How Libya can deal with the problem of militias

Ranj Alaaldin writes: Libya is back in the headlines after a powerful Islamist-dominated militia group abducted the country’s prime minister, Ali Zeidan, amid anger over a US special forces raid on Saturday during which a Libyan al-Qaida suspect, Abu Anas al-Liby, was seized. The impunity with which militia groups are able to operate in the country puts it on par with the lawlessness that has been seen in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, where even some of the most audacious and organised of militants are unable to reach as sensitive and important a target as a sitting prime minister.

Libya is different for the reason that it has no national army. It has a series of disparate autonomous militia groups who are heavily entrenched in Libya’s politics, economy and society. In other words, they are now a part of the daily routine and have become inseparable from the state and broader Libyan society. The independence this gives them has worsened Libya’s security environment, given that various militia groups are at odds with one another, often resulting in clashes between them, as well as with the state itself.

Post-conflict states like Libya are generally required to, first and foremost, develop a strong state and centralise authority in the country, if indeed a centralist political and constitutional process is preferred. In Libya, the failure to disarm militias has only bought them more time to consolidate their hold on the country. Elections last year, the country’s first in decades and its first since the former regime was ousted, compounded the militia problem by allowing prominent, well-organised and armed groups to consolidate their positions, legitimise their influence as well as cement their newfound status and power.

In other words, Libya cannot move forward, stabilise and become the democratic state most Libyans and the international community hoped it would be when Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in November 2011. [Continue reading…]

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