The 17 February marked the ninth anniversary of the revolution which overthrew Libya’s former leader, Muammar Qadhafi, and, although there were some celebrations, mainly in Tripoli and Misrata, the general tone was muted. Most Libyans feel that there is little to celebrate given the current desperate state that the country is in.
Besides the years of chaos and instability, the past ten months of the conflict for the capital — since Khalifa Haftar launched his assault on Tripoli which has killed more than 2,000 and left tens of thousands displaced — combined with the ongoing closure of the eastern oil export terminals has plunged Libya into even deeper crisis.
On 17 February the National Oil Corporation (NOC) reported that the cumulative losses resulting from the shutdown had reached US$1.616 billion. This loss of income means that Libya will have to introduce more austerity measures. The Central Bank of Libya is calling on the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) to cut expenditure and it seems very likely that family allowances, which are paid in dollars, will be ditched, as well as some of the other subsidies. There are also serious questions over the payment of future salaries for state employees with likely delays as the central bank tries to delay the diminution of the country’s dwindling foreign exchange reserves.
The oil terminal shutdown is also making life miserable in other ways. There are increased power cuts as well as fuel shortages with long queues at the petrol stations. The 9 February closure of the Zawia Oil Refinery — which was forced to shut because of the lack of crude oil supplies from the Murzuq Basin — has hit hard. The Zawia Oil Refining Company announced that it was seeking imported fuel to compensate for the shutdown but meanwhile civilians are finding it difficult to access the basic fuel they need.
There are also queues outside bakeries and the prices of basic goods are rocketing higher than ever. The worsening living conditions and general dysfunction of the country — which hasn’t had any proper central authority since 2011 — is grinding people down. It is therefore little wonder that Libyans didn’t come out en masse on 17 February to celebrate the anniversary and that many social media posts around the time of the anniversary were a combination of: nostalgia for the way in which the country came together at the time of the 2011 uprisings; combined with lamentations about the path that the country has travelled ever since.