Protesters in Libya set fire to parliament building, demand end to government corruption and constant power cuts

Anger at Libya’s arguing leaders saw protesters storm the parliament building in the eastern city of Tobruk, staging the largest demonstration in years.

The Tobruk protesters, who accused the parliament of treason and stealing public money about eight years after the parliament’s election, broke into the building and set parts of it on fire as the armed forces withdrew there.

In videos posted online and confirmed by city residents, the protesters screamed and cheered as flames licked the side of the building.

With political factions bickering over control of the government after failing to hold scheduled elections last year, Libya has been pushed back toward territorial division and civil war as state services gradually collapse.

Protests against chronic blackouts brought protesters to the streets of several cities, braving the wrath of armed factions to express their anger at failures that have made life unbearable during the blistering summer months.

‘We want electricity’

In Tripoli’s Martyrs’ Square, hundreds of people gathered to shout slogans demanding electricity, criticizing armed factions and politicians and demanding elections in the capital’s biggest protests against the ruling elite for years.

Later on Friday, dozens of protesters lined the government headquarters building chanting “we want electricity, we want electricity”.

Groups of dozens of protesters also gathered in Benghazi, al-Baydha and Misrata and some smaller towns to show how anger at the situation spread across the front lines of power between the country’s rival forces.

“We’re fed up, we’re fed up! The nation wants to overthrow governments! We want electricity!” protesters in Tripoli shouted, along with chants demanding elections.

They also chanted slogans against the armed factions that exercised control over parts of Libya. “No to militias. We want police and army,” they chanted.

A crowd of people, most of them in hi-vis vests, singing and gesturing.
Hundreds protest a power outage in Martyrs’ Square in Tripoli.Reuters: Hazem Ahmed TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Armed forces with police and military ties were visible around Martelarenplein. During protests two years ago, demonstrators were shot at.

“I am here today to protest against all the officials who have brought this country to hell,” said Omar Derbal, 23, a science student.

“We are an oil-producing country that has to deal with power outages every day.

In the city of al-Quba in eastern Libya, the birthplace of parliament speaker Aguila Saleh, dozens of residents demanded the downfall of all governments and political bodies because of the low standard of living.

The electricity sector in Libya has been undermined by years of warfare and political chaos, halting investment, hindering maintenance work and sometimes damaging infrastructure.

An interim unity government installed last year promised to resolve the issues, but although it issued contracts for work on several power plants, none has come into effect and political wrangling has prevented further work.

Meanwhile, with the eastern-based parliament appointing Fathi Bashagha as head of a new government, though interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah refuses to hand over power, the political deadlock threatens to make matters worse.

East-based factions have blocked oil facilities, reducing fuel supply to major power plants, causing more power outages.

In Tripoli, protesters waved placards with the faces of Mr al-Dbeibah, Mr Bashagha, Mr Saleh, another legislative leader and the UN representative crossed out with large red characters.


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