LIBYA has a more dangerous transition phase that is easily overlooked. Muammar Gaddafi’s death 18 months ago has left a country in more turmoil than most opponents of Gaddafi expected.
All efforts were invested in ending Gaddafi’s 42 years in power. Little thought was spared about how to run a country where less than five per cent of the population knew King Idris, the man Gaddafi overthrew in 1969.
How does anyone run a country with more than 1,700 armed groups? How can one pacify 1,700 armed militias, all with claims of entitlement, having fought for the exit of Gaddafi? Who would disarm them, when they appear to be the law, when they are the ones offering protection to everyone, at a price?
The more powerful these militias insist that their participation in the eight-month war that wrestled power from Gaddafi make demands that include direction participation in decisions about Libya.
Criminal gangs have joined. The power of the gun is a threat to democratic rule which Libyans do not understand. The few who do have faint assumptions about democracy. Politicians are drawing support from militias. Militias ironically are Libya’s only effective police force.
Libyan and United States authorities cannot find the killers of US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. The risks of annoying the militias are too high.
On April 29 about 200 militias heavily armed with anti-aircraft weapons, surrounded the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building. They did not want officials who served under Gaddafi to have leadership positions. The next day another group surrounded the Justice Ministry making the same demand. Anti-militia protests broke out in the streets. The siege lasted two weeks and the militias won.
The groups had a list of several ministers they wanted removed, including Libya’s prime minister. He has angered militias by calling on them to join the government’s security forces, vowing to take a hard stance against armed groups that do not fall into line.
Libya’s fledgling parliament passed the law banning officials who served under Gaddafi from leadership. The law is not only wrong for being discriminatory, one of the major charges about the Gaddafi regime, but it gave no thought to its impact on Libya.
Only the few who were in exile under Gaddafi did not serve in his government. Where would Libyans in Libya have worked in 42 years except with Gaddafi? Where would the militias find experienced Libyans to manage the affairs of their country?
Libya presents a fuller picture of the evils dictators deposit when they depart. Yet there are the likes of Robert Gabriel Mugabe, who at 89, and 33 years in power, are destroying their countries with enthusiastic abandon.