Libya's 'legitimate' militias a danger

2012-09-26 12:24
(File, AFP)

(File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Benghazi - Libya's new leadership, under huge pressure from the street, has taken steps to tackle militias, but critics warn its decision to only disband some armed groups is dangerous and may backfire.

In the wake of massive anti-militia protests and violence in the eastern city of Benghazi, the authorities ordered "illegitimate" brigades be broken up but also warned demonstrators against targeting "legitimate" ones.

That distinction has ruffled feathers in Benghazi where tens of thousands of people marched on Friday for the dissolution of all armed groups and the establishment of a professional army and police force.

"Since Mohammed el-Megarif divided them into legitimate and illegitimate brigades, everyone has been able to claim they are legitimate," warns analyst Fathi al-Baaja, referring to the head of the General National Congress (GNC).

Baaja, a political science professor, says the danger of making such a distinction and not banning all brigades is that major armed groups might become the "military wings of political factions".

"We will have many armies inside the army and that will be very dangerous," Baaja adds, stressing that what the oil-rich country needs is a national army where people join as individuals, rather than as groups.

Lebanese scenario

Many in Benghazi fault the authorities for keeping intact the brigades that emerged in the 2011 revolt that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, and for standing by Islamist brigades such as Libya Shield, February 17, and Raf Allah al-Sahati.

"These groups are not legitimate," says Baaja. "They are not part of the army. They didn't enroll. They have no ranks. Who gave them the legitimacy?"

Miftah Buzeid, editor of Benghazi's Barniq newspaper, agrees.

"We don't want to repeat the Lebanese scenario where the army is weak; where Hezbollah is stronger than the army," he says.

Buzeid says Benghazi rose up against all armed groups, which cover the spectrum of Islamist ideology, because they see them as the "military wings of political factions in the GNC", a legislative assembly elected in July.

The GNC this month voted for Mustafa Abu Shagur as prime minister but he has yet to form his government. Both analysts predict top posts will go to Islamists who gave him a narrow victory over liberal candidate Mahmud Jibril.

Empowered and impatient

The most pressing challenge for the new authorities is to disband brigades that are well-armed and who believe their legitimacy, forged on the front line, predates and supersedes that of a government elected by the people.

"They have weapons and power to pressure the government," notes Buzeid.

The second challenge, he adds, is dealing with an empowered and impatient population: "The street will take the initiative and not wait for the GNC."

A case in point is the crowd that drove out two Salafist brigades, Martyrs of Abu Slim and Ansar al-Sharia, before clashing with a third, Raf Allah al-Sahati, the only one the government claims as its own.

Megaryef decided to disband rogue militias and put army officers at the head of state-sanctioned brigades in response to Friday's revolt and the deadly 11 September attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have long warned that militias have become a law unto themselves, detaining people and carrying out torture with impunity.

Government's failure

Such practices coupled with rising extremism - evident in anti-Western attacks, the desecration of Sufi mausoleums and Christian graves, and assassinations - turned the population against them, says Buzeid.

Mustafa Sagizli, head of the veterans affairs committee, believes this backlash against former rebels also marks the government's failure to "provide the means for peaceful and positive demobilisation".

He warns that pushing small but radical groups into hiding, such as Ansar al-Sharia which was kicked out of Benghazi by protesters but held on to its weapons, is a huge mistake because it will "only make them more extreme".

Brigade leaders and fighters, meanwhile, argue that if they step out of the picture there will be a security vacuum and insist it was they who fought Gaddafi, secured the elections, and are deployed when crises arise.

Many say they are unwilling to disband and join the police or army before these institutions are revamped and purged of elements who were loyal to slain leader Gaddafi.

"It is like asking the guard to work together with the prisoner," points out activist Jalal al-Gallal, adding that a proposal to form a body akin to the American national guard to absorb former fighters is gaining traction.

Entrenched power

Part of the problem is that the previous transitional government, lacking ballot-box legitimacy, shied away from confronting brigades and sought to appease them through reward schemes that were later halted due to corruption.

They also entrenched their power, analysts say.

Libya Shield is now the nascent army's main striking force and the interior ministry's Supreme Security Committee has taken on the role of police on the streets of Benghazi and Tripoli, Buzeid notes.

Ahmed Majbari, deputy of the revolutionary forces union, sums up a common view among ex-rebels who refuse to go home: "The army fought us on the front line and the police killed us on the streets. How can we come under them?"

"The revolution is on until its goals are achieved, then we will go home. If they start rebuilding the country without cleaning the institutions then we rose up for nothing, our martyrs died in vain," says Majbari.

Read more on:    mohammed el-megarif  |  libya  |  north africa
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
SPONSORED CONTENT
5 crucial questions to ask before you take that job 2014-10-30 08:00

You choose your employer just as much as they choose you. Here are 5 of the most important things you should find out about a company before you sign up.

/News
 

LOL! Best outdoor girl fails

It’s not only guys who have FAIL moments! Here are some of the funniest outdoor fails where girls are the victims!

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

90-year-old's incredible travels
10 facts about swimming you didn't know
Halloween night run
Exciting new zipline for Cape Town!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

It's Flash Sale Friday – one day only!

Buy 3 & get the cheapest 1 FREE: On selected DVDs, Blu-rays, series and music. While stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2100 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

TV Series – 2 for R299

Loads of hot titles to choose from. Shop now!

Hot offer: Up to 50% off irons

Save up to 50% on all Philips irons. While stocks last. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There may be some tension that is caused through social conflicts -- personal interests versus obligations. You may feel an...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.