Armed Militia: The Ugly Face of New Libya

Mohamed Eljarh

Armed groups and militias are the main threat facing the new Libya, and putting its hope for smooth transition to democracy after toppling Gathafi’s regime at risk. Despite the fact that armed groups and militias were clearly in control during the war against Gathafi’s troops, they now represent threat to Libya’s NTC and its transitional government. For instance the son of Osama Aljwayle, the new Libyan defence minister is wanted for a murder charge after the toppling of Gathafi’s regime in Tripoli, but the minister seemed to be defiant when asked by one of the Libyan satellite channels about the issue. It was also reported that the minister’s son is being guarded by heavily armed militias while moving around and between Tripoli and his home town of Zintan.
There have also been clashes between different armed groups in Tripoli and the surrounding areas and also in the city of Derna in the east of the country. All these events represent a dangerous twist in the new Libya, and are considered a direct threat to the country’s transition to democracy. The armed groups are operating in a lawless environment and the culture of torture and violence against others is prevailing in the new Libya. The UN’s recent report highlighted wide spread torture and ill-treatment of prisoners in the city of Mustrata in particular. However, this lawless culture is not only limited to the city of Mustrata, it is a wide spread culture among those armed militias, as they recognise they are in control of the scene and they are the actual force on the ground and nothing can stop them of getting their way.
An NTC member talked of suspicious funding for armed militias in Libya. These militias have committed grievous crimes against individuals and the public in general. They commit robberies, kidnappings and create fake check points to terrorise people …etc. Also, the NTC seems to ignore the issue until now, and is choosing to not go into direct and frank dialogue or even confrontation with these armed militias, making it seem as if the NTC has granted his blessings to those armed gangs. The NTC should work with civic institutions and the public to put pressure on those groups to cease their activities and the lawless culture they operate with.
These armed militias do not represent the actual revolutionaries who fought against Gathafi, as many in Libya claim. However, it is worth pointing out that Gathafi’s regime has released convicted criminals from prisons in Tripoli to terrorise the people before the fall of the regime. Those people represent the real threat to the new Libya, and they are suspected to be the ones causing all of these troubles and committing all these crimes against Libyans in general and prisoners in particular. It will be hard to see a proper democratic transition when these armed groups are operating in Libya as they see fits.
On another note, uncertainty and worry is present in the new political scene in Libya and is making it hard for parties and individuals to operate freely when these armed groups are in charge of the scene. The government and the NTC are required to do more and step up to the challenge, and the national army and security services should be the highest priority for the government to enforce the rule of law and outlaw the gang and armed militias culture.
Finally, for Libya to progress safely in its transition to democracy, these armed groups need to be dismantled. If these groups continue to operate loosely, there will be no political, economic or social stability and it will be hard to implement any forms of transitional justice in the country. The armed militias culture and acts represent a direct and dangerous security threat to the new Libya; moreover, they indicate a serious moral crisis among the members of those militias. Mohamed Eljarh is a UK based Libyan academic researcher and political, social development activist. He is also co-founder and Public Affairs Director of the Libyan Academy for Creativity and Innovation. He is from the city of Tobruk in Eastern Libya. [Email: ]