Tuesday, February 7, 2012

You Are Now Entering Free Libya

"Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has predicted a 'promising' future for Libya after making a flying visit to the country... He was surprised to find a calm Tripoli and had heard only 'occasional distant and sporadic gunfire'." (From out of Libya, Rudd a believer, John Lyons, The Australian, 10/12/11)

"Now that Qadhdhafi has been killed... the Libyan NATO militias can focus on their priorities: silencing critics, bloody internecine wars, and the gradual imposition of a Bin Ladenite order." (Asad Abu Khalil, angryarab.blogspot.com, 21/10/11)

"They've had free education, free health, they could study abroad. When they got married they got a certain amount of money. So they were rather the envy of many other citizens of African countries. Now, of course, since NATO's humanitarian intervention the infrastructure of their country has been bombed back to the Stone Age. They will not have the same quality of life. Women will probably not have the same degree of emancipation under any new transitional government. The national wealth is probably going to be siphoned off by Western corporations. Perhaps the standard of living in Libya might have been slightly higher than it is perhaps now in America and the UK with the recession." (Annie Machon, former MI5 agent, quoted in 'Nato has bombed Libya back to the Stone Age', rt.com, 19/10/11)

As the media cycle moves on events in NATO-'liberated' Libya have largely dropped from view, overtaken by the violence in Syria which has led to calls from within and without that country for a Libya-style foreign intervention. But when the likes of Hillary Clinton begin displaying an historically unprecedented concern for the suffering of the Syrian people, a closer look at the new, 'free' Libya would seem wise.

The following list of mainly Australian press items on post-Gaddafi Libya is far from exhaustive and I'll endeavour to update it as further items appear. Items are in reverse chronological order:

Revolutionary militias in western Libya unify: "Representatives of about 100 militias from western Libya said Monday they had formed a new federation to prevent infighting and allow them to press the country's new government for further reform. The move was a blow to the National Transitional Council, which helped lead the 8-month uprising against longtime ruler Moammar Gadhafi... and has largely failed to decommission or bring under its control the hundreds of militias that fought in the war. Ibrahim al-Madani, a commander whose brigade joined the new federation, said the fighters would not give up their arms to what they considered a corrupt government." (Maggie Michael, Associated Press, 14/2/12)

Five killed in clashes in southeast Libya: "At least 5 people have been killed in clashes between rival tribes over control of territory in the far southwest of Libya, officials said on Monday, highlighting the challenge of policing the country's sparsely populated desert." (Ali Shuaib, af.reuters.com, 13/2/12)

Libya unable to control militia violence, looting: "Libya, the country that witnessed the Arab world's most sweeping revolution, is foundering. The government of the interim Prime Minister, Abdel Rahim el-Keeb, is virtually paralysed by rivalries that have forced it to divide power along lines of regions and personalities, by unreachable expectations that Muammar Gaddafi's fall would bring prosperity and by powerlessness so marked the national army is treated like another of the many warring militias. This week one militia assaulted another militia at a seaside base in Tripoli to rescue a woman who had been abducted. When the guns fell silent, briefly, the scene that unfolded felt as chaotic as Libya's revolution - a government whose authority extends no further than its offices, militias whose swagger comes from plentiful guns and residents whose patience fades with every volley of gunfire that cracks at night... A Human Rights Watch researcher estimated there are 250 militias in the coastal city of Misratah... In recent months, those militias have become the most loathed in the country." (Anthony Shadid, Sydney Morning Herald/ New York Times, 11/2/12)

Libyan revolutionaries accused of widespread torture: "Three months after the killing of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, concerns are mounting about the torture of prisoners held by Libyan militiamen who are operating beyond the control of the country's transitional government, as well as by officially recognised security bodies." (Ian Black, Sydney Morning Herald/Guardian, 28/1/12)

Gaddafi loyalists take back Bani Walid: "Fighters loyal to Muammar Gaddafi have seized back the town of Bani Walid and raised the late dictator's green flag, in a blow to Libya's struggling provisional government." (Chris Stephen, The Guardian, 23/1/12)

Libyan NTC offices stormed: "Angry protesters threw home-made grenades and stormed Libya's ruling National Transitional Council offices in the city of Benghazi yesterday, setting its front ablaze." (The Australian/AFP, 23/1/12)

