Try­ing times in Tripoli

The Africa Report - - FRONTLINE -

In­fra­struc­ture is crum­bling and in­fla­tion is ris­ing amidst the gen­er­alised in­se­cu­rity in the Libyan cap­i­tal

Life in Tripoli is life in a col­lapsed state. The United Na­tions-recog­nised Gov­ern­ment of Na­tional Ac­cord is strug­gling to main­tain se­cu­rity in the coun­try’s cap­i­tal city. Tripoli went through a spate of heavy fight­ing be­tween ri­val mili­tias us­ing rocket launch­ers and tanks in De­cem­ber 2016. The city’s ba­sic in­fra­struc­ture of­ten goes with­out main­te­nance. Power cuts last most of the day, and the cost of liv­ing is soar­ing. There i s ver y li t t l e i n the cap­i­tal that still works. Rolling black­outs across Tripoli have marked a low point in the cap­i­tal’s power cri­sis. It is now com­mon for elec­tric­ity cuts to af­fect the en­tire city for pe­ri­ods of 12 hours or more. In early Jan­uary, an armed mili­tia cut the main gas pipe­line serv­ing the al-har­sha power plant in re­tal­i­a­tion be­cause an­other armed group had sy­phoned off fuel bound for the Zuwara de­sali­na­tion plant and smug­gled it abroad for sale. The countr y’s elec­tric­ity au­thor­ity, Gen­eral Elec­tric­ity Com- pany of Libya, is the sub­ject of in­fight­ing be­tween ri­val po­lit­i­cal blocs, with each ac­cus­ing the other of foul play. Short­ages of fuel, gas and petrol are com­pounded by mis­man­age­ment, a lack of se­cu­rity and wide­spread smug­gling. Mean­while a Turk­ish-built power plant in the south is 90% com­plete, but work­ers have been un­able able to re­turn to fin­ish con­struc­tion due to the se­cu­rity vac­uum. To make mat­ters worse, mod­er­ate rains swamped the city’s paved and un- paved roads alike i n Jan­uary, with flood­ing so se­vere that even on ma­jor high­ways 4x4s have been beached by the wa­ters. There are sewage and drainage prob­lems even in the most af­flu­ent ar­eas. Some multi-lane high­ways were flooded above knee-deep. The gen­eral chaos and lack of se­cu­rity in the cap­i­tal has led to a for­eign cur­rency cri­sis and daily queues that last hours at the city’s ma­jor banks. Libya im­ports a huge amount of its food, and t he c ur re nc y cr i s i s has led to the price of food ris­ing sharply too. A kilo­gram of sugar that cost just D1 ($0.7) six months ago has risen to D2.5. For the past six months, the gov­ern­ment-run mar­kets have closed, lead­ing to fur­ther price hikes. The price for a box of cook­ing oil has dou­bled in six months. A 5kg bag of rice that re­cently cost D8 now costs D12 and olive oil that used to cost D2 now costs as much as D15. The prob­lem, says Ibrahim Oth­man, owner of the Nofly­een mar­ket in the city cen­tre, can be summed up in less than ten words: “There’s no state, no se­cu­rity and no bank sys­tem.”

Tom Steven­son in Tripoli

Roads have be­come un­pass­able, as food prices spike in Tripoli

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