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Is Libya on the way to a failed state?

Interesting Article: Libyan war over, but fighting continues among regional militias By JOMANA KARADSHEH / Tripoli published Tuesday, November 2, 2011

According to a recent article by CNN staff, rivalries rage on among some regional militias, leading to a mutual distrust that poses a challenge to the new leadership. Earlier this week, the rivalry was evident when dozens of fighters clashed at a Tripoli hospital in what residents said was the biggest armed confrontation in the capital in weeks. Walls near a hospital entrance were riddled with bullets holes, and nearby glass doors and windows were shattered. Across the street, bullets pierced through the walls of two buildings (some of the former rebels were even drunk). Accounts differed over how the three-hour battle concluded, but at least three witnesses said it ended after calls from a local imam and senior commanders from both groups talked by phone with their men. The scene on Tripoli's streets these days -- heavily armed men brandishing guns and racing across the city with no central command and little or no accountability -- has raised concerns among residents. Disarming tens of thousands of fighters who brought down ruler Moammar Gaddafi and bringing them under control is a top challenge for the fledgling interim government. With this type of infighting among the groups, what else is going in Libya that we should worry about?

More than two months after the fall of Tripoli, Libya’s new leaders are still struggling to secure massive weapons depots, stop the smuggling of munitions out of the country and disarm thousands of fighters who brought down Moammar Gaddafi’s regime. Libya’s temporary leader, responding to increasingly urgent international appeals, said he can’t do much because he lacks the funds. As recently as last month, Human Rights Watch researchers found an unguarded weapons site with thousands of crates of rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft rounds in the Libyan desert. Libyan authorities also discovered two military compounds housing chemical weapons that an official said were ready to be assembled and used, as well as another site containing 7,000 drums of raw uranium. The officials would not give further details. Compounding the problem, the myriad brigades of revolutionary fighters so far have refused to disarm, and there has been a rash of personal score-settling by armed men from rival groups. Libyan leaders used to play down the danger of the massive weapons presence, but are now increasingly worried. Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, Libya’s interim leader, asked the international community Wednesday to release more of the Gaddafi regime’s billions of dollars in frozen assets to use in programs to disarm fighters and control weapons. Weapons smuggling across the border into neighboring Egypt “happens all day and night,” controlled by powerful clans in the area, said Adel al-Motirdi, commander of the patrol units on the two countries’ border. Israeli officials have said some of those weapons have reached the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, which shares a border with Egypt. A Bedouin tribesman in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, which abuts Gaza, said smuggling has become more prevalent, both because of security lapses in Egypt after the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in February and because the Libyan-Egypt border has become more porous. Human Rights Watch warned in a report that the entire population of 30,000 people from the town of Tawargha, near Misurata, has been driven out by former rebels for siding with Gaddafi. There have been reports that some of its men, who are predominantly black-skinned, may have been shot or beaten. Peter Cole, Libya analyst with the International Crisis Group, said: “Rivalry between brigades from different cities has not been resolved and it does now pose a threat to Libya’s security. Many Libyans are worried about whether a coalition of armed factions that were bound mostly by hatred of Gaddafi can hold together now that the Gaddafi regime has crumbled and he has been buried. Reuters reporters have heard residents of one Tripoli suburb shout, “You’re just the same as he was! One dictatorship for another!” at a patrol of NTC fighters, combing the neighborhood for locals they say still worship a dead man. The other big factor – that is, other than continuing fighting and unrest, vigilante revenge killings, loose weapons caches, and an impoverished, war-torn country – is that many of the tribal and rebel factions making up the NTC fighters are backtracking on a pledge to give up their weapons, demanding their own local autonomy in Tripoli, Misrata, Benghazi and elsewhere. “A basic problem is that the allegiance of most fighters who helped defeat the pro-Gaddafi forces is firstly to their own militias, whose identity is mostly based on specific towns, and only second to the NTC,” Alex Warren, of Frontier MEA, a Middle East and north Africa research and advisory firm, told Reuters. One can only hope that the screaming supporters around the world understand that transition to a stable country will take longer than a year and that Libya will go through some major infighting in the months to come.



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