Amid War, Libyans Wonder What the Futures Holds

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BENGHAZI, Libya - Six months have now passed since the start of Libya's civil war.

A military stalemate continues with dictator Moammar Gadhafi insisting that he'll remain in the land of his ancestors.

As he contemplates his possible exit strategy, many people wonder what kind of country he will leave behind. What could the future hold for Libyans once Gadhafi either leaves willingly or is forced from power?

Some in Benghazi say conditions can't get much worse. The unresolved struggle has taken a toll on their nation.

The Cost of Freedom

Mourners attended the funeral procession of Abdel el Zoueihid, a 36-year-old rebel soldier who died after fighting Gadhafi troops in the battle of Kofra. His grieving father suggested more outside help is needed so his son's death will not be in vain.

"We ask the American people to stand up with us in this affliction, to support us with weapons and international resolutions and money to eliminate this tyrant and this criminal who makes the Libyan people homeless," Zoueihid's father said.

The people of eastern Libya are glad to finally be free from Gadhafi. But they know their freedom comes with a cost, not only in war dead and wounded, but also they know there is a long struggle ahead to rebuild their government and their lives.

Libya is one of the world's top oil countries, producing 1.7 million barrels daily. At least $40 billion to $50 billion is generated annually. Three-fourths of the oil is produced in the eastern part of the country, now in the hands of the rebels.

Many Libyans in the east are encouraged by that development because they've reaped few of the oil benefits in the past. They say most of the revenue went to Gadhafi, his family, tribe and non-Libyans.

One man from Benghazi explained that he doesn't have a job even though the country is rich in oil wealth.

"All the money is going outside of Libya in Africa and other places," he said. "That's why I have started a small kiosk so I'll have some income."

Economic Struggles

Ongoing fighting is crippling the Libyan economy. Food and medicine are scarce in some areas and expensive in cities like Gharyan, 50 miles from Tripoli.

One resident said the town is peaceful, but "prices are shooting up."

Inadequate housing and healthcare are matters of concern for some Libyans near the eastern city of Beida.

One man told CBN News his house has a leaky metal roof, no sewage system, windows or air conditioning. His family is living in stuffy, stifling hot conditions.

An elderly widow said she suffers from diabetes, asthma and other health challenges. But she can't afford her medicines.

A man named Mohammed said his house was destroyed. His daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren were killed late one night when a misguided NATO missile struck their house.

"I shouldn't have outlived my child. I am angry," he said. "I want this war to end."

No End in Sight

Most Libyans in the east are looking for a better life -- one without the dictator who has ruled their country for 41 years.

But unless Gadhafi steps aside, little is likely to change and no end to the war appears in sight.

Federal troops and Gadhafi loyalists control much of the west. Rebel troops hold most of the east. By mid-August, the country was in a military stalemate since outside help has been limited.

While the U.S. Congress has approved continued funding for American participation in the NATO air campaign, it refuses to fund the rebels.

NATO's goal is to protect civilians and even though Gadhafi's movements are being tracked, rules of engagement restrict NATO bombers from killing him.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says there's no military solution to the Libyan conflict.

"Obviously we need a political solution," explained Rasmussen. "So, we are in favor of all attempts to find a political solution and seek a peaceful way towards democracy in Libya."

Hope for the Future

In the meantime, pro-Gadhafi rallies continue periodically in Tripoli.

And in the liberated city of Benghazi, people express gratitude for the help they've received from France and the United States.

One man told CBN News he appreciates U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"She's a strong woman and beautiful," he said." You are in the heart of a free Libya. Thank you!"

Other Libyans realize a long, difficult struggle lies ahead, with or without outside help.

They pray the war will end soon and that their country will be freed from a tyrant, united as one nation striving together toward a more prosperous future.

--Published Aug. 17, 2011.

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Gary Lane

Gary Lane

CBN News Sr. International Correspondent

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