By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 23 July 2014:
Under the shadow of militias clashing in various parts of Tripoli, last Monday (21 July) the . . .[restrict]final results for the House of Representatives’ June elections were announced by Libya’s High National Election Commission (HNEC).
Today, the outgoing General National Council (GNC) announced that the date for the official handover of power to the newly elected House of Representatives will be Monday 4 August.
Meanwhile