Evil roots worry Tripoli residents

2011-10-06 16:12

Tripoli - Like many residents of Tripoli, Wissam Rihil rejoiced at the ousting of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, but is now fearful of a return to the nepotism and corruption that characterised his regime.

"I want leaders whose only goal is a clean country," said Rihil, a 31-year-old dentist.

He spent four years desperately trying to land a position in the Libyan public sector and thereby double his private sector salary of €240 a month.

But under Gaddafi, "if you did not know someone who was well placed, if you did not have a network or money to bribe decision-makers, there was no hope," he said, while walking alongside his fiancée to the capital's Martyrs Square, renamed from Green Square after Gaddafi's ouster.

"It will take a generation to change those attitudes," Rihil said.

Cafe owner Saad Ilmalgahni was similarly circumspect.

"Under Gaddafi, only friends of the regime benefited from cushy posts," said the 62-year-old who, like many other Libyans lost his job after the anti-regime revolt first broke out in mid-February when his transport firm collapsed.

"That was true throughout his 42 years in power."

Roots of evil still there

"We may have cut down the tree, but the roots of evil are still there," he said. "It will take lots of patience."

Though sceptical of the capacity of the future leaders to rebuild the country, he noted the people of Tripoli were happy to be rid of Gaddafi's authoritarian regime.

Throughout the capital's streets, signs of that relief are everywhere.

Tree trunks are painted with the colours - black, green and red - of the new Libya. And in Tripoli's Old City, slogans glorifying the rebellion cover the walls of modest-looking homes.

Children run around playing with stickers reading "Free Libya" plastered across their plastic toy guns.

"Gaddafi was a nightmare - thank God he is gone!" said Karima Mohammed, a 45-year-old mother of three.

Her husband and a relative were imprisoned in the regime's jails for five months from late March for supporting the revolt.

Another man, Walid, also 45, was imprisoned for months because his telephone conversations were intercepted by Gaddafi's security agents.

We can breathe

As he pushed his cart towards Souk Al-Talat, a supermarket in a building with a glass facade badly damaged by gunfire during the fierce fighting that preceded the rebels taking Tripoli at the end of August, he voiced relief that prices had finally returned to "normal" after rising sharply earlier this year.

Nearby, Shukri walked with four of his eight children, and noted that his main priority was the security of his family.

"I want safety first, and Gaddafi ensured safety," the school sports teacher said. "It was not him who terrorised the people, it was his entourage."

Abdullah Abdulmalik, a 45-year-old bricklayer, however, said his newfound freedom trumped all else.

"Finally, we can breathe," he said. "We are free to talk, to criticise. Before, I lived in fear - they controlled all our words."

An unemployed driver, who did not want to be named, said positive change would be a long time coming, but hopefully the country's children would see the fruits of the revolution.

"It will take a long time to transform Libya, we have to proceed step by step," said the man, who used to work for a European company.

"We cannot clean a very dirty house in a few hours."

  • zaatheist - 2011-10-06 19:19

    I wish Libyans well and hope their infant democracy flourishes and that they don't have the South African experience where the freedom fighters, once in control, became gangsters.

  • slg - 2011-10-06 20:50

    This is what people like YES, Libertador, MEopinion and co favour, this kind of corrupt and brutal way of life, all the while being in denial and pointing fingers in the wrong direction. Thankfully Libyans, Egyptians and Tunisians backed by the freer world know better.

  • te-he-he - 2011-10-07 17:44

    The Evil roots of France US & UK have been embedded.

      slg - 2011-10-08 15:16

      YEt you support the obvious brutality and evil of dictatorships the world over. Doesn't make sense.

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