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Libya’s Guns For All

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LIBYA has a more dangerous transition phase that is easily overlooked. Muammar Gaddafi’s death 30 months ago has left a country in more turmoil than most opponents of Gaddafi expected.

Investments in ending Gaddafi’s 42 years in power, left little thought about how to run a country where less than five per cent of the population knew King Idris, the man Gaddafi overthrew in 1969.

Which country runs with more than 1,700 armed groups? The 1,700 armed militias, all claim entitlement, having fought to end Gaddafi’s regime? Attempts to disarm them have failed. They are the law; they are the ones offering protection to everyone, at a price. The more powerful ones insist their role in the eight-month war that wrestled power from Gaddafi entitles them to direct participation in decisions about Libya.

Criminal gangs have spawned. The power of the gun is a threat to democratic rule everywhere. It is worse in places like Libya, where they have faint assumptions about democracy. Politicians are drawing support from militias, ironically Libya’s only effective police force.

Libyan and United States authorities cannot find killers of US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who was finished off last year inside the US embassy. The risks of annoying the militias are too high. In April last year, about 200 militias heavily armed with anti-aircraft weapons, surrounded the   Foreign Ministry building. They wanted officials who served under Gaddafi out of leadership positions. Another group surrounded the Ministry of Justice making the same demand. The siege lasted two weeks and the militias won.

Libya’s fledging parliament passed the law banning officials who served under Gaddafi from leadership. The law is not only discriminatory, one of the major charges against 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 else would Libyans in Libya have worked in Gaddafi’s 42 years? Where would the militias find experienced Libyans to manage the affairs of their country?

Libya presents a fuller picture of the evils dictators deposit on departure. Yet the likes of Robert Gabriel Mugabe, at 90, and 34 years in power, are destroying their countries with unbridled enthusiasm.

Multiple conflicts almost in every country in our northern flank – Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Mauritania, Mali, Chad, Niger – mostly consequences of bad governments, are fertile grounds for arms trades that hurt Nigeria. As some groups are defeated, they dissolve into mercenaries willing to fight any war for cash. Dangers Libyan militias pose spread beyond Libya. Terrorists in Nigeria’s North East, use arms that have been traced to Libya. The peace we seek is outside our borders.

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