Wounded Libyan fighters watch Tunis peace talks with cautious hope

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is seen on screens during the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in Tunis, Tunisia

From his wheelchair in Benghazi, Rami Obaidi has some advice for the delegates starting talks in Tunis on Monday over Libya’s political future, including national elections and a new transitional authority. 

The 24-year-old fighter in the Libyan National Army (LNA) took a bullet through one lung and lost a leg and both hands to a mortar shell during an assault on Tripoli that ended in June.

“Use people who do not want anything for themselves from the world,” he said, showing the scar on his tattooed flank where the bullet exited.

Like many Libyans, Obaidi is sceptical that the talks will yield a long-term solution to Libya’s near decade of chaos and bloodshed despite a nationwide ceasefire agreed last month.

Libya has been split since 2014 between rival factions in the west, held by the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), and the east, home to Khalifa Haftar’s LNA. Both are backed by foreign powers.

Muataz al-Farjani, another wounded LNA fighter, said he feared the influence of Turkey, which backs the Tripoli-based government.

In Tripoli, some also fear the LNA’s backers Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

“We went (to fight) for the sake of our homeland. We want a better life,” Farjani said.

After one of the bloodiest bouts of the warfare that has roiled Libya intermittently since 2011, Libyans are weary. The United Nations, which has brokered the talks, hopes that will spur the sides to agree a solution.

The LNA’s assault on Tripoli lasted 14 months, killing and maiming both fighters and civilians caught in bombardment. It worsened living standards, leading to protests this summer.

On the other side of Libya, across the frontline from Obaidi and Farjani in Benghazi, a group of women in the western port city of Misrata protested against a lack of state help after losing husbands or sons to the fighting.

Hawa al-Ramli’s husband was killed at the start of fighting in 2011.

“Ten years later it’s the same endless cycle,” she said. “We want reconciliation, but with the knowledge that there are people who must be held accountable by the law.”

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