The Washington Post reports:
The retired accounting professor who runs the city council of the Libyan rebel capital wants you to know: “There is good news in Benghazi!” Just ignore the smell.
“Electricity, benzene, water, gas — all okay. No rockets, no fighting — all okay. Sewage? Big headache. But all in all, we are amazed,” said Saad Elferjani, who compared his city — in the most favorable way possible — to a roach motel.
“You remember the advertisement?” he said. “ ‘You can check in, but you can’t check out.’ That is us.”
In recent months, the dueling capitals of Libya have traded places. Tripoli, held by leader Moammar Gaddafi, is now in worse shape than rebel-held Benghazi.
Life in Benghazi gets slightly better every day: Police officers dressed as admirals at least pretend to direct traffic, an exhibit of once-forbidden art has opened in the new Gaddafi Crimes Museum, and the schools are scheduled to start again in September.
“The city feels safe. Things work,” said Abed Dada of the International Committee of the Red Cross, who has spent the past few weeks in Benghazi.
The bakeries are turning out special pastries again. A tank of gas costs $4, less than before the revolution. Cellphone calls are free.
Asked to compare the rival cities of east and west, which were traditional adversaries even before the uprising, one young merchant notes with pride that the price of a chicken in Tripoli is $12, whereas in Benghazi, a bird (imported from Egypt) will set you back $3.
The conditions of daily life in the de facto rebel capital — and the perceptions of its citizens — are important clues to how a post-Gaddafi Libya might function. The evidence in August suggests here would be a fractious, opaque government of well-meaning amateurs who care enough to try to keep the lights on.