Thursday 8 December 2016

Libya - What has gone wrong, and what needs to be done?

Published 27/01/2012 | 11:02

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The growing anti-government protest movement

The country is run by the National Transitional Council (NTC), whose popularity has waned since the revolution. Critics say it lacks transparency, has been slow to restore basic public services and that too many of it members are tainted by their previous roles in Gaddafi's regime. Since October, there have been protests in Benghazi, where the revolution first began in February last year. These reached a head on 21 January, when armed protesters stormed the NTC's headquarters there, hurling grenades and homemade bombs while the council's chairman, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, was inside. The NTC has promised to disband once elections are held for an interim government. Voting is scheduled to take place in six months, but there are fears they could be postponed.

The lawless militias

The ragtag rebel army, that surprised the world when it successfully marched on Tripoli last year, is being slowly disbanded. But it's not soon enough for many Libyans. In recent months, there have been several fatalities as militias from rival cities clash. This week, four were killed in fighting in Bani Walid. A plan to reintegrate the fighters by enrolling them in the armed forces has had limited uptake. In Wednesday's UN report, Libya envoy Ian Martin warned that the NTC had failed to bring the armed militias under control and that these clashes could escalate.

The defeated Gaddafi loyalists

Many of Gaddafi's most high profile supporters have fled the country. His family members are either dead, exiled or imprisoned. But it's another story for the lower-level supporters and the thousands who fought the late dictator's army. The UN report said delegates from the International Committee of the Red Cross reported viewing over 8,000 detainees in 60 makeshift detention centres around the country. Some form of justice will eventually have to be meted out to these inmates, but so far there has been little discussion of what form this might take. Some of those who "lost" in the civil uprising have experienced vigilante justice at the hands of the NTC's fighters, who have been responsible for looting, arson and extra-judicial killings in pro-Gaddafi towns such as Sirte and Tawargha. Preventing revenge attacks and healing the wounds of the conflict must be one of the NTC's priorities.

The fate of Saif al-Islam

Gaddafi's most prominent son, below, and one-time heir apparent is being held in the small mountain town of Zintan, an hour's drive south of Tripoli. He's been there since he was captured in November. The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for him in June last year – but the militia fighters who captured hold him say they want to try him in the country, where if convicted, he would face the death penalty.

Getting business going again

Economic grievances were at the heart of the Arab Spring – and the revolt in oil-rich Libya. But three months on from the death of Gaddafi, banks are still not fully operational and there is a cap on cash withdrawals which means businesses relying on regular cash flow are struggling. There is also uncertainty over whether – as an unelected government – the NTC can authorise the deals needed to unlock the country's potential.

Missing people

Thousand of people are still missing. Some were killed in fighting, while others kidnapped by Gaddafi's forces. Many disappeared in prisons under the former regime or are in makeshift detention centres. A database of all the people still missing is being compiled, and DNA samples are being taken from mass graves being excavated. But it will be some time before the thousands can be identified.

Border security

Libya's southern border with Chad, Niger and Mali, is notoriously difficult to police. The area has long been a conduit for weapons and migrants from sub-Saharan African coming into southern Europe. This flow of weapons has long worried Libya's neighbours and the international community, which are fearful they could fall into the hands of terrorist groups active in the region.

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