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Libya: Tawergha Return Journey Saddled with Mines, Tribal Strife

Libya: Tawergha Return Journey Saddled with Mines, Tribal Strife

Wednesday, 11 July, 2018 - 10:30
Cairo – Jamal Johar
Cairo – Jamal Johar
Displaced Libyans hoping to return to their homes in Tawergha, rendered a ghost town by civil war, discovered that their route is fraught dangers and obstacles, despite nearly a month passing since the signing of a “reconciliation pact” with Misurata (200 kilometers east of the Libyan capital of Tripoli).

The pact was meant to ensure the safe return of Tawergha residents following the death of President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Although the agreement guarantees a safe return, widespread objections are heard from Libyans who told Asharq Al-Awsat that the pact low key “imposes a guardianship” on them, and deprives them from the right to self-determination.

More so, Twaergha uprooted residents said that “old neighbors” have resorted to using “racist slogans and raises sectarian divisions.”

It goes without saying that even though the agreement allows locals to return, many speculations involving widespread webs of landmines and explosives have caused returnees to hesitate.

Last week, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), alongside agencies tasked with mine sweeps and humanitarian affairs, held a meeting in Misurata to address demining efforts in Tawergha in hopes of ensuring a safe and dignified return for those displaced.

The mission said it had visited Tawergha and met with the local council to prepare for future measures.

Tawergha's residents were forced to flee their town after their homes were torched in the aftermath of the February 17, 2011 revolution held by neighboring Misurata militias.

Most of those who managed to escape set up makeshift camps in the east, west and south of the country .

Despite the widespread belief of mines being planted across the town and a UN commission conducting a mine survey this week, some citizens were surprised to hear talks of mines in their hometown, saying there is no evidence backing such claims.

Hameed al-Wafi, a Tawergha citizen who was forced to flee to Tripoli, said Tawergha had been abandoned for nearly eight years and Misrata is using the town to herd sheep, as a form of degrading the town’s image.

We have not heard of a mine explosion in any citizen during that period, said Wafi.

“Since 2011, there have been families from Misurata and other cities who frequently go to our abandoned city, but there has been no single mine explosion,” he added.

He described the claims being made are a mean for the Government of National Accord to access international funds.

Others believe that the presidential council of the Tripoli-based GNA, headed by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, is making efforts to replace and renovate the infrastructure in Tawergha.

Some 40,000 Tawergha residents fled their homes after being set on fire because of conflict with neighboring Misurata.

Tawergha was perceived as main supporter of Gaddafi regime. Immediately after his overthrow, Misurata battalions attacked the city as punishment for previous charges of “Tawerghis attacking their city and raping their women.”

Nevertheless, residents of Tawergha refuse to accredit such accusations and assert that their youth worked with the “armed public” and not with Gaddafi forces.

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