Tripoli, 17 September:
A planned initiative to collect weapons still in the hands of militias and private citizens has been postponed, according to the army chief of staff, Yousef Mangoush.
Last week, it was announced that the armed forces, together with the government and various civil society organisations, were planning a festival-like event, to take place on Sunday 16 September, during which it was hoped that large numbers of arms, including medium to heavy weapons, would be handed over.
According to flyers being circulated, there was to have been live entertainment and prize giveaways during the event, which was to begin in Tripoli and Benghazi, before being rolled out nationwide.
Days later, however, the government announced that Sunday was to be a new annual national holiday, Martyr’s Day, to commemorate all those who had fallen fighting to liberate Libya during last year’s revolution.
Mangoush said that it had then been decided to postpone the weapons handover in order not to divert attention from this latter occassion.
Even before the chief of staff’s announcement, however, that had been speculation as to the viability of the planned scheme, not least owing to concerns that those in possession of arms would wish to receive payment for handing them over, an incentive not built in to the current initiative.
Hopes of such an incentive have been raised by Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abushagur, who proposed a cash-for-weapons scheme prior to his nomination last Wednesday.
Recent outbreaks of violence in Benghazi and the southern town of Sebha have once again highlighted the need for the government to gain control of the hundreds of thousands of arms still in the hands of militias and private citizens. [/restrict]