Almost two weeks after devastating floods wreaked havoc in eastern Libya, authorities in the region have declared plans for an international reconstruction conference. This significant development comes amid protests in the flood-affected city of Derna, and it has garnered attention from various quarters, including the spokesperson for the Libyan National Army leader.
On September 18th, hundreds of protesters gathered at Derna’s grand mosque, expressing their grievances against the eastern-based parliament and its leader while demanding accountability for the high death toll resulting from the floods. Protesters have also called for an investigation into the city council’s current status and previous budgets.
Ahmed el-Mesmari, the spokesperson for army leader Khalifa Haftar, remarked on the situation, saying, “The people are angry, the people are suffering, we are suffering too, we are part of the people, we are not strangers to them, so we feel what they feel.” He added that he had personally experienced the loss of family members due to the catastrophe. El-Mesmari emphasized the importance of heeding the people’s anger and stressed that it resonated with all of Libya’s political institutions and politicians. He anticipated that this would lead to an investigation into all aspects of the events.
Libya currently grapples with the division of rival governments, with the UN-backed administration located in Tripoli, in the country’s western region. Notably, in 2019, a violent assault on Tripoli by Haftar’s forces ended in defeat, followed by an August 2020 ceasefire that has largely held.
In response to residents’ demands, the spokesman for eastern Libya’s strongman announced the reconstruction conference scheduled for October 10th. However, he questioned whether international donors would choose to attend, given the political polarization in Libya. He stated, “Are the donor countries going to come? Or will they wait for a conference called by Dbeibah, or will there be two conferences? Like there are two governments. This political polarization has hurt Libyans.”
The primary objective of the conference is to “present modern, rapid projects for the reconstruction.” As of now, there has been no immediate reaction from the UN-backed government led by Abdelhamid Dbeiba. Additionally, no details have been provided regarding how the eastern administration plans to accommodate delegates in a city that has been left devastated by the recent calamity.