On 1st September CMEC’s Deputy Chairman Adam Holloway MP and Director Leo Docherty travelled overland from Tunisia to Tripoli. Meetings were held with senior and junior members of the Libyan Transitional National Council (TNC), Rebel fighters of all ranks, local residents and British officials from the FCO and DfID. The city was extensively toured and visits were made to Martyr’s Square, Gadhafi’s Bab Al Aziziya compound, the notorious Abu Salim Prison, the Central Hospital, and numerous military installations.
A remarkable transition was witnessed during this visit – on Thursday 1st September Tripoli was a city reeling from conflict – full of rebel fighters, burnt out vehicles and lacking food and water. By Monday 5th September, Tripoli’s police were back on the streets, shops were reopening, supplies of food and water had improved and many Tripolines, including government employees, had returned to work. Government ministries were reportedly kept in good order by middle management despite the fleeing of senior officials.
This fact, combined with Libyan sensitivity to any notion of foreign occupation (due to its long history of colonial subjugation) demands that future international assistance to Libya’s political transition is conducted with as minimal a foreign presence as possible.
Libyans are overjoyed at their newfound freedom and confident about the future of their country. A frequently heard chant in Tripoli is: “Hold your head up high – you are a free Libyan!”