While no major celebrations are planned for the anniversary of the uprising which started on February 17, 2011 in the thick of the Arab Spring, Libyans profess no great nostalgia for the Gaddafi days in a country which has been sliding from crisis to crisis.
“I cannot regret Gaddafi’s time because what Libya is today is the product of 42 years of systematic destruction,” said Marwan Jalal, a 43-year-old oil industrial engineer, referring to the autocrat’s more than four decades in power.
“Sooner or later, Libyans will find peace but the journey seems long.”
Post-Gaddafi Libya has remained a battleground, both on the terrain and in politics, between a myriad of rival militias and political factions operating with impunity.
“The political and military divides … are deepening and efforts to bring rival constituencies to the table have thus far failed,” said Claudia Gazzini, an analyst with the International Crisis Group. “There is no quick recipe to solve Libya’s multilayered crisis.”
“Any effort to unite Libya requires an integrated strategy with a political, security and economic component complementing each other and working together towards a common objective.”
Al Jazeera’s Mahmoud Abdelwahid, reporting from Libya’s capital Tripoli, said that even though the country was riddled with political rivalries, divisions and military escalations by military strongman General Khalifa Haftar‘s forces in the south of the country, Libyans are still eager to mark the anniversary of the start of the revolution.
“[People] say that at least they are cheering the end of the 40 years of dictatorship.
“What’s new this year is that Haftar’s forces are threatening to come to the west to Tripoli. On the other hand, a new coalition of former rebels who rose against Gaddafi are now opposing the Haftar,” added Abdelwahid.
“The face of the revolution is decreasing unfortunately for many people if a new round of conflict [erupts] in the capital Tripoli. Nevertheless, people are still out on the streets in cities to mark the eighth anniversary of the revolution.”
‘Purge’ of south
In the latest emergency, Haftar launched a military push in southern Libya which he says is aimed at rooting out “terrorists” and foreign fighters. The offensive has fuelled new tensions in a country already wracked by violence and torn between rival administrations since the overthrow and killing of Gaddafi.
The vacuum has also been exploited by unscrupulous people traffickers taking full advantage of the migration crisis.
A power struggle between the UN-backed government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli and a parallel administration backed by Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) in the east has left the country’s vast desert south a lawless no-man’s land.
In January, the LNA announced the start of its offensive to “purge the south of terrorists and criminal groups”.
The region also hosts a struggle between Libya’s minority Tubu community and Arab tribes, particularly over control of lucrative cross-border smuggling routes.
“An escalation has thus far been averted, in part because anti-Haftar forces in the north have refrained from jumping into the fight, but the risk of retaliatory violence is still in the air and alliances with local tribe-based armed groups could prove fragile,” according to Gazzini.
Tripoli militias have condemned Haftar’s operation as a power grab, although the GNA itself has not been as explicit in its opposition.
Analysts warn that the LNA’s assault could endanger UN-led efforts to convene a “national conference” aimed at organising already long-delayed elections this year as a way out of the political impasse in Libya.
But “the repeated delays and the vagueness surrounding the UN-backed event have alienated important constituencies who are now eyeing alternative strategies outside the UN framework in order to bolster their position,” said Gazzini.
Emad Badi, a Libyan analyst, warned that “current developments are conducive to escalation and actors’ military confrontation rather than dialogue”.