Libyan Aviation Industry a major casualty of the UN No-Fly Zone Resolution and the long drawn civil war

As Libya continues to suffer from almost daily damaging air strikes from planes and missiles of NATO, as it claims to enforce a no fly-zone over the north African country under a UN Security Council resolution, air transport has emerged as one of the most serious casualties of the bombings.

The no-fly-zone over Libya, which includes civil aviation, is seriously threatening the country’s air transport sector which had just begun to recover from the embargo imposed from 1990 to 2003 by the United Nations to pressure Libya into handing over two men suspected of involvement in the Lockerbie bombing.

Libya had worked hard and tirelessly and at huge costs to catch up after falling behind following the air embargo which grounded its planes, making the sector suffer huge losses at the technical, material and human levels.
Afriqiyah Airlines was a symbol of Libya's pan African ambitions following the lifting of crippling sanctions against Libya
 Libya adopted a liberalization policy to open the country to the market in which the aviation sector occupied a predominant place with the setting up of several private and state-owned companies including Libyan Arab airlines, Afriqiyah Airways, Al-Buraq and several local private airlines.

This policy, for example, pushed Afriqiyah Airways, with an African vocation, to the rank of a world company, linking the African continent to the rest of the world.

Afriqiyah specialized in linking African and European capitals and, in this respect, flies to 72 destinations across the world via Tripoli.

Africans countries served by the airline are South Africa, Chad, Burkina Faso, Benin, DR Congo, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Sudan, Ivory Coast, Mali, Togo, Niger and Senegal.

In Europe and in the world, Afriqiyah serves France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, UK, Denmark, United Arab Emirates, China and Bangladesh.

Set up in the wake of the collapse of Air Afrique in 2002, Afriqiyah Airways, which chose 9-9-99 as logo to commemorate the date for the launch of the African Union (AU) in the Gulf of Sirte, Libya had the objective of a strategic vision to serve as an African integration tool at a competitive fare.

Within the framework of the modernization of its fleet, Afriqiyah Airways in late 2010 signed an agreement to purchase 23 planes of various types from Airbus, the European air plane manufacturer.

The European Union decided to freeze the assets of Afriqiyah following  the recent sanctions against the Libyan regime because it is a subsidiary of Libyan African Investment Portfolio.

But this does nothing but worsens the Libyan air transport sector which records delay at both the level of technological progress and vocational training and the huge material damage due to the loss of markets.

If fares for urban and inter-urban transport have increased by 5-10 times in Libyan cities, the imposition of a no-fly zone has led, inevitably, to an air embargo that has grounded planes.

Many citizens are complaining about the new situation imposed by the air embargo which limits their freedom of movement.

For Hadj Mohamed Al-Hadi, a Libyan businessman who is used to going abroad very often, "to go, for example, to Cairo, Egypt, it takes between eight and fifteen days, although it takes a maximum of three hours by plane".

Actually, he said, “to travel to Cairo presently, one must leave Tripoli for Tunis by car (a day of travel at least), be at the airline counters of Tunis Air or Egypt Air the following day while not being sure to find a seat for the next flight. For, the only possibility that presents itself is a booking in 15 days, at least, to be sure to have a seat”.

Ahmed Abdelmalek, a student in Egypt, laments the fact that one must "be physically present and pay cash for the ticket, not taking into consideration the hotel and cost of meals, taxi fares and other transport costs”.

On enduring all that ordeal, it is legitimate for Libyan citizens to wonder if the UN resolutions are motivated by the concern to protect civilian populations or to stifle Libyan civilian population.

That reality should hit the UN, the Security Council, NATO and the international community to be aware of the impact of the resolutions on civilian populations and to act to revise them.

This would be in a bid to avoid taking hostage civilians whom they want to protect by realizing rather belatedly, unfortunately, that the said resolutions have been made to implement political programmes.
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