Little to celebrate on fifth anniversary of Libya revolution

Friday 12/02/2016
Ready to make bigger sacrifices for Libya

TRIPOLI - In Tripoli's Martyrs' Square, Khalifa, his wife and three daughters waved Libya's flag as a crowd celebrated five years since the start of the revolution that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, despite the country's continued chaos.

"We love this revolution and we love this freedom! We were slaves to Gaddafi's regime for 42 years," he said, his daughters beside him wearing red, black and green hats.

Libya has been in turmoil since Gaddafi's overthrow, with two rival administrations competing for power in the oil-rich nation since summer 2014.

The country's internationally recognised parliament on Tuesday postponed a vote to approve a new line-up for a UN-backed unity government, despite growing worries over jihadist expansion.

But on Wednesday Khalifa and several hundred other Libyans made their way through security checkpoints to Martyrs' Square to celebrate the uprising that ousted Gaddafi despite the challenges still ahead.

"We won't forget Libya's martyrs," read massive banners hanging from buildings round the capital. A Libyan flag flew over Tripoli Fort where Gaddafi used to address the crowds.

Abdelbaqi, his daughter and three sons waved the national flag as they watched fighter jets zap through the sky above, briefly drowning out the revolutionary chants blaring from loudspeakers.

"Despite everything -- the politics and sadly the (country's) division -- today is a day to celebrate. We need to transmit the spirit of revolution to our children," he said.

The recognised government has been based in the country's far east, having fled a militia alliance including Islamists that overran the capital in August 2014. The alliance has its own administration and parliament in the capital.

UN envoy Martin Kobler on Wednesday urged Libyans to unite behind the new proposal for a power-sharing cabinet.

"On anniversary of 2011 Revolution in #Libya, I call for 'Revolution of Will' to reunite in peace," he wrote on Twitter.

Five years on, the Islamic State (ISIS) jihadist group has taken advantage of the chaos to expand its influence.

Last June, ISIS seized Gaddafi's coastal home town of Sirte -- 450 kilometres (280 miles) east of Tripoli -- and last month launched attacks from there on oil facilities further east.

But a businessman in the crowd who preferred not to give his name, insisted: "We don't have any regrets... Our country is full of riches."

Around the square, children took part in games and races, and stands sold sweets, as well as hats and t-shirts in the colours of the Libyan flag.

Car drivers honked their horns in nearby streets, while some played the revolution's anthems.

But celebrations did not reach the 2011 uprising's birthplace of Benghazi -- some 1,000 kilometres east of Tripoli -- where war has raged for two years between the Libyan army and armed groups including Islamists.

"There haven't been any celebrations in Benghazi up until now," Murad Fitouri, 38, said.

"People have been displaced, they're depressed and sad because of the war. People have died, they've been orphaned or widowed."

Fadoua, 21, said more time was needed for Libyans to see the uprising's dreams come true.

"The revolution needed to happen, but a revolution can't succeed overnight," she said.

"We've made huge sacrifices and will make even bigger ones in the hope that our country will be born again."