Panafrican News Agency

Libya: Officials discuss demobilisation of armed groups

Tripoli, Libya (PANA) - The issue of demobilisation and integration of armed groups in Libya, the subject of a workshop held on Tuesday in the Spanish city of Toledo, brings this thorny question to the forefront of the Libyan scene at a time when the political crisis in the country is reaching its peak with the existence of two governments.

The workshop examined how international partners, including the United Nations, can contribute to resolving the issue.

It raises the question of the relationship between these prolific armed groups and the political solution in this North African country.

In other words, can a political solution be achieved in the presence of these armed groups and militias that have become the main features of life in Libya over the past decade?

Do these armed groups represent the only obstacle to the normalisation of life, stability and the construction of a democratic state with permanent institutions, ensuring the peaceful alternation of power to which Libyans aspired through the revolution of 17 February 2011?

Following the 17 February revolution, which led to an armed conflict that lasted eight months to counter the repression of the former regime's brigades, that the armed groups were formed to become an essential element of the country's security and political life.

After the fall of the region and with it the collapse of the state structures as well as the security and military organs, the armed groups were used by the different governments as a means of ensuring the security of the country and securing public buildings and government headquarters.

Benefiting from state funding that provides them with salaries, armed groups have multiplied by the hundreds in the country to benefit from the financial advantages and other privileges that arms provide them in the context of the proliferation of arms that were looted from the warehouses of Gaddafi's brigades during the events of 2011.

Thus, no tangible resolution or firm political will was taken by the Libyan authorities in the aftermath of the revolution to address the issue of armed groups, which have grown to be omnipresent and control the reality on the ground while enjoying autonomy from the authorities acting under their supervision.

The issue has been constantly postponed until it has become even more complicated, and has become an insoluble problem that weighs heavily on the stability and unity of the country, as well as on the construction of the future state that Libyans dreamed of when they revolted for a better life, dignity, freedom, equity and prosperity.

The first initiative of the authorities after the 2011 revolution to integrate these militias into the state apparatus was to place some armed groups under the supervision of the Ministry of Defence, with the creation of "Shields" or the Supreme Security Commission at the Ministry of Interior.

Despite this restructuring, the armed groups and militias have maintained an autonomy that reflects a tolerance of the governments involved rather than a real subjection.

This situation has made the armed groups a source of problems and crisis in the country, contributing to instability and insecurity, and becoming abhorred by Libyans who only dream of a real professional army and police to ensure security and stability.

These demands were expressed during various demonstrations by Libyans in different cities and regions of the country from 2013 onwards, when the security chaos reached its peak.

Indeed, arbitrary arrests, identity checks, enforced disappearances, illegal and secret prisons, torture, extraction of funds and extrajudicial executions have multiplied in the country, practices for which armed groups have been blamed.

Timid attempts at recovery and armed collection took place in 2012 and 2013 with weapons recovery campaigns, but these did not generate any real enthusiasm among citizens or armed groups, who cling to their weapons to preserve their privileges and the power that this armament gives them.

Demobilisation and integration programmes were set up by the governments of Prime Ministers Abderrahimial-Kib and Ali Zidane, offering training, very advantageous bank loans to open income-generating projects as well as studies abroad or integration into the security bodies and the army, but they were not a resounding success because they did not manage to attract a large number of the "revolutionaries" who fought during the revolution.

For the Libyan activist and activist of civil society organisations, Hamza Al-Fitouri, "it is undeniable that the armed groups and militias have largely contributed to the chaos and the state of destabilization into which the country has been plunged since 2011".

He said the development ensured that "the authorities who succeeded themselves bear a share of responsibility for not having focused on resolving this issue in a radical manner in order to pave the way for the reconstruction of the state on a sound basis ensuring stability and security.

He also blamed "the Western powers and NATO countries that intervened militarily in Libya for not having helped the country by giving it the benefit of their expertise and experience in the field to find an effective way of demobilising and integrating these fighters as well as the construction of security and military bodies for the Libyan state.

According to him, "training has been offered by different countries, including Italy, France, Great Britain, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, France, Turkey and others, but without really helping to set up unified military bodies", recalling that "the military institution in Libya is still divided between the East and West, thereby worsening insecurity".

The Libyan political analyst, Salah Al-Wahichi, is more nuanced about the role of armed groups, saying that "certainly, they have played negative roles by adopting reprehensible behaviours".

Al-Wahichi added, however, that "throughout this decade, the armed groups have distinguished themselves by a positive contribution in preserving the country's security and securing its borders and the fight against terrorism.

Al-Wahichi recalled that "the armed groups made it possible to repel the attack on the capital Tripoli in 2019 through the offensive launched by Haftar, by mobilising to fight the attacking forces supported by Russian mercenaries from Wagner and Sudanese Janjawid and Sudanese rebels".

He pointed out that "thanks to the armed groups, the Islamic State organisation (Daesh) was defeated in 2016 in Sirte, which it had transformed into an Emirate", assuring that "these armed groups are always ready to unite to counter any threat against Libya of which they are an integral part".

The political analyst also mentioned "the preponderant place enjoyed by these armed groups on the Libyan political scene for the exercise and maintenance of power", citing "the latest clashes in Tripoli between supporters of the Prime Minister of the government of national unity, Abdelhamid Al-Dbaiba, and those of the Prime Minister appointed by the Parliament during his attempt to settle in Tripoli.

According to him, "these clashes demonstrate the decisive support of armed groups in the political life of the country", recalling that "representatives of armed groups have recently participated in meetings in Morocco and earlier in Switzerland on ways to resolve the current crisis in the country".

Libyan academician, Nasser Al-Gharyani, said that "armed groups are not the only obstacle to the settlement of the political crisis in Libya, although their dissolution is necessary to ease tension and remove a factor contributing to the instability of the country".

The Libyan crisis, he said, has multiple facets: security, social and political, requiring the combination of efforts to pave the way for a peaceful solution to ensure the chances of preserving the stability and unity of Libya.

He affirmed that "the main thing at present is to renew the institutions which represent an urgent action to be carried out through the granting of a new legitimacy allowing the new leaders of the country to act to solve the pending problems, in particular the national reconciliation and to take the necessary decisions to rebuild the state to which the Libyans aspire.

Mr. Al-Gharyani said Libyan elections are the easiest and quickest way to start putting the country back on track to solve other problems until stability and consensus among Libyans after the post-conflict differences and disagreements on unity, sovereignty and independence are solved.

The Libyan academic said that elections, which are unanimously supported by both Libyans and the international community, are not a miraculous solution that will solve all the country's problems, but will represent the foundation stone of the "edifice that must be built little by little to achieve a strong and viable state".

He recalled that "the House of Representatives (Parliament) and the High Council of State, which occupy the forefront of the scene in Libya, are as much responsible as the armed groups for the state of decay in which the country finds itself", recalling that "these two institutions have largely exceeded their mandates and have contributed through their controversial decisions in the service of selfish interests to aggravate the situation.

Therefore, their departure will be beneficial to pave the way for a rapid solution in the country.

It should be noted that the Libyan Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity, Abdelhamid Al-Dbaba, announced on Wednesday evening the launch from June of the procedures for the organization of parliamentary elections to be held at the end of the current year, while consultations on a constitutional rule on the basis of which the electoral ballot will be held, have been initiated to overcome blockages on this issue.

On the other hand, the Libyan Parliament and the High State Council are due to meet on 11 June in Cairo, Egypt, to finalise the definition of a constitutional basis after having agreed on 137 articles during the second round from 15 to 20 May under the auspices of the United Nations.

-0- PANA BY/IS/BBA/VAO 26May2022