Editorial: Chaos in Libya Monday, 02 April 2012 03:41

Share Six months after a popular revolt ended Muammar Gaddafi’s rule, Libya is hurtling towards chaos. The reports emanating from the country are highly disappointing and raise serious concerns about the ability of the current rulers to govern the country and oversee the transition to democracy. Militias and tribal groups seem to be exercising better control as the government watches helplessly from the sidelines.

The government said yesterday that a week of fighting between rival tribes deep in the country’s south has killed 147 people, which is the largest death toll in internal fighting since the overthrow of Gaddafi. The government despatched a group of ministers to the violence-hit areas and has been able to secure a ceasefire, but the fact that two tribes fought intense battles to establish their supremacy speaks loudly of the current state of affairs in the country. Last month, dozens of people were killed in days of clashes between tribes in the far southeastern province of Al Kufra. Armed forces eventually intervened to stop the fighting which was a rare example of the Tripoli government imposing its authority.

It is surprising that the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) is still struggling to assert its authority while rival militias and tribal groups are fighting for power and resources after Gaddafi’s exit. The government has been reduced to the role of a mute spectator and as months roll on, it faces the danger of losing its influence and power unless serious measures are taken to regain control. Countries which had intervened to overthrow Gaddafi are now watching from outside, leaving the NTC to shape its own future instead of exerting pressure and offering advice to expedite the transition to democracy.

The biggest threat facing Libya is the lack of a coherent national army and the truckloads of arms circulating in the country. The NTC has failed miserably in persuading the myriad militias who fought Gaddafi to put down their guns and join the national armed forces and police. Various tribes and militias are ruling the streets and fighting each other to establish their supremacy as the government watches without a strategy.

The developments in Libya have taken the shine off the Arab Spring, giving rise to the argument that Arab countries are not yet ready for democracy as tribal and sectarian interests take precedence over the national interests. The NTC has limited time to prove to the world that it can bring security

to Libya and unite the disparate groups. Arab countries and the West must lend their support to help NTC overcome the current hurdles. Loss of time would mean further empowerment of militia groups. .