Anti-Gaddafi voices re-emerge in Tripolihttp://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7deb7434-54b7-11e0-b1ed-00144feab49a.html#axzz1HNKKnIJ3
Following three days of air strikes on Libya, some residents of Tripoli on Tuesday felt emboldened enough to whisper their real sentiments to foreign journalists, telling them that they wished to see the end of Muammer Gaddafi’s regime.For days, under a blanket of stepped-up security around the Libyan capital, and a relentless propaganda campaign by state television, people seemed too frightened to speak openly. Press access to the population also has been limited to tightly guarded tours featuring mobs of flag-waving, slogan-chanting pro-Gaddafi youths
But on Tuesday, it was as if a dam burst. When journalists were permitted to roam inside Tripoli’s old city, a warren of medieval alleyways and shops near the Mediterranean harbour, just out of sight of official minders, the city’s shopkeepers and restaurateurs seemed to be of one mind: Gaddafi must go.
“All the people want him to go, but he is not going away,” said one man. Pointing in the direction of a pro-Gaddafi rally in nearby Green Square, he added: “This is nonsense. They are pretending to show the population supports the government, which is a lie. The flag means nothing.”
In the old city, where commerce, rather than politics, is king, Col Gaddafi’s erratic rule is now judged bad for business. “You see all these shops are closed. When the shops are closed something is wrong,” said the man. The shopkeepers, who make up the heart of the city’s economy, are on strike, one passer-by said. This is contributing to a rapidly worsening economic crisis. Bread and gasoline are now in short supply.
Western officials have made it clear that one of the unstated goals of the three-day-old military operation is the removal of Col Gaddafi, though there are no historical precedents for a regime falling due to bombing alone. In Serbia in 1999, the closest precedent to the Libyan operation, Slobodan Milosevic stayed in power for two years after his army was mauled by a Nato bombing campaign.
But many people in Tripoli are now willing to speak of their hope for a faster outcome. When the rebels had the momentum earlier this month, residents criticised the leader but after a crackdown in the capital and a counter-offensive against the rebels, Tripoli residents fell silent.
“Two weeks ago, people made a revolution here,” said one man who pulled aside a group of journalists in an alleyway. “But he [Col Gaddafi] destroyed it. He destroyed everything. Everything now is closed. I can’t talk too much.”
One man, from the Suq al Jumua’a neighbourhood, a poor district on the eastern edge of the city where demonstrations two weeks ago were brutally put down by the military, said that he expected to see a restart of demonstrations against Col Gaddafi’s rule.
“These people,” he said, pointing at a flag-waving crowd as he drove by, “they just do it for money. Nobody cares at all about Gaddafi, he has been there for 42 years. It’s too long, it’s time for him to go, and everyone wants him to go.”