Anas El Gomati is a political scientist and director of the Sadeq Institute of Libyan Studies. It analyzes the catastrophic floods which left more than 2,300 dead in Libya in the light of the very unstable political context.
LE FIGARO.- Were the floods predictable? Did the Libyan National Army anticipate such a catastrophe?Anas EL GOMATI.- Yes, the floods were predictable to a certain extent. Meteorologists had issued warnings about possible heavy rain and the risks that could result. It is of course difficult to predict exactly these kinds of events and their scale, but the signals were there.
The Libyan National Army, led by Marshal Khalifa Haftar and which controls a large part of Libya, particularly the east of the country, as well as the institutions surrounding it, have given little importance to these warnings, they were so busy with other priorities. To name just a few, the behind-the-scenes agreement to block the elections and create an eighth interim government with Dbeibah, the imperative to pay the Wagner group, or even ensuring that the conflict in Sudan is maintained. The interests of the people have been completely put aside.
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In this sense, the maintenance of the dam which failed was criminally neglected. It was also clearly not monitored when the disaster struck. The city's evacuation operations were also not properly prepared. Health establishments reacted very quickly despite everything and are struggling today. But they are overtaken by the disaster. There is an urgent need to provide relief to the affected areas, even if the situation is confused on the spot, where residents are searching for their families under the rubble or in the sea.
Do institutions have the means to respond to this humanitarian drama? Given the prolonged political instability and the existing division in the country between two rival governments, resources are limited. Despite the great effort of certain segments of the institutions, despite the people on the ground who are working to deal with this national tragedy, there is a large deficit of infrastructure, manpower and materials, essential to come to the rescue. help the displaced, rescue the injured or search for the missing. This catastrophe is a small apocalypse.
The population needs not only national mobilization but also international aid, in particular to provide drinking water and shelter to the 40,000 displaced people. The Western Government (GNU) is sending humanitarian convoys but has no access to affected areas in the East. Since 2021, access has been blocked.
Can the political situation be a hindrance to the aid deployed by the country and foreign NGOs? Absolutely. The geopolitical situation is very complex in Libya, marked by rival factions and external interventions, and this can hinder the arrival of relief. The Wagner group mercenaries who work for the Libyan National Army control the crossing points between the east and west of Libya, in the center of the country where Western humanitarian convoys will necessarily transit.
And NGOs and foreign journalists encounter a lot of administrative obstacles because the Libyan National Army does not want the media to circulate freely. Added to this is the destruction of certain roads which sometimes prevents reaching certain disaster areas.
What impact will these floods have on the reconstruction of the country? These floods add another step to the already difficult and monumental task of rebuilding the country. Not only are they synonymous with immediate destruction, but they also highlight the fragility of the country's infrastructure. This catastrophe reminds us of the urgent need to hold democratic elections as quickly as possible. Local elected officials, who are sorely lacking, would have been attentive to the needs of the population.