Thursday, 12 January 2012

Militias' future may be in the security forces

The future of the militias is closely tied into the National Transitional Council's (NTC) decision to co-opt them into the security forces. The apparent force of personality of two military leaders –head of the Tripoli Revolutionary Council, Abdullah Nakir, and head of the capital's military council Abdelhakim Belhadj - demonstrates the need for the continuing support for these leaders who certainly do not represent the authorities. It must be expected that conflict will break out if the militias are unconvinced of fair treatment.

The 3rd January inter-militia conflict in Tripoli, which reportedly led to the death of five militiamen, turns out to have been rather different from that reported in the press. Menas Associates sources in Libya understand that although the clash - in which two and not five died - was initially reported as being between members of the Tripoli and Misrata militias, the latter was in fact made up of a group of criminals with no real attachment to the revolutionary movement. Mistakes of this kind by the non-local militias will offer opportunities for further hostilities.

The issue of law and order is confused. The courts are, in fact, currently closed and unless the NTC implements its offer of a pardon to all those innocent people who are currently jailed - which is unlikely - then scope for further mischief is vast. There are likely to be further attacks on jails as relatives try to free their kinsmen In addition, however, the fate of prisoners of war is also a major problem, with many thousands of criminals, fighters and anti-government civilians cooped up together until such time that an amnesty is declared under the authority of Mustafa Abdel Jalil.

The NTC's foreign policy position is largely one of ignorance and incapability of managing affairs using a small cadre of officials originally employed by the Qadhafi authorities. So far, the NTC has made few friends, even in the near Arab world.

Links with Egypt are currently particularly sour despite an urgent need for manual labourers on Libyan farms and in the factories. The Egyptian workforce was knowledgeable and hardworking, and Libya has done itself few favours by taking umbrage at Egypt's giving sanctuary to pro-Libyan refugees.

The government, if it has any logical pattern towards foreign affairs, may be seen as falling in line with US requirements by standing against the Islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood's recent electoral success in both Tunisia and Egypt has made Libya more important to the US in terms of its regional foreign policy. Trying to ensure that it remains secular cannot in any way, however, be viewed as a stabilising influence on Libya or North Africa.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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