Monday 19 March 2018

Libya celebrates first anniversary of uprising against Gaddafi

Libya began celebrating on Friday the first anniversary of the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, with fireworks and slogans, even as its new leader vowed to act firmly against further instability.

The former rebels who, backed by Nato, toppled Gaddafi last year set up fresh check-points in the capital Tripoli, Benghazi, the eastern birthplace of the uprising, the western port city of Misurata and other towns.

Libya's new rulers have not organised any official celebrations at a national level as a mark of respect for the thousands of people killed in the bloody conflict that saw Gaddafi captured and slain on October 20.

But spontaneous commemorations began nationwide in cities and towns led by residents of Benghazi, the city which first rose against Kadhafi and his 42-year-old regime.

"I will fight with my body, heart and soul for our new Libya," said Mustafa Ahmed Ali, a young recruit of the new Libyan army as he ran in a procession with about 100 other comrades after passing a military training course in Benghazi on Thursday.

Men, women and children came out on the streets of Tripoli, Benghazi, Misrata and other towns to begin initial celebrations by setting off fire crackers and chanting slogans.

"Curly we are sorry!" shouted children dressed like angels in sarcastic reference to Gaddafi, who bore that nickname because of his distinctive locks, as they sat on top of cars in a procession in Benghazi that started from the landmark Tahrir (Liberation) Square.

Benghazi residents have organised a function later on Friday to formally celebrate the anniversary, which is expected to be attended by Libya's new ruler Mustafa Abdel Jalil, interim Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib and other dignitaries.

Abdel Jalil warned that the revolutionary spirt of Libya and its stability will not be compromised in any way.

"We opened our arms to all Libyans, whether they supported the revolution or not. But this tolerance does not mean we are incapable of dealing with the stability of our country," he said in a television address late on Thursday.

"We will be tough towards people who threaten our stability. The thuwar (revolutionaries) are ready to respond to any attack aimed at destabilising" the country, Abdel Jalil said.

Tripoli resident Naima Misrati said traffic police and former rebels were distributing leaflets, warning people against thinking of carrying out attacks, which said; "We cannot bring back the buried man (Gaddafi) but we can send you to him.".

Expressing her joy at the revolution, Misrata said she was celebrating "freedom for the first time."

"I have no words to describe my happiness. There is joy everywhere in Tripoli," she told AFP.

But one year after the uprising, Libya is battling challenges ranging from how to tame the rowdy militias that fought Gaddafi's forces to establishing a new rule of law in the country.

Thousands of people were killed or wounded in the conflict, the country's vital oil production ground to a halt, and homes, businesses, factories, schools and hospitals were devastated.

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