Tripoli militias in gunfight: "Four people were killed here yesterday in a gunfight between militias who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi's regime." (The Australian/AFP, 5/1/12)

Tripoli under lockdown as friend turns to foe: "The Libyan capital has been placed under a security lockdown as the governing National Transitional Council seeks to impose control over local militias, demanding residents give up their weapons by the end of the month." (Christopher Stephen, Sydney Morning Herald/Bloomberg, 8/12/11)

Libya must bring militias into the fold: Local warlords challenge Tripoli for power: "The appointment of a new interim NTC cabinet this week is the right opportunity to jump-start the detente between the militias and the central authorities. The next step will be folding all of the militias into a new national army and police force. Giving them fancy unit names such as the Revolutionary Platoon of Jadu, the Misratah Martyrs Brigade, the Zintani Scourge of Saif, and the Zwaran Zombie Strike Force might help. Yet developments on the ground show that even clever rebranding is unlikely to be enough. Decisive leadership is required, and the NTC has yet to prove it can deliver this." (Opinion Piece, Jason Pack, The Australian, 23/11/11)

Libyan gratitude turns to suspicion : "The former Libyan prime minister Mahmoud Jibril travelled the world to gather foreign supporters to oust Muammar Gaddafi. Now, he views those allied nations with suspicion. As Libya moves through a post-Gaddafi phase and prepares for democratic elections, the US-educated former professor sees ally Qatar meddling in domestic politics by supporting a prominent Islamist. He also has a 'hunch' Gaddafi was 'killed based on a request by a certain foreign power' that wanted the dictator to be 'silent forever'." (Flavia Krause-Jackson & Caroline Alexander, Sydney Morning Herald/Bloomberg, 15/11/11)

Libya's rebels take revenge: "Sitting in their home on the outskirts of Tripoli, a Libyan family is afraid. Their fear is that a knock on the door could come from the rebel militias that toppled Muammar Gaddafi." (John Lyons, The Australian, 5/11/11)

Militias in revenge attacks: "Misratah militia fighters are carrying out revenge attacks on displaced residents of the nearby town of Tawargha, a stronghold of Muammar Gaddafi supporters during the Libyan war, a human rights group says. The New York-based Human Rights Watch said it had credible reports of Misratah militiamen shooting unarmed Tawarghans, and seizing and beating people, sometimes to death." (The Australian/AFP, 1/11/11)

Treasure of Benghazi theft may be one of biggest in history: "A priceless collection of nearly 8000 ancient gold, silver and bronze coins has been stolen from a bank vault in the Libyan city of Benghazi." (Nick Meo, Sydney Morning Herald/Telegraph, 1/1/11)

Conflicting loyalties rule as Libya struggles with life after Gaddafi: "Gaddafi supporters have lost their figurehead leader, and are probably too demoralised at the moment to start the insurgency that some hotheads among them have threatened. But in a land awash with guns there are large numbers of resentful young men, bitter about losing, who might well take up arms if they are not persuaded that they have a place in the new Libya. In places like Bani Walid, such efforts to win them over have not got too far." (Nick Meo, Sydney Morning Herald/Telegraph, 31/10/11)

Signs of massacre at hotel cast ugly shadow over anti-Gaddafi rebels: "In the parched garden of the Mahari Hotel [Sirte], volunteers scrubbed signs of a recent massacre. They collected dozens of bodies, apparently of people executed on the hotel grounds several days ago... The volunteers said the victims included at least two former Gaddafi government officials, local loyalist fighters and maybe civilians. The killers, they believed, were former rebel fighters, belonging to anti-Gaddafi units that had used the hotel as a base in recent weeks. It appeared to be one of the worst massacres of the 8-month conflict but days afterwards no one from Libya's new government had come to investigate." (Kareem Fahim & Adam Nossiter, Sydney Morning Herald/New York Times, 26/10/11)

In Benghazi, a nostalgia for Gaddafi as Libya's rebels fail to keep the peace: "The killing of a senior rebel commander who was spearheading the campaign to topple Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has exposed latent security fears in eastern Libya - particularly about the proliferation of militias and gangs who do not seem to answer to any authority." (Steven Sotloff, Time, 16/8/11)

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