Libyans are marking the 10th anniversary of their 2011 uprising that led to the overthrow and eventual killing of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi.
The day comes as Libyans have their eyes on a recently appointed government tasked with leading the country through elections later this year.
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Celebrations began late on Tuesday in the capital, Tripoli, where people gathered in the city’s main square amid tight security. The city’s main streets and squares were cleaned and decorated with banners and photos marking the anniversary. Festivities also rang out in other cities in the south.
Hassan Wanis, head of the general authority for culture in Tripoli, said celebrations and commemorative events were planned in the three regions of old Libya: Tripolitania in the west, Cyrenaica in the east, and Fezzan in the southwest.
Libya has become one of the most intractable conflicts left over from the “Arab spring” a decade ago. In the years that followed Gaddafi’s overthrow, the North African country has descended into devastating chaos and has become a haven for armed groups that survive on looting and human trafficking.
The oil-rich country has for years been split between rival administrations: a UN-recognised government in Tripoli to the west and an eastern-based government backed by renegade commander Khalifa Haftar, head of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA). Each is backed by foreign governments.
Over the past years, the country has seen devastating bouts of violence. The latest began in April 2019, when Hafter, who is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia, launched an offensive seeking to capture Tripoli. His campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support for the Tripoli administration with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.
Months of UN-led talks resulted in a deal in October that ceased hostilities and called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries within three months and adherence to a UN arms embargo, provisions that have not been met.
The talks also established a Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, which earlier this month appointed an interim government – a three-member Presidential Council and a prime minister – that would lead the country through elections scheduled on December 24.
That government includes Mohammad Younes Menfi, a Libyan diplomat from the country’s east who hails from the tribe of anti-colonial hero Omar al-Mukhtar, as chairman of Libya’s Presidential Council. Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, a pragmatic, well-connected businessman from the western city of Misrata, was appointed as prime minister.
Dbeibah is still consulting to form his cabinet, which needs a confirmation from the country’s divided parliament. Menfi arrived in Tripoli on Tuesday and met with Dbeibah and other officials.
In a report marking the anniversary, Amnesty International repeated its calls for holding accountable those accused of war crimes and serious human rights violations during the past 10 years.
“Unless those responsible for violations are brought to justice, rather than rewarded with positions of power, the violence, chaos, systematic human rights abuses and endless suffering of civilians that have characterized post-Gaddafi Libya will continue unabated,” said Diana Eltahawy, the group’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.