Libya: eastern authorities announce reconstruction conference in Derna

Nearly two weeks after deadly floods swept away entire neighbourhood in eastern Libya, authorities in the said region announced an international reconstruction conference.

The spokesperson for the Libyan national army leader also reacted Friday to protests organized in the flood-hit city of Derna.

On September 18, hundreds of protestors gathered outside the city’s grand mosque, chanting slogans against the eastern-based parliament and its leader and calling for accountability over the high death toll.

Protestor’s among other things demanded a probe into the current city council and previous budgets.

“The people are angry, the people are suffering, we are suffering too, we are part of the people, we are not strangers to them, so we feel what they feel,” Ahmed el-Mesmari said.

“I myself have lost […] members of my family in this situation. You have to listen very carefully to the anger of the people. Their voice has reached and moved all the institutions of power and politicians in Libya. This will lead to an investigation of everything that happened,” The spokesman of army leader Khalifa Haftar added.

Rival governments

Libya is divided into rival governments with the UN-backed administration sitting in Tripoli, the country’s west.

A bloody 2019 assault on Tripoli by Haftar’s forces ended in defeat by Dbeibah loyalists and an August 2020 ceasefire that largely holds.

The spokesman for east Libya’s strongman said the October 10 conference was being held in response to residents’ demands.

He asked if international donors will choose to attend or no.

“Are the donor countries really going to come? Or will they wait for a conference called by Dbeibah, or will there be two conferences? Like there are two governments This political polarisation has had a negative effect on Libyans.”

The conference is aimed to “present modern, rapid projects for the reconstruction.”

The UN-backed government headed by Adbelhamid Dbeiba didn’t immediately react. 

No details were given on how the eastern administration would accommodate delegates in a devastated city.

Bodies of victims and debris

There is still no widely accepted death toll for the floods which devastated Derna and nearby coastal towns. 

Bodies are still being found under the debris or on beaches where they have washed up after being swept out to the sea by the flood.

The latest official death toll released on Friday evening stood at 3,753. Thousands are still missing. 

A tsunami-sized flash flood broke through two ageing dams upstream from the city after a hurricane-strength storm lashed the area on September 10, sweeping thousands of people into the sea.

Mobile and internet services were restored in Derna on Thursday (Sep. 21) following a two-day disruption that came after demonstrations by angry residents on September 18.

Amnesty International reported “arrests of critics and protesters” in the port-city.