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Changing perception and building trust: why Libya is losing patience with its politicians

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The GNC proposed moving to Bayda in order to avoid the deteriorating security situation in Tripoli when they should have been showing their strength and determination by trying to solve the root of the problem, notably the militias.

Rhiannon Smith
12 November 2012

Over the past couple of weeks Libya’s capital Tripoli has been the site of various scenes ranging from the significant to the mundane, the positive to the negative and the symbolic to the downright farcical.

Last Sunday a large area of the city centre was closed down due to a raging gun battle between rogue militias while the outgoing government of Abdurrahman Al-Kib chose that time to announce that Libya would become the second country in North Africa (after Morocco) to implement daylight saving time as of Saturday November 10. The same day also saw big queues forming at Tripoli petrol stations due to a blockade by revolutionaries of the oil refinery in Zawia, while simultaneously the General National Congress (GNC) was voting on whether to relocate the parliament to Bayda, a town in the east of Libya, for security reasons.

Just a few days prior to this, the GNC were forced to postpone their vote by the 32 members of Libya’s Prime Minister-designate, Ali Zeidan, when angry revolutionaries stormed the parliament building demanding the removal of certain ministers on the list. Zeidan’s government was eventually approved but even as praise and support flooded in from foreign governments and heads of state, the GNC building remained for all practical purposes under siege and worryingly vulnerable to frequent armed incursions by irate revolutionaries.

Bani Walid all over again

Only two weeks ago I wrote about the government-sanctioned siege and subsequent bombardment of Bani Walid, a town to the south of Tripoli.  In this case the government applauded the brigades who participated in the assault, portraying them as defenders of new Libya in an attempt to convince the public they had a handle on the situation.  Who do they think they fooled? Covering up a problem doesn’t make it go away. Now revolutionaries of the same ilk as those who attacked Bani Walid are attacking the parliament building and no one is stopping them. How can Libya’s rulers expect the public to trust them when they can’t even muster enough security to protect their own building?

As I have stated many times in this column there is a lot of positive progress taking place in Libya at the moment, but unfortunately it is being undermined in the eyes of many Libyans by both the real and perceived weakness of the state. In short, patience is running thin. The same issues keep repeating themselves time and again yet politicians seem unable to act or provide solutions. Those in power are inexperienced and facing an extremely challenging situation but this should not be used as an excuse. Politicians must start doing their jobs and show Libyans that their hard earned votes were not wasted.

Fleeing the problem

Libya is a country where rumour, reputation and perception rule supreme and in order to gain some much needed trust and respect from the Libyan public the GNC and government need to start taking definitive action. The GNC proposed moving to Bayda in order to avoid the deteriorating security situation in Tripoli when they should have been showing their strength and determination by trying to solve the root of the problem, notably the militias. Needless to say their apparent attempt to flee the problem rather than face up to it is not something that will instil confidence in those hoping for a strong, effective government.

The recent misinformation, cover ups and displays of political detachment are spectres of the previous regime and the Libyan public will not be happy at the reminder. No one expects the Libyan mentality, attitude or way of doing things to change overnight but people are at least expecting a show of effort. Passing irrelevant legislature and discussing redundant proposals whilst Libya’s militias are using the country as their playground shows that those in power have no grasp of politics or leadership. The GNC, along with those soon to be inaugurated as Libya’s new government, need to start making the effort to tackle some of Libya’s more serious problems and to appear in control. If they do not, they may find they have to move to Bayda after all.

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