Hijacked Libyan democracy

Patrick Haimzadeh article on Libya, October 2012 in Le Monde diplomatique English edition-

The “liberal” National Forces Alliance led by Mahmoud Jibril beat the Muslim Brotherhood in the general election in July.

But the new General National Congress appointed as its president Mohammed Magarief, whose National Front party (self-professed moderate Islamist) had only won three seats at the election. On 12 September, the congress chose Mustafa Abu Shagur as prime minister over Jibril, by two votes.

Key point:

“Supported principally by the Islamists, Abu Shagur had been deputy prime minister in the previous “transitional” government. The choice of Shagur demonstrates the difficulty in applying conventional party political models to Libya, where local or even tribal allegiances and rivalries often take precedence over the divide between “Islamists” and “liberals” that is the frame of reference normally used in the West.”

Sixty experts will draft the new constitution, where the role of religion will be discussed. It is as yet to be determined if the experts will be appointed or chosen in an election.

Haimzadeh says the new congress has already lost touch with the country which chose Jibril to lead the country while the congress chose Shagur, who many Libyans don’t see as strong enough to rebuild and unify the country, and who arouses criticism due to his participation in the National Transition Council (regarded as a failure), his links to Gulf states where he worked and his lack of knowledge of Libya as he lived outside the country from 1980 to 2011.

Security situation deteriorating since Gaddafi’s fall.

“…Libya’s lack of a proper state apparatus or reliable security organisations partly explains the current problems — starting with the deteriorating security situation, which has now gone beyond tribal clashes, score-settling between militias and the kidnapping and assassination of officials.”

Attacks on the US consulate, offices of the UN and Red Cross (ICRC) and the British ambassador have been attributed to Salafist jihadi groups and are characterized as increasingly well prepared and executed.

Responsibility for The Red Cross and U.S. consulate actions are “claimed by the Imprisoned Omar Abdel Rahman Brigades (IOARB), supporters of the Egyptian sheikh serving a life sentence in the US for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. The group has strong support in eastern Cyrenaica, especially in the town of Derna.”

Other significant actors include the “Salafist militia Ansar al-Sharia (Partisans of Sharia), based in Benghazi, has been implicated in attacks of this kind, but has always distanced itself from those on western targets.” The attacks referred to were on Sufi mausoleums. This group is well armed and has experience from Iraq and Afghanistan as well as participation in the anti-Gaddafi insurrection.

They joined the Libya Shield Brigade and were under the command of the defense minister and were “sent into Sebha and Kufra in March to restore order after clashes between Tubu (an ethnic group living mainly in Chad) and Arab tribes”.

Further – “On its return to Benghazi in July, the brigade was entrusted with various security missions by the city’s preventive security command, itself made up of former Islamist fighters.”

This cooperation between Salafist forces and city security, who report nominally to the interior ministry but who in fact report to Islamists, is mirrored in Tripoli and Misrata.

Civilians clashed with Salafist militias, called for their dissolution, on Sept. 21 (2012) in Benghazi.

Haimzadeh says Libya under Gaddafi was characterized by official institutions bereft of significant power and wonders if post-Gaddafi Libya is headed down the same path.

“Technocrat ministers with degrees who have spent most of their lives in exile and politicians who are out of touch with reality are getting paid nearly $7,800 a month and living in suites in five-star hotels in Tripoli at $325 a night. But they have no real authority over those entrusted with the legal use of force. It is clearly in the interest of small local warlords, the Salafist groups, the interior and defence ministry militias close to them ideologically, and the organised crime groups that have taken advantage of the situation to develop flourishing businesses, to prolong this situation”