x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Interim government takes first steps after Qaddafi

Libya's interim government has proposed a draft law for electing an assembly to draft a new constitution - a first step to setting up a new government.

While Libya builds state institutions from scratch, an immediate problem is disbanding armed groups of revolutionary fighters still clashing in cities.
While Libya builds state institutions from scratch, an immediate problem is disbanding armed groups of revolutionary fighters still clashing in cities.

TRIPOLI // Libya's interim government has proposed a draft law for electing an assembly to draft a new constitution - a first step to setting up a new government after the ouster of Muammar Qaddafi.

The draft, published Monday night on the website of the ruling National Transitional Council, would bar former members of Qaddafi's regime from running in the election.

It would even ban anyone with a degree based on academic research on the Green Book - Qaddafi's rambling political manifesto that laid out his theory of government and society declaring Libya a "republic of the masses".

Libya is facing serious challenges to build state institutions from scratch after toppling Qaddafi's 42-year dictatorship.

The interim government must set rules for the transition to democracy and forge some sort of national reconciliation among the huge numbers of Libyans who were integral parts of former regime.

One of the most serious and immediate problems facing the interim leaders is disbanding disparate armed groups of former revolutionary fighters, which are divided by the regions where the operate.

The regional militias, which played a major role in bringing Qaddafi down, are in charge of security in their areas in the absence of a strong and unified national military force. Clashes between the groups are frequent.

Some leaders are warning the militias that freed the country could yet drag it into civil war.

Fierce gun battles between the militias of Tripoli and the city of Misurata erupted Tuesday in the centre of the capital and left at least four fighters dead, said Tripoli's military council commander, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj.

The groups fought each other with machineguns, rocket-propelled grenades and anti-aircraft guns. Colonel Walid Shouaib, a member of the Tripoli Military Council, said the clashes were triggered by arrest of a Misurata fighter on New Year's Eve by Tripoli fighters.

He was suspected of robbery and the Misurata fighters were trying to free him.

The Tripoli council is affiliated with the national transitional government.

The head of the interim government, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, said the government must take control of the situation.

"I warn Libyans from entering into a civil war," he said.

A Misurata military council member, Mohammed Al Gressa, said he too feared a civil war. He said commanders of former rebels and the Tripoli military council were meeting.

"I am not optimistic because blood has been spilled," he said.

"I feel this looks like a civil war."

Col Shouaib, said the tensions between the two factions began on the night of the arrest when a group of Misurata fighters tried to free the detained man, but failed. Instead, they were arrested as well.

A top Misurata commander managed to mediate the release of all the men except for the one arrested for robbery.

Another group of Misurata fighters made a second attempt to free the man on Tuesday. They opened fire on a building in the heart of Tripoli and used by the Tripoli military council.

After hours of gun battles, three of Misurata fighters and two from Tripoli armed men were killed, Shouaib said. However Belhaj said four were killed.

Witnesses said the Tripoli militia arrested six Misurata men, brought them inside the council building, beat them up and detained them.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland expressed concern over the violence.

"We want to see these issues resolved peacefully and resolved in a way that gives all Libyans confidence that they'll have a place in a future democratic Libya," she told reporters.

Pushing ahead with efforts to form a national army, Libya's interim rulers announced Youssef Mangoush, once a special forces commander Under Qaddafi, would become the new military's chief of staff.

The Libyan military, still recruiting fighters and undergoing an overhaul, has yet to establish itself as a central authority on the ground.

Gen Mangoush resigned from Qaddafi's military 10 years before the uprising in February. He joined with rebels in overthrowing the longtime leader. During the fighting, he was detained in the eastern oil port city of Brega and taken to Tripoli, where he was held for four months until the opposition freed him and others when they overran the capital in August.

Despite the tenuous security situation, the interim government is pushing ahead with plans for a transition to a new government.

The draft law sets out elections for a 200-member assembly, expected to be seated in June to write the new constitution. It is a first step toward forming a new government.

Libyans accused of rights abuses, corruption, business relations with Qaddafi's family members or regime officials would be banned from running in the elections if the law is passed.

The draft law allots 10 per cent of seats for women.