The revolution might be won, but there’s still plenty of chaos and guns around Libya, and especially in Tripoli. The newly appointed interim government is struggling to cope with armed militias that control the city, so people are taking matters into their own hands. By SIMON ALLISON.
There’s a lot of men with guns wandering around Tripoli at the moment, and Tripolitans aren’t very happy about it. Nobody has any real control over the city and firefights are common. Loosely organised militia, groups defined by geographical region, are the fighters that helped topple Gaddafi’s regime. For the most part, at least, there are also reports of pro-Gaddafi fighters still causing problems in the city.
But the revolution’s over now, a new government has been appointed and surely it’s time for the militias to hand in their weapons and go home. But so far they haven’t gone anywhere, hanging around Tripoli to make sure that they are not excluded from power in the new political arrangement. It’s perhaps easier to ask men to pick up a gun than it is to tell them to put it down.
The new government has tried, issuing a two week ultimatum on Tuesday to the militia groups: Get out of Tripoli, or else. The threat is a little hollow, because the government doesn’t have much in the way of an armed force to separate the groups. They could probably mobilise different militia groups, but that seems to defeat the point.
So now the city’s inhabitants themselves are trying. A small protest – about 250 people, composed mainly of lawyers and jurists – marched from the main courthouse to Tripoli’s Martyr’s Square on Wednesday, demonstrating against the breakdown of law and order. The protest was sparked by a militia raid on the offices of the prosecutor general. Other protests shut down major roads on Tuesday. But, unlike Egypt and Tunisia, it wasn’t protests that won the revolution in Libya, it was weapons. And the militias in Tripoli still have plenty of those. DM
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