Libya is plunging deeper into chaos. While every Arab Spring country has been plagued with some problem, Libya’s bane has been its militias which are just refusing to go away. The country is in the tight grip of a number of militias which are heavily armed and the government’s failure to disarm them or effectively restrain their rising influence has resulted in an erosion of public faith and also the faith of the international community.
The lowest point in Libya’s struggle with militias came this week when the country’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was briefly abducted. A group of armed militiamen walked into the hotel in central Tripoli where Zeidan was staying and marched him from his room in his nightshirt. It was strange that the militiamen met no resistance and in the hours that followed, aides and fellow cabinet members frantically tried to find out who had taken him hostage. In another huge setback for the government, which exposes its helplessness, it took other militia leaders to track down the group holding the prime minister hostage.
Zidan has described the kidnapping as an attempted coup and warned that some of the many armed militias want to turn the country into “another Afghanistan or Somalia”. His warning is not an exaggeration. The government has been reduced to a spectator all these months.
The militia groups have been running amok. Among other things, they have shut off water to the capital, forced power cuts and hampered oil production and supply to refineries to the point that the country’s oil production, its main source of income, was virtually halted.
Zidan too must share the blame for the deterioration in the law and order. He has been facing mounting pressure from parliament for months, first by Islamist blocs including the Muslim Brotherhood and another group of Salafis. Independents also have criticized him over allegations of corruption against his government and wasting public funds, as well as the country’s deteriorating security. The leader of Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood said the prime ministerhas failed and needs to be replaced.
Violence in Libya, if unchecked, can destabilize neighbouring countries too. All political and religious parties in the country must sit across the table and find a solution to the current chaos. The militias which are refusing to disband and join the army must be dealt with fiercely and the government must launch a national dialogue to take the public into confidence.
When Muammar Gaddafi left the scene, Libya had no solid institutions and national army to establish order. This is the main reason for the current lawlessness. But the onus is on the rulers in Tripoli to set up an effective system. If they can’t, they must relinquish power•