Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Crazy City Where the Scout Troop Has Taken over as Gravediggers

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

A Crazy City Where the Scout Troop Has Taken over as Gravediggers

Article excerpt

Byline: Oliver Poole in Benghazi

IT IS now almost 40 days since Benghazi liberated itself. There is still no working government. No police force. No effective municipal authorities. Many shops remain closed. Most key jobs stay in the hands of enthusiastic but inexperienced amateurs.

But it is not only the sound of gunfire that illustrates the crazy way this city has been transformed since it rose up against Colonel Gaddafi on February 17.

It is the group digging furiously into the thick soil a few yards from the clusters of mourners. All wear a uniform familiar the world over -- its stripped yellow neckerchiefs held by toggles and with their merit badges sown down their sleeve -- as they prepared for the further bodies expected as the fighting continues.

The Benghazi Scouts have been the city's gravediggers for more than three weeks after the official gravediggers fled to the safety of the countryside soon after the uprising. Someone needed to do the job, there being no lack of bodies to bury, and so they came forward and, like people across the city stepping up to fill the void left by the collapse of the civic administration, volunteered.

It has been tough work. "Over there," said Scout leader Salem el-Dadraf, 21, as he pointed to an area of turned-over earth marked not by headstones but a line of breezeblocks, "is where we buried the Gaddafi soldiers killed in the French air strike.

"We could not tell which body parts belonged with which as they were in pieces so we poured them into a trench. I will never forget the smell but I am proud to be doing what I can to help. Everyone must help the revolution."

But despite the positive messages, this city is leaderless. The leadership that does exist is beset by internal rivalry. A bitter power struggle at the top between Mahmoud Jibril, a former economics official, and the ex-justice minister Mustapha Abdel Jalil, appears to have been won by Mr Jibril, although Mr Jalil remains in charge of military and foreign affairs indicating little chance of a united front.

Even at lower levels there is a marked schism between the groups of academics, lawyers and businessmen, many of them US or UK educated, who talk about human rights and the rule of law and the more excitable -- and numerous -- volunteers who are concerned primarily with expunging any influence of Gaddafi from the city by whatever means necessary. …

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