Africa

Tripoli's sense of victory on hold

Libyan rebel fighters from Tripoli brigade deface a portrait of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli, Libya, Monday, 22 Aug 2011
Image caption The symbols of Col Gaddafi's long rule are being taken down

Nato jets are still flying over Tripoli's skyline and gunshots can still be heard, along with the distant rumble of some kind of explosions. Battles are still being fought in a few areas a short distance from the city centre.

After a night of loud celebrations that reverberated across the city, Monday morning has had a sobering effect on many.

People are asking questions like: "What now?" "Where is HE? [Col Muammar Gaddafi]."

Although there is undoubtedly a lingering nervousness over what the regime is still capable of doing, the fear that has gripped the population of this city has dissolved.

People are liberally speaking of recent events on the phone now - a luxury that was unthinkable since the uprising began six months ago.

Alongside armed opposition fighters, local people are taking it in turns to man the checkpoints which have sprung up every 150-200 metres.

As the rebels advanced, many local residents blocked off their roads to prevent pro-Gaddafi loyalists from moving in.

There was some heavy gunfire but in the end, the security forces seemed to melt away.

However, near where I am staying in the east of the city, five men accused of being mercenaries from Chad were captured.

Many residents have chosen to remain behind closed doors - at least until some definite conclusion to the uprising comes to light.

Free mobile top-ups

At least they can now access the internet for the first time in six months, after rebel forces took control of the main, state-controlled Internet Service Provider (ISP).

And overnight, two state-run mobile phone companies topped up their subscribers' accounts with about $40 (£25).

After the six-month conflict many, if not most, Tripoli households are now armed.

Even those opposed to Col Gaddafi hid their true feelings in order to be given weapons rather than have to buy them on the black market.

Though most shops are closed, the nearby baker is open for business and the banter amongst the men is largely focused on denouncing the regime.

It is a regime headed by a man who has not quite been toppled yet; the overnight sense of victory is now suspended in an air of trepidation over when, not if, they can truly cry freedom.

Although that has not stopped some men from occasionally driving down the road singing out "Libya hurra [is free], Gaddafi barra [is out]".

It is unlikely to be a sentiment shared by what is arguably the minority of die-hard loyalists who now find themselves living in the midst of families opposed to Col Gaddafi.

However in the area where I currently live, some have already extended a reconciliatory hand to known regime loyalists who happen to be neighbours.

In one case, the family man handed over three Kalashnikovs when he was asked to "bring out" what he had, then was politely instructed to remain at home and "not cause any trouble".

"All will be well between us," he was reassured.

A promising sign perhaps that wounds may eventually be healed - as long as that example is widely followed in the coming days.