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Libyan fighters talk politics over Tuna sandwiches

22 september 2011, 13:07
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Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) fighters sit on top of a tank at an outpost on the outskirts of the city of Bani Walid. ©AFP
Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) fighters sit on top of a tank at an outpost on the outskirts of the city of Bani Walid. ©AFP
At sunset, after the battle has ended, the fighters of Libya's new rulers gather to relish cold tuna sandwiches and talk about their future in an era without Moamer Kadhafi, AFP reports.

While there are differences over how their country should be led, and by whom, they are clear about one thing -- no single individual will be allowed to seize power and decide the fate of Libyans.

"I will kill again if I have to," says Maatiz Saad, a 23-year-old pharmacy student, as he bites into his sandwich after a hard day of fighting near the town of Sultana, which the fighters captured from pro-Kadhafi forces and were fiercely defending the territory around it.

"We don't want any one person to seize power. We had enough of it. If it happens again, we will protest peacefully. If we fail in that, then we will pick up guns again."

Saad, who is one among dozens of fighters deployed along the frontline, six kilometres beyond Sultana, echoes the views of several of his comrades.

Months of fierce fighting in Libya's scorching heat have made the fighters of the National Transitional Council, the interim ruling body, ready for anything and to fight for their rights with anybody who opposes them.

Saad is a university student from Benghazi and one of seven children. Like his comrades, he is convinced he had no choice but to take up arms against Kadhafi after their peaceful protests were crushed by him.

"I know using guns is not the right thing, but this time we had to. We were left with no choice," he says, taking in another mouthful of the tuna sandwich, the staple food of fighters.

Some NTC fighters hope that once the war is over, the situation in Libya will change for better.

"We trust Mustafa Abdel Jalil and Mahmud Jibril for working towards a better future for Libya," says Mohammed bin Hallum, referring to the two top leaders of the NTC. He, along with Saad and a dozen other fighters, has taken refuge inside a deserted house on the outskirts of Sultana.

"There are differences in the new leadership but they will disappear," the former worker at a Benghazi paint factory says as sporadic artillery shelling could still be heard along the frontline after sunset.

But not all fighters are convinced.

Adel Mustafa, a 42-year-old commander of the Zintan Brigade, whose men are deployed on the front line, feels that political differences would last for a long time before they are resolved.

"Mustafa Abdel Jalil is fine, but Jibril comes with a different mind. He could succumb to outside influences," he tells AFP, downing three cups of coffee in quick succession.

After shedding blood for what he claims to gain basic rights of living, Mustafa does not want the "sacrifice to go waste."

"The goal of this revolution has been to get freedom. Freedom to live a better life and give a better living to our children, and our leaders should ensure that we have that," he says as he gets up for a quick wash before evening prayers.

He says the new Libya needs decades of strong leadership, "but of course not like Kadhafi who had a zig-zag style of ruling."

"I have grown seeing his rule. I am 42 years old, as old as Kadhafi's rule. We don't want that kind of rule again."

The hatred towards Kadhafi is clearly evident among the fighters, most of whom are under 30. There are even several gun-toting teenagers checking any suspect vehicle that is heading towards Sirte -- the hometown of the now fugitive Kadhafi.

"We are a country of around five to six million people and we sell oil maybe five times more than that every day. Where has this wealth gone?", says Ahmed, who drives a Mercedes truck that ferries supplies for the fighters on the front line.

"We are a rich country with lot of oil resources, but Kadhafi used to pay people only 300 dinars salary per month. Where has the oil money gone? This will not happen again in free Libya," he says as a group of fighters unload their share of food supplies from his trucks, including cans of tuna.

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