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Demonstrators block roads with makeshift fires in protest at lengthening power cuts

Demonstrators, overwhelmingly youth, blocked several roads in the greater Tripoli area yesterday setting alight to debris and old car tyres. The protests were against the continuing and lengthening power cuts.

Aldabaiba promised an end to power cuts
It will be recalled that Tripoli-based Prime Minister Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba had promised last year that there would be no power cuts to speak of this summer. He had convinced the Audit Bureau and Central Bank of Libya to make an exception and accelerate procedures for fast-track power stations to resolve the issue.

Tripoli West Fast Track
In May this year, GECOL announced that the first unit of the Tripoli West Fast track Power Plant is ‘‘about to enter production”. It did not specify exactly when.

It stated that the completion rate had reached 90% of the work on the project, which it said it was relying on to cover a large part of the generation deficit. The production capacity of Tripoli West is about 670 megawatts.

Misrata Fast Track
On June 15 GECOL announced that it had linked the power transformer for the first unit at the Misrata Fast Track power Station project in preparation for its entry into the electrical network at the end of June. It would provide a new power supply of 325 MW to the network.

GECOL expected the station’s second unit to go into operation at the start of July with another 325 MW of electricity. The two units will contribute to reducing the country’s current (acute) power cuts, GECOL said.

The news was later confirmed by the Tripoli-based Prime Minister Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba during a cabinet meeting.

Gas supplies reduced by blockade
However, the eastern-based political stakeholders of Khalifa Hafter, Ageela Saleh and possibly the HoR appointed Prime Minister Fathi Bashagha have blockaded oil and gas production in the eastern fields. This has reduced gas supplies to power stations

GECOL board suspended
On Sunday, Aldabaiba suspended the chairman and board of the General Electricity Company of Libya (GECOL) and referred them to administrative investigation.

The roadblocks varied in length from area to area. Some fires were lit up on roundabouts and next to roads without stopping traffic.

Two of the biggest roadblocks and fires were at the Bivi traffic light and in Gurji. There were similar protests in Gaser Ben Ghashir, Kremia road, Tajura and Khoms.

Some areas suffered an 18-hour power cut with youth threatening to repeat the demonstrations if the power cuts were not reduced in length. Some areas also complained, as is the case every year, that their area suffered longer power cuts than other ‘‘favoured’’ areas.

In one video clip doing the social media rounds, demonstrators in Tajura said “Our issue is not Haftar, or Aldabaiba, or Bashagha. It is an angry demonstration against the corrupt authorities who have been unable to provide electricity for 11 years.’’

The Bivi demonstrators claimed they had voluntarily ended the road blockade. However, they warned they would be back if power cuts did not shorten.

Demonstration planned for Friday
There are still plans by NGO/activists to hold a large demonstration in Tripoli’s Martyr Square on Friday.

UN-brokered political talks in Geneva
Libya’s electricity crisis is very much linked to its political crisis. The UN is currently brokering talks in Geneva between the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ageela Saleh, and the head of the High State Council, Khaled Mishri.

After the cancellation of the December 2021 elections, the UN is trying to get the two conflicting parties to agree on the constitution upon which to hold elections.

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