Benghazi to NTC: Dismantle militias! Where is our army?

Three weeks after the National Transitional Council declared Libya liberated, the country remains dotted with the posts of militia forces who are refusing to lay down their arms – and no regular army.

­At least two people were killed as fighting flared between rival militias outside Libya’s capital, Tripoli, on Friday. Reuters reports that fighters from the coastal town of Zawiyah clashed with another militia group which set their own roadblock in the area and then attempted to confiscate their arms.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj, the head of the NTC's Military Council, declared on Friday that the fighting was an “isolated incident.

It is a sad situation that took place between two groups… an old feud that was renewed. And today we will work on establishing a peacemaking committee between the two tribes, and we hope they will have success,” he told Reuters.

Libya is now full of roadblocks set up by various anti-Gaddafi groups in a bid to guard oil facilities and provide security. Still, the absence of a regular army to do the job has started to touch a raw nerve with the Libyans themselves. Benghazi, the birthplace of the Libyan revolution, saw a Friday march calling for the swift replacement of voluntary militias.

Yes to the national army, no to armed militias!” shouted dozens of demonstrators.

We do not want a second Hezbollah,” one of the organizers told Agence France Presse.  Many participants in the rally were concerned that Libya’s militias could morph into an extremist force similar to this Lebanese military group which acts as a kind of parallel army and is regarded a terrorist organization by such countries as Britain and America.

But while the interim government is unable to promise much beyond oil and transparency, human right experts bitterly complain that Libya is awash with guns, military groups and mob justice.

The central leadership is weak,” Joanne Mariner, a human rights expert from the Hunter College in New York, told RT. “The real concern now is irregular armed militias that are not part of any integrated command structure. They are carrying out attacks both in Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown, and in neighboring towns and are not following international humanitarian rules or human rights norms.

That is the main challenge facing the new government, adds Mariner. Will the National Transitional Council be able to integrate these militias under a centralized military command? Or perhaps the NTC could disarm these new revolutionaries, rehabilitate them and employ them?  

The new Libyan officials, promising to disarm militias and set up a national army, seem to have no concrete timelines for that.

It is not an issue of just saying 'OK, just give us your gun, go home.' This is not the approach we take. We will look at the issues, evaluate and come up with programs to take care of them and help them and make them feel important,” Libya's incoming Prime Minister, Abdurrahim El-Keib, told Reuters.