A small but vocal group of farmers stood up and heckled Economy and Trade Minister Mohamed Hwej and Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Agricultural Minister Hussein Gatrani at yesterday’s opening ceremony of the Agricultural fair in Tripoli.
Gatrani experienced the worse of the disruption. His speech was inaudible as hecklers shouted out their demands. Organisers and security attempted to calm them down and they eventually sat in their seats – but not before Gatrani had finished his inaudible speech. Inexplicably, rather than pausing or stopping, Gatrani insisted on completing his speech.
Where is the government support for food security?
The farmers complained that the government was not responding to their demands. One livestock farmer explained that animal feed prices had shot through the roof. Availability was scarce and they struggled to feed their livestock. They complained that the government talks about supporting local production and food security – but takes little action. They complained about the unfair competition from foreign exports. They demanded, for example, that either the government imports and subsidises animal feed or opens Letters of Credit for them to do so.
Analysis: Is the heckling a sign of a deeper public discontent?
Heckling government ministers is a new and unusual phenomenon in Libya. Libyans took 42 years to rise against Qaddafi. Sadly, they are politically quite apathetic.
This could have been a one-off. However, it could be a sign of simmering public unrest hiding below the surface. Libyans have grown tired of the instability and uncertainty since the 2011 revolution that ended the Qaddafi era. Governments have come and gone with no clear implementable roadmap ahead to give Libyans real hope.
Notably, the hecklers were not hot-headed youth off the street, but mostly invited middle aged guests. This partly explained the restrained reaction by security and organisers towards them. They did not, for example, get physical with them or try to eject them.
Their demands were reasonable. Stop talking the talk and start walking the walk of supporting local food and agriculture – was the crux of their shouted demands.