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Libya finds little to celebrate two years after ‘liberation’

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The post-Kadhafi authorities are still struggling to assert their writ over large swathes of the country.

A picture taken on 23 October 2011 shows Libyans celebrating following the announcement of the liberation in Martyr's Square in Tripoli (AFP/File, Marco Longari)

A picture taken on 23 October 2011 shows Libyans celebrating following the announcement of the liberation in Martyr’s Square in Tripoli (AFP/File, Marco Longari)

By Imed Lamloum (AFP) – Libya marked the second anniversary Wednesday of its “liberation” from loyalists of veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi with no official celebrations as it struggles to heal the wounds of the conflict.

The post-Kadhafi authorities are still struggling to assert their writ over large swathes of the country.

Many rebel units which fought in the bloody NATO-backed revolt against Kadhafi’s forces have refused to lay down their arms and now operate as more or less autonomous militias, sometimes in outright defiance of the government.

The government did issue a brief statement on Tuesday, congratulating the people on the “decisive day that ended tyranny and despotism.”

On October 23, 2011, the victorious rebels declared the “liberation” of Libya from Kadhafi loyalists three days, after the once-feared dictator was captured and killed outside his home town Sirte in the final battle of the eight-month conflict.

But two years on, there was no sign of any preparations for festivities in either the capital or second city of Benghazi, birthplace of the uprising.

The anniversary comes less than two weeks after a former rebel militia briefly kidnapped Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, exposing the persistent weakness of the central government.

Tripoli resident Abdelhadi al-Sultan, 41, was downbeat about the anniversary.

“Nothing has changed in Libya,” he said as he left a mosque. “Libya is not getting better, it is heading towards worse things because of the militias that really govern the country”.

With the overthrow of the Kadhafi regime, the country’s once-pervasive security apparatus also collapsed, and the new authorities have struggled to create a replacement army and police force.

Instead it has had to rely on the former rebel militias which have their own competing ideological, regional and tribal loyalties.

Despite the chaos, Fethi Terbel, the lawyer and human rights activist whose arrest on February 15, 2011 sparked Libya’s uprising, was tentatively optimistic.

“I have a positive outlook two years after the liberation, despite the bitterness that dominates most people’s feelings and which seems to me to be the natural result of a revolution still in its infancy,” he told AFP.

Terbel said that Libya’s instability was the “legacy of the former regime,” which left “state institutions in meltdown”.

The roadmap for the transition to democracy was supposed to give the country sustainable institutions to help bring stability.

But the current turmoil has cast doubts over the roadmap.

The failure of the government to set up a professional police and army has prompted mounting criticism of its human rights record.

Residents of Tawargha, a town that was a base for Kadhafi’s forces during the 2011 uprising, have been hounded out of their homes and prevented from returning by former rebels, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

“The Libyan authorities must urgently find a durable solution to end the continued forcible displacement of tens of thousands of Tawarghas,” the watchdog said.