“I removed the rear seats and I transformed the trunk into a bedroom for the air conditioning. We sleep here when it’s hot”, says this father of two children living in Tripoli. The “room” fitted out in its large minivan is 3 m2.
However, this employee of a demining organization lives in a single-storey villa of 250 m2, in the heart of the capital. Except that the electricity is cut for a dozen hours a day, even 6 p.m. when the thermometer is close to 40 degrees. Sleeping without air conditioning becomes an ordeal.
His wife and two daughters “sleep in the middle”, he on the edge of the bench. “I have back pain when I wake up (…), this is what our life looks like.”
And even “when you have electricity, the current is very weak, barely enough to light lamps”, laments this 48-year-old man.
An outside wall of his house is covered in bullet holes, bearing the scars of the fighting that has raged in the North African country for the past decade.
– “We have nothing” –
Incessant power cuts, inflation, insecurity… Libyans are bearing the brunt of the chaos that has hit their country since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011. The infrastructures are deficient, the economy on the ground, the services failing.
The vital energy sector which, in Gaddafi’s time, made it possible to finance a welfare state, has suffered from the war: squandered oil, damaged or unmaintained infrastructure, blockade.
The frustration is all the greater because the Libyans know they are few in number – barely seven million – to share the dividends of Africa’s most abundant oil reserves.
“We are suffering from everything, from the health sector, from education. The roads are very bad, we have nothing,” laments Mahmoud Aguil.
To remedy the cuts, some resort to sources of electricity other than the national grid, mainly generators that are often polluting, heavy on diesel and not always reliable, except for expensive models that start at 5,000 euros.
“Thank you to the government”, quips Mahmoud Aguil.
And he is not the only one to point out the negligence of the country’s elites.
In early July, protests were organized across the country against deteriorating living conditions and political chaos. The resolution of untimely power cuts was at the top of the demands.
In Tobruk (east), demonstrators forced the entrance to Parliament before setting it on fire.
This institution is one of the symbols of the division of the country between a camp based in Cyrenaica (east), whose leader is Marshal Khalifa Haftar, and a government based in Tripoli led by Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah.
The Haftar camp supports a rival government formed in March with the support of parliament. His supporters have been blocking key oil installations since mid-April as a means of pressure to dislodge the executive from Tripoli.
The blockade also causes a drop in the production of gas, which is nevertheless necessary for supplying the electricity network, prolonging the duration of the cuts a little more.
– “Absent state” –
In several cities, official buildings were burned or ransacked.
In Tripoli, hooded protesters burned tires and closed roads. After three days, the movement ran out of steam.
On Monday, the Tripoli government devoted its weekly meeting to the electricity sector, acknowledging that it had underestimated the problem. The authorities have announced the commissioning “this month” of three new power plants.
In the meantime, Ahmed Hejjaji is living an ordeal in Benghazi, some 1,000 kilometers from the capital.
“They (the authorities) must guarantee us access to electricity,” he complains. Sitting next to her, her severely disabled four-year-old child needs electricity to operate medical devices. Ahmed Hejjaji says he is helpless.
On the eve of Aid al-Adha (Muslim festival of sacrifice) on Saturday, he experienced another ordeal, like many of his compatriots.
“Left early” in the morning “to the bank to withdraw money, I stayed there until 3:00 p.m. queuing. Why all that? Because the state is absent.”