News / Africa

    Libyan Rebel Strategy Depends on Outside Military Help

    This original turret will be modified and set on the back of a pick-up truck, Benghazi, June 23 2011
    This original turret will be modified and set on the back of a pick-up truck, Benghazi, June 23 2011

    Multimedia

    Elizabeth Arrott

    The admission by French officials that they have supplied weapons to rebels in western Libya could help explain the opposition's recent territorial gain. The advance has been one of the few breakthroughs in the rebels' fight against the government's professional army. 

    The rebel leadership has spent four months trying to form a cohesive plan to guide its enthusiastic, but largely amateur fighting force.  The results have been mixed. 

    "We need to organize ourselves," said Jalal elGalal, a media spokesman for the Transitional National Council. "We need better armaments and we need a strategic plan to tackle on open plains.  It's difficult, and it's going to be costly.  But it's a price the Libyans are willing to pay."

    Stalemate

    With the rebels bogged down in Brega in the east and around Misrata, their only advance against government forces appears to be in the western mountains, where the opposition has the advantage of French help and higher ground. ElGalal fears even that momentum could falter.

    "The stalemate is going to remain on open ground simply because the armaments they have are much superior to what we have," he said. "Although we have the cause [and] we have the will, we can't match them as far as the armaments are concerned."

    French officials say recent weapons and munitions help to the rebels keeps within a U.N. mandate to protect civilians - and does not violate sanctions.

    UN embargo

    French aid notwithstanding, the United Nations has placed an arms embargo for Libya that has hampered the rebels.

    An anti-aircraft gun will be jerry-rigged atop a tank, Benghazi, June 23 , 2011
    An anti-aircraft gun will be jerry-rigged atop a tank, Benghazi, June 23 , 2011

    On top of that, when government forces withdrew from now opposition-held positions, they took much of the best equipment with them, leaving the rebels to make do with whatever they can find.

    At a military camp outside Benghazi, volunteers are becoming expert recyclers.  A group of men huddle atop an old tank.  A few wrenches with a crowbar, the lift of a crane, and off comes the gun turret. In its place, they fit an anti-aircraft gun, which they hope will give their fighters a longer range of attack.  Military liaison Adelrahman Busin points to the ripped out turret, with the gunner's seat beneath painfully exposed, and says it's set to be mounted on a pick-up truck.  

    "Nothing goes to waste," said Busin. " Everything is used.  Even that piece that just came off there will be sent to Misrata and used as a cannon."  

    Can do spirit

    In another room, men are putting the finishing touches on an improvised rocket launcher.  A piece of string secures a tea towel around one end - padding for the fighter's shoulder. Busin points out that the safety is a switch from a child's toy car.

    A tea towel is used as padding on an improvised rocket launcher, Benghazi, June 23, 2011
    A tea towel is used as padding on an improvised rocket launcher, Benghazi, June 23, 2011

    "This has been specifically designed for anti-aircraft missiles," he explained. "This was literally made in someone's home.  The actual aircraft missiles - you've seen them, the round ones, that come off helicopters and mounted on top of trucks - they've custom-made a single rocket launcher for those same rockets."

    This can-do spirit is seen in other rebel supply lines.  At the Kalha restaurant, owner Sami Shakmak doesn't mind that recent renovations are obscured by a small army of volunteers.

    "We found a gap, the army, they haven't got any food," said  Shakmak. "The people on the front line haven't got any food.  So for them to actually stay in their places we needed to feed them.  So we started from there really and it just escalated."

    Donations provide relief

    With donations from various charities, they manage to turn out more than 20,000 meals a day.

    It's this kind of effort that has taken Libya's opposition from political protesters to defenders against a brutal government crackdown, and now a fighting force trying to advance on the capital. But they recognize they need more.  

    "I'm hoping the generals here, the chief of staff, the defense minister, are working on something with the military advisers from the international community and I hope something will fall in place pretty soon," said spokesman elGalal.

    Even elGalal admits "that might sound a little optimistic."

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora