A Call for Libyan Leaders To End Reliance on Militias

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Weekend protests expelled militias from their strongholds in in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, home of the revolution. But, Mohammad Obeid writes, it's time for the government to end its dependence non-state armed groups to restore peace and security.

It was a relief to see the inhabitants of Benghazi force [Islamist] militias out of the city. These militias at one point had control over several security departments and one hospital in this eastern Libyan city.

However, the scene [in Benghazi] quickly turned into one of armed conflict, where vandalism and pillaging reigned supreme.

The President of the General National Congress of Libya, Mohamed el-Magaraif, has praised these popular protests, which succeeded in casting out the militiamen. He has also called upon protesters to expel the militias and brigades working for the Libyan Ministry of Defense, from the city’s security headquarters.

In light of such events, it is difficult for anyone observing or following this case — or even someone browsing the news —  to understand these complicated and strange developments.

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This is the story that the peaceful protesters in Benghazi have recounted about the latest developments in the city. They believe that “the new authorities are unable to end the unlawful use of arms in Benghazi.”

The peaceful protests have, unfortunately, turned into armed conflicts that resulted in the killing and injury of dozens of citizens. In statements he has released, Magaraif supports the use of arms by specific militias against other militias. This definitely reflects a double-standard approach and an implicit call to civilians to ignite further conflicts, which the Libyan transitional authorities have failed to resolve for more than a year.

The scene in Benghazi is quite complicated. This city — considered the capital of the Libyan revolution — as well as many other cities in eastern and southern Libya, lacks stability as religious and tribal militias have exerted greater influence over civilians. Regional conflicts have deteriorated to the extent that the country’s competent authorities are no longer able to contain the chaos.

Thus, Libyan authorities in every region that are suffering from such a difficult situation should not stand still, merely watching as civilians take the law into their own hands. They should not waive the state’s exclusive right to use arms and violence, in conformity with applicable laws.

According to the law, the state has the exclusive right to use arms and resort to violence in order to protect the country from internal and external threats. The executive power is usually entrusted with protecting the country from any danger.

The solution to the Libyan crisis begins where the protesters ended. The solution must not, however, be similar to the recent armed conflict. The latter killed and injured several soldiers, and resulted in the execution of others.

A solution does not involve the occupation, vandalism, pillaging and destruction of public and governmental-owned properties, many of which have been destroyed since the recent revolution that toppled the Gadhafi regime.

What was once a popular call for political change quickly turned into a military conflict that was assisted by an international military intervention. All of these dramatic developments have resulted in the total destruction of the country’s infrastructure. Therefore, it is necessary today to restore stability and security to the country without [diplomatic] courtesies or any reservations whatsoever.

Regardless of what name it uses or under what capacity it is acting, the Libyan government must put an end to the unlawful use of arms and stop counting on militias to run the country’s affairs and impose order.

In any case, it is unacceptable that any militia — even if it is under the control of the country’s authorities — to be considered a part of the security apparatus or the official military. In fact, any official security institution must be well educated and trained in order to be entrusted with real security issues.

Above all, security officials must observe all enforceable laws, rights and freedoms. Hence, the Libyan government cannot adopt a double-standard approach with militias, whether they are working for or against the government.

On the contrary, Libyan authorities must, first and foremost, dissolve all militias and start effectively with building sound national military and security institutions. This will ensure that peaceful popular protests do not escalate into a nationwide movement that could put the country’s future at stake and instigate civil conflicts.

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