that he too is “optimistic” and wishes to see “Libyans unite”.
– ‘New phase’ –
There is also optimism in Benghazi, Libya’s second city in the east, where the country’s uprising began 10 years ago.
Benghazi suffered badly from the violence that followed.
In the old town, bullet pockmarked walls and damaged buildings are a constant reminder that the conflict tore through.
“It’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon,” says Osama al-Werfalli, a 50-year-old businessman in Benghazi.
Werfalli says he has grown “tired of the situation that has led to a deterioration in the living conditions of all Libyans.
This is also the case for Sayida al-Sarrawi, who hopes to see “a new phase, without the divisions that citizens have suffered for years”.
“We want a Libya without wars and conflicts.”