Desolation, dismay stare in the face of displaced Libyans

A Libyan boy walks in a burned and destroyed building in the town of Al-Gawalesh, 120 km west of the capital Tripoli. (AFP)
Updated 28 January 2019
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Desolation, dismay stare in the face of displaced Libyans

  • Human Rights Watch (HRW) this week raised the alarm over the fate of Tawergha, a town in northeast Libya that also sided with Qaddafi during the revolt

AL-GAWALESH, Libya: “Our town has been looted, homes wrecked and olive trees torched,” Moftah Mohammed said in dismay on returning home to Al-Gawalesh in western Libya after years wandering from place to place.
Al-Gawalesh, perched on the slopes of Jebel Nefussa, 120 km west of Tripoli, paid the price for its support of former Prime Minister Muammar Qaddafi during a 2011 NATO-backed revolt in which he was captured and killed.
Once home to close to 10,000 people, the town is a scene of desolation: Wind- and dirt-swept, burnt-out homes, destroyed schools and other public buildings, devoid of any public services.
“It was July 6, 2011” when he and his family like all other residents had to flee Al-Gawalesh, Mohammed said. “To stay would have meant death,” in the face of NATO airstrikes on Qaddafi’s forces.
Fear of reprisals by neighboring communities which had sided with the victorious rebels kept it a ghost town for the past seven-and-a-half years. In the face of often entrenched bitterness and a hunger for revenge, the UN mission in Libya has been working for reconciliation through the return of displaced communities to their pre-war homes.
The way was cleared for a return to Al-Gawalesh with a reconciliation deal signed back in 2015 between representatives of the towns of Jebel Nefussa that came along with promises of financial aid.
The town’s mayor, Said Amer, said residents were still waiting for compensation payments to repair their homes.
“Some families have no choice but to live in these burned-out homes, not realizing the risks posed to their health and that of their children,” the mayor said.
The municipality says families have filed 1,600 compensation claims, none of which have been settled. Libya’s financial woes have blocked reconstruction in towns such as Al-Gawalesh, according to the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
“We need a development plan and financing for reconstruction that we don’t have,” Yussef Jalala, minister for the displaced in the Tripoli-based GNA, told AFP. He pinned the blame on the international community.
“On several occasions the international community has promised aid to help rebuild devastated towns but nothing has materialized,” he said.
According to the latest figures published by the International Organization for Migration, Libya’s displaced number around 187,000.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) this week raised the alarm over the fate of Tawergha, a town in northeast Libya that also sided with Qaddafi during the revolt.
Most of its 48,000 inhabitants have still been unable to return, more than seven years on, it says.
“The Government of National Accord should urgently devise a strategy for Tawerghans’ safe return, ensuring reconstruction and security,” it said.
“While nothing can reverse seven years of forced displacement and dispersal, a measure of accountability for causing and preventing their return will not only bring justice to victims of serious violations and restore dignity, but it could serve as a deterrent for future crimes,” HRW said.


White House’s Kushner to finalize Palestinian economic plan on Middle East tour -official

Updated 44 min 10 sec ago
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White House’s Kushner to finalize Palestinian economic plan on Middle East tour -official

  • White House senior adviser Kushner will visit Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE

WASHINGTON: White House senior adviser Jared Kushner will lead a US delegation on a tour of the Middle East to finalize details of his proposed $50 billion economic development plan for the Palestinians, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon, an administration official said on Sunday.
Kushner, Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, State Department official Brian Hook and Kushner aide Avi Berkowitz are expected to make make stops in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, the official said.
They leave late this month and return to Washington in early August.
The official said the purpose of the trip is to “continue on the momentum that was created at the workshop in Bahrain and finalize the economic portion of the plan.”
They will also discuss the possibility of locating the development fund in Bahrain, the official said.
Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and the plan’s main architect, sought to build support for his ambitious economic proposals for the Palestinian territories at an international meeting in Bahrain in June.
Palestinians poured scorn on the Trump administration’s $50 billion investment plan to help achieve Middle East peace, but US Gulf Arab allies said the economic initiative had promise if a political settlement is reached.
Kushner and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last week discussed creation of the fund with World Bank President David Malpass, the official said. The World Bank has a role in managing the fund.
The delegation was not expected to discuss Trump’s long-awaited political plan for the Middle East, and when it will be released remains unclear.