Militia warning as Libyan PM forms govt

2011-11-18 07:46
Tripoli - A commander of Libyan former rebels has warned that his men could overthrow the incoming government if it fails to meet their demands for representation.

The credibility of the threat, made by Tripoli militia leader Abdullah Naker in a Reuters interview, was hard to assess in a city where the balance of forces, three months after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, is obscure and fluid.

Critics dismissed it as posturing. But it highlighted the tensions, and the high stakes, on Thursday as Abdurrahim El-Keib, the US-trained engineering professor nominated as interim prime minister by the National Transitional Council, tries to agree a cabinet line-up by a Tuesday deadline.

"We are still here on the ground and the final decision will be ours," said Naker, speaking late on Wednesday at his base in the headquarters of a state-owned construction company as some of the thousands of armed men he says he has at his disposal prepared for night-time security patrols in the city.

Demanding Keib appoint ministers who would represent the young rebels who ousted the old order, Naker, leader of the Tripoli Revolutionary Council said his men would protest nationwide, peacefully "at first" if they did not like the new cabinet, as they did against Gaddafi.

"If we find we have the same dictatorship, we will respond in the same way," he said, showing off video of his men firing Grad missiles and driving Soviet-build T-72 tanks during the war. "It will not be an armed movement at first, but it might develop into that. There's a strong possibility that it will."

NTC officials and fighters from other units played down the influence wielded by Naker, an engineer from the mountain town of Zintan who vowed to return to civilian life once democracy and security were assured. But in a state with no police or army, forming a government to satisfy the competing interests of tens of thousands of armed men is a fraught process.

Militia power

Outgoing prime minister Mahmoud Jibril has sounded an alarm about a "power vacuum" that may be exploited by armed groups.

Western and Middle Eastern diplomats in the capital tend to play down the risk of a sudden flare-up in violence - many of the armed former rebels are simply keen to see a government installed that will allow them to return to civilian life.

Many diplomats believe a competent cabinet will be formed next week, if not necessarily within the deadline, by Keib, who has won admirers among Libyans and foreigners for his apparent openness to compromise. But as Keib himself has said, stable government will require bringing power into the hands of new security forces and disarming militias.

"Political power is really now in the hands of the militias," said George Joffe, a North Africa specialist at Cambridge University. "Keib ... is having to listen to a million different factions all saying they want a piece of the pie. Behind them stand the militias."

Keib has described Tuesday's deadline as a "soft constraint" - set at 30 days after the NTC declared all Libya "liberated" following Gaddafi's killing - and says his priority is to bring in competent technocrats to run the oil-rich state and organise elections by June to a constitutional assembly.

"The main thing is competence," he said last week, stressing the short shelf-life of the new government.

Balancing interests

Yet with few political parties to speak of after 42 years of dictatorship but a host of local paramilitary units from across Libya staking claims to a share of power by their presence in the capital, those involved acknowledge that his cabinet must satisfy a complex balance of regional interests.

Among the trickiest tasks - notably in choosing ministers of defence and interior - may be satisfying demands from cities like Misrata, Benghazi and Zintan, which feel a keen sense of entitlement deriving from their roles in the war on Gaddafi.

Keib must also handle potentially vigorous opposition to figures seen as too close to the old regime, as well as rivalry between overtly secular leaders and Islamists viewed by their opponents as overly indebted to foreign backers, namely Qatar.

Though not alone in his objections, militia leader Naker placed particular emphasis on rejecting any role in government for Abdul Hakim Belhadj, the Islamist and former Taliban ally in Afghanistan whom the NTC named as Tripoli military leader.

Belhadj himself dismisses suggestions that he and his ally, Qatar-based cleric Ali al-Sallabi, are agents of the Gulf state which poured military and humanitarian aid into the rebel camp, but their opponents remain unconvinced.

"We are really grateful to Qatar for what they did for the Libyan people," Naker said. But, describing the brand of Islam favoured by Belhadj as unsuited to Libya's "moderate" religion, he added: "They have no right to interfere in our affairs. We will not accept domination by Qatar or by anyone else."

Figures close to the NTC - in the fluid environment of the change of government, channels of information are unclear - said they expected Keib to present a draft government list to the Council on Saturday or Sunday, though this might include many alternative choices for different ministries.

Officials and foreign diplomats said Keib seemed to have succeeded in keeping his preferences under wraps, while he faced lobbying from rival groups, notably regional militias, particularly over key ministries like defence and over the choice of a new chief-of-staff for the armed forces.

Read more on:    ntc  |  muammar gaddafi  |  libya  |  north africa  |  uprisings  |  libya protests
NEXT ON NEWS24X

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

 
/World
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Montague Gardens - 13:03 PM
    Road name: Montague Drive
    DELAYS through Montague Gardens area due to roadworks
  • Thursday Muizenberg - 12:29 PM
    Road name: Atlantic Road
    TRUCK ACCIDENT near Main Road - expect delays
 
More traffic reports...
 

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

2 TV Series for R250

Get 2 TV Series box sets for R250 and save up to R148! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Pre-order the Xbox One

Get this all-in-one entertainment system with live TV, movies, social networking and gaming. Pre-order now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on electronics!

Save up to 35% on electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. 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

Apple iPad 2 White 16GB 9.7" Tablet With WiFi & 3G

Two cameras for FaceTime and HD video recording. The dual-core...

From R4300.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Your heart is big and you are sensitive to the needs of those around you. Your humanitarian side is emphasized today and you may...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.