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Libyans are unsure how to overthrow Gaddafi

 

After the liberation chants, the rattle of Kalashnikovs is the most common sound in Benhgazi.

Ever since rebels seized arms depots in eastern Libya, rifles became the ultimate symbol of masculinity that every young man in this city wants.

One thing in common between Muammar Gaddafi and the forces struggling to unseat him is a fascination with arms.

The Libyan leader long developed a liking for Kalashnikov rifles - so much so that he had an AK-47 munition plant built here in Libya. The rounds this plant produced are now hailing all around eastern Libya, on the frontline and beyond.

Young men with rifles have become a fixture on the streets of Benghazi. They are eager to show them off and often slap-happy in their handling of the arms.

Hamza, a soldier from the Benghazi garrison who joined the uprising, says many of his fellow rebels don't have any experience with arms, which he says is made up for by their passionate determination

Hamza Urfalli says: "We'll fight till the last bullet, till the last drop of blood, God is on our side."

The city of Benghazi is still living off the revolutionary fever. From dusk till dawn, people congregate on the city's main square, calling for Gaddafi to go. Most of the factories are still closed. The only people still working are shop owners.

But they say that there are no clients, hence no money.

Public service like traffic police officers are also working.

Despite the loss of control over eastern Libya, the Gaddafi government continues to pay salaries to those employed by the state.

One Libyan police officer says: "Yes, I received my last pay check about ten days ago but there is nothing to thank Gaddafi for. My salary is just 450 dinars - with that I can barely support my family."

Agitation and uncertainty of the last few weeks is already exerting their toll on public health. Benghazi’s psychiatric hospital is now flooded with patients whose pre-existing conditions were exacerbated by the unrest.

Ali Elroey, doctor from Benghazi Psychiatric Hospital says: "Nowadays because of uprising lots of people are suffering from so-called manic disorders. Some of our people are having relapses from their previous mental problems, now because of the uprising, because of the shooting."

Hated and ridiculed, Gaddafi may be the most valuable asset for the opposition movement as that hatred pulls people together. For the time being, it unites those who spent years serving in his government and the victims of his persecution. Yet, their chants for free Libya are yet to be augmented by a clear vision of how to achieve it.

Middle East expert Mikail Barah explains: "It is very hard to try to determine who can be the real charismatic leader, a real strong structure that could come on the ground and say 'Well, I'm well known by the Libyans, I have a program, I have some horizons, and I will be able to achieve or to be the alternative that will gain or that will help achieving better perspectives and better horizon in Libya.'"

People in Benghazi are now living off their savings, sharing whatever little they have. Most of them are confident that, once Gaddafi leaves, a bright future will dawn on them. But if past revolutions are anything to go by, the abundance of arms and hordes of idly roaming men could mean exactly the opposite.

Location

Benghazi
Libya
32° 7' 0.0012" N, 20° 4' 0.0012" E

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