New hope amid Libya's ruins as unity government approved

Ayman al-Warfali
·2-min read
People watch Libya's parliament meet to vote on a unity government on a TV screen at a cafe in Misrata

By Ayman al-Warfali

SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) - In the ruined streets of Sirte, Libyans living among the debris of past battles voiced new hope for their shattered country on Wednesday after a parliament meeting a few miles away approved its first unity government for years.

The move advances a U.N.-backed peace plan to unify Libya's warring sides behind an interim government and conduct a national election at the end of the year.

Both the rival eastern and western factions that Abdulhamid Dbeibeh's new government is intended to replace have said they are ready to hand over their powers. Meanwhile, some foreign states involved in the war have publicly welcomed its approval.

"We are upbeat after Libyans united east and west, south and central," said Mustafa al-Zobeek, 50, standing near the rubble of his destroyed home.

Zobeek and his neighbours have suffered more than most Libyans. Their central coastal city has been smashed repeatedly as it has passed from one side to another during the decade of violence since the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.

On the same street, where bullet holes from fighting in 2016 pocked the forlorn remains of walls and houses, and dead palm trees stood stripped of their fronds, Nuri Abu Zeid, 60, said the people suffered from poverty and lack of services.

But as his young daughter Lamar played nearby with a yellow flower, sitting on a pile of sand and concrete blocks, he too voiced hope.

"Frankly we are optimistic... because we saw the birth of a new government that is a national unity government," he said.

It was a message repeated - though with many expressions of caution - across the nearby frontline in the capital Tripoli and the coastal city of Misrata.

"God willing they will take us to the shores of peace," said Walid Sliman, 38, in Misrata.

"We hope to God that this government is a source of good in unifying Libyans, being a first step in building the country," said another man in Misrata, Ali Okasha.

Speaking in Tripoli, Arabic teacher Amal Muhammad, 35, a mother of two sons, said she understood that resolving Libya's decade-long crisis would not be easy.

"I hope division will end and we will have a single government really capable of providing services. It's a shame that we are an oil exporter but live in anguish," she said.

(Reporting by Ayman al-Warfali in Sirte, Ayman al-Sahely in Misrata and Reuters Tripoli newsroom. Writing by Angus McDowall, Editing by William Maclean)