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Libyans at boiling point amid summer power outages

#Libyans #boiling #point #summer #power #outages

Mahmud Aguil has a comfortable home in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, but chronic power cuts in the war-torn country and the sweltering summer heat now force him to sleep in his air-conditioned van.

“This is my bedroom,” the 48-year-old said, pointing to the cramped vehicle whose rear seats have been removed to make room for him and his two young children. “I wake up in the morning with terrible back pain.

“It’s our life these days.”

The people of Libya endure power outages of up to 18 hours a day, even though their country sits on Africa’s largest proven oil reserves.

After a decade of violence, increasing poverty and fragmented government, many have reached the limits of their tolerance.

Public anger spilled into the streets earlier this month as thousands in the capital and in Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city, chanted “We want the lights to work.”

Protesters have torched and looted the House of Representatives in the eastern city of Tobruk along with other official buildings, while masked protesters burned tires and blocked roads in Tripoli.

“Even when we have electricity, it’s very low – just enough to keep the lights on,” said Aguil, who works for a group that cleans up duds.

The power crisis is just the latest test for Libyans after a decade of insecurity, fuel shortages, crumbling infrastructure and economic woes since a NATO-backed insurgency toppled and killed dictator Muamer Gaddafi in 2011.

– ‘Hassle with everything’ –

One of the walls of Aguil’s house is riddled with bullet holes, a testament to the violence that has plagued the North African country on and off.

“We have problems with everything: the health sector, education, the roads are terrible,” he said. “We have nothing.”

Under Gaddafi, Libya boasted a lavish welfare state funded by oil revenues.

But that, too, has fallen victim to conflict and the country’s division, with wasted fuel, damaged or derelict infrastructure, and crippling blockages at oil facilities.

Many of Libya’s seven million residents have turned to unreliable, gas-guzzling and polluting generators for electricity.

More reliable models cost around $5,000 for those who can afford them.

“Thanks to our government,” Aguil said bitterly.

Tripoli-based authorities have tried to quell public anger over the blackouts, admitting they underestimated the problem.

Interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah said three power plants would open this month, two in the west and one in the east.

– ‘State missing’ –

Dbeibah leads a west-based government, while former interior minister Fathi Bashagha has support from parliament in east Tobruk and military ruler Khalifa Haftar.

Supporters of the eastern camp have cut production at key oil facilities in recent months in a bid to pressure Dbeibah to transfer power to Bashagha.

The blockade has also reduced the amount of fuel available for power plants, which has exacerbated electricity shortages.

Sitting with his severely disabled son in Benghazi, the cradle of Libya’s 2011 uprising against Gaddafi’s 42-year rule, Ahmed Hejjaji says he feels helpless.

His four-year-old’s medical equipment needs power, and the power outages are wreaking havoc on his treatment.

The authorities “have to guarantee us access to electricity,” said the 42-year-old father.

Hejjaji said the daily challenges would never end.

Ahead of the Muslim Eid al-Ahda celebration, he said: “I went to the bank early to withdraw money, but I waited in line until 3 p.m.

“Why? Because the state is absent.”

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#Libyans #boiling #point #summer #power #outages

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