Protests over Libya’s chronic power cuts hit several cities on Friday, as people braved the wrath of armed factions to voice their anger at a failure of government that has made life insufferable during the sweltering summer months.
In Tripoli’s Martyrs’ Square, several hundred people gathered to shout slogans demanding electricity, criticizing armed factions and politicians and demanding elections in the capital’s biggest protests against the ruling elite for years.
Smaller protests of dozens of demonstrators also took place in each of Benghazi and Tobruk and some smaller towns, showing how anger at the situation extends across the frontlines of power between the country’s rival forces.
“We are fed up, we are fed up! The nation wants to topple governments! We want electricity!” chanted protesters in Tripoli, and chanting to demand elections.
They also chanted slogans against the armed factions that exert control across swathes of Libya. “No to militias. We want police and army” they chanted.
Armed forces with police and military affiliations were visible around Martyrs’ Square. During protests two years ago, shots were fired at demonstrators.
“I’m here today to protest against all the officials who brought this country to hell,” said Omar Derbal, 23, a science student.
“We’re an oil producing country that has power cuts every day. It means the country is run by corrupt individuals,” he added.
In the town of al-Quba in eastern Libya dozens of residents demanded the fall of all governments and political bodies because of the low standards of living.
Libya’s electricity sector has been undermined by years of warfare and political chaos, stopping investment, preventing maintenance work and sometimes damaging infrastructure.
An interim unity government installed last year pledged to resolve the problems, but although it issued contracts for work on several power plants, none has come into operation and political wrangling has prevented further works.
Meanwhile, with the eastern-based parliament appointing Fathi Bashagha to head a new government even though the interim unity prime minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah refuses to hand over power, the political standoff threatens to make things worse.
Eastern-based factions have blockaded oil facilities, reducing fuel supply to major power plants, causing more blackouts.