From Benghazi

Submitted by Matthew on 2 November, 2011 - 9:06

Lucinda Lavelle of the British-Libyan Solidarity Campaign spoke from Benghazi to Solidarity.

What is the general response among Libyans to the capture and death of Qaddafi?

Forty-eight hours after Qaddafi’s death, the friends I was staying with in Benghazi decided to go out to watch Jalil making the official announcement of Libya’s liberation. I felt mixed emotions. The manner in which Qaddafi was killed had robbed me of the elation I should have felt after six years campaigning against the regime. At the same time it was a historic moment and I wanted to be part of the celebrations.

It was impossible to get close to the area as the roads were jammed with cars — everyone honking horns, singing, flag waving and some of the returned fighters firing guns and driving heavy artillery through the streets. It was a joyous occasion for the tens of thousands who had come. But I would imagine people who felt Qaddafi’s end too brutal were keeping away.

It’s different in areas with more mixed loyalties, but the family I am staying with is very representative of families in Benghazi. I sat with Mabrouka last night as she spoke about the loss of her son Abdullah and her sister Saha who lost her son Hussein. Abdullah and Hussein were first cousins; their mothers both lost their sons on the same day, 20 February. The family hated Qaddafi. They feel he got the end he deserved. No one worried if Abdullah and Hussein were shot dead in cold blood, unarmed — so why should they worry if that’s how Qaddafi died? The younger generation feel the same — they appreciate revenge is not the noblest desire, but they passionately hate Qaddafi and feel that anyone who expresses any sympathy with how he died is not a true revolutionary.

A friend of the family visited the house today and expressed regret over Qaddafi’s death. She felt he should have faced trial in the International Courts so the whole world could see what his crimes were. When she said this the room erupted into noisy argument and it was very emotional.

What do you think of the idea that Qaddafi was killed so he couldn’t reveal more about his links with Britain and other Western powers?

Yet another conspiracy theory to add to the hundreds before! I don’t believe this is the case. I believe that the execution was very much as we have seen it recorded. Revengeful and brutal, in the hands of undisciplined youth who were looking for glory and a place in history. The political context in Libya does not seem to me to be very complex. Events here are run on very human emotions and the depth of political analysis is very shallow.

What has changed since your last visit to Libya?

When I first arrived in Benghazi at the beginning of October I was involved in a protest questioning how effectively the National Transitional Council (NTC) is working for the Libyan people. There was a lot of unrest about social security payments not reaching people in need and angry protests were organised outside the social security offices. Very quickly an organising committee was elected and further meetings took place to organise a campaign to hold the NTC to account for the chaos in the distribution of payments. I attended one of these planning meets and it too was quite chaotic! The Libyan people have got a long way to go before they learn to hold democratic meetings and organise themselves effectively.

Oil workers strike

Workers at the Waha Oil Company, a joint venture between the Libyan government and three American oil corporations, have been on strike since the end of August to demand the removal of senior managers who collaborated with Qaddafi during Libya’s civil war.

The workers say that managers provided the Libyan army with vehicles, and stored guns and TNT. As a result the company’s oil fields were seriously damaged by NATO airstrikes.

There have been similar struggles at other oil companies and it seems that the oil workers are developing organisations and networks.

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