A lack of housing and security fears are among the many pressing problems facing Sirte and Misrata in the wake of the 2011 Libyan conflict, a war in which both cities played different but central roles.
It has been more than a year and half since Muammar Gaddafi, the tyrant who ruled Libya for 42 years, was executed by rebels after being found hiding – bloodied and bruised – in a drainage pipe, the end result of months of fighting that began when the Arab Spring reached Libya in early 2011.
Along with Benghazi, the cities of Sirte and Misrata played central, but very different roles in the conflict.
Misrata rose up against the Gaddafi regime just a few days after Benghazi and would go on to be a key rebel stronghold.
Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte, in contrast, was one of the former dictator’s bastions, remaining under loyalist control up until the dictator’s death. In the process of being captured by the rebels, the city was almost completely destroyed.
But now that the fighting is over, citizens of both cities are struggling to rebuild their lives and their homes from the ruins that were left behind.
In Sirte, housing is a particularly pressing problem, with the city having suffered the most damage of any Libyan town during the war.
Adel al Jouhaimi, a former civil servant, was one of many of the city’s residents to have lost his home in the fighting. He has been regularly camping outside the local council offices, demanding to be given new accommodation.
“I came here because my house was destroyed almost two years ago,” he told FRANCE 24. “We managed through the first and second year with the children and the elderly. I keep making trips to the [housing] board, they just make promises to me, but still nothing.”
The local government has set up a compensation scheme for those who lost their properties, but progress is slow and when the cheques do arrive they are often for far less than the value of the home that was destroyed.
Meanwhile, with the Libyan army left in ruins and much of the population heavily armed, security is also a major concern in the aftermath of the war.
Former rebels now patrol Sirte to keep it safe as they await for the country’s security infrastructure to be rebuilt.
“When they feel safe and that the armed forces are back on their feet, I’m sure that’s when the Libyan civilians will put down their weapons,” says Sirte military leader General Salah Abou Hleka.
“But now, with all this uncertainty, it’s impossible to get rid of the weapons, because everyone here has them and uses them to protect themselves.”
However, amid all the chaos and struggle, Libyans are also getting used to enjoying freedoms that were unimaginable under Gaddafi.
One of the areas that this is most evident is in the classroom.
Mani Mahi is a history teacher at a school in Misrata. Although the school where he teaches was badly damaged in the war and proper lessons have only recently been able to resume, Mahi is relishing teaching the new curriculum in place since the fall of Gaddafi.
“Before, it was as if Libya’s history began in 1969 [when Gaddafi’s came to power],” he told FRANCE 24.
“We were preaching the words of Gaddafi and his vision for the people, his lies. We’ve replaced this material with a civic education which teaches the students how to love their country without following one particular person or system.”
For Misrata, Sirte and dozens of other towns throughout Libya, however, the rebuilding process looks likely to continue for years to come.
Date created : 2013-05-30