By Sami Zaptia.
London, 29 September 2020:
A team of Siemens technicians has arrived at Libya’s Sarir power station, the country’s state General Electricity Company of Libya (GECOL) reported yesterday. GECOL admitted that the arrival of the technicians came ‘‘after strenuous efforts and negotiations’’.
It is a well know fact that technicians representing many foreign technicians have refused to return to work in Libya for security reasons. In 2017, three Turkish employees working for Turkish contractor ENKA at the Ubari power station in southern Libya were kidnapped and were not released for a year.
GECOL said the Siemens technicians would be conducting ‘‘massive overhauls’’ for three of the Sarir units (the first, second and third units). They would also be conducting overhauls at Benghazi North power station (unit 5) and Zueitina station (unit 5).
GECOL also reported that overhauls would be conducted for the GE generators at Benghazi North (unit 4), Tripoli South (unit 1), Zawia (units 1 & 4), Khoms (units 1 & 2) and one unit at the Western Mountain power station.
The arrival of foreign technicians to conduct years-overdue overhauls to many of Libya’s electricity generators will be welcomed by the majority of both Libya’s political elite and its population. It is widely perceived in Libya, however, that there is a corrupt and immoral minority such as the sellers of power generators and the corrupt and those on kickbacks in GECOL, who prefer the status quo.
Libya has been experiencing acute electricity cuts since the February 2011 revolution. Last week some areas of Tripoli went four consecutive days without power. In September, it is estimated that some areas received power for only 25 percent of the time.
The power cuts, as well as a raft of other grievances, have resulted in political fallout. In July this year GECOL’s board of directors was replaced. There have been demonstrations across the country where security forces have opened fire at protesters. Youth regularly close main roads with burning tyres in protest. The Interior Minister in Tripoli was briefly suspended, and both the western and eastern Prime Ministers have offered to resign.
On another level, on 27 September GECOL’s former Projects Manager and current board member was arrested on corruption charges. GECOL is widely perceived as a corrupt and mismanaged state entity failing to generate and deliver the needed electricity despite receiving huge budgets over the years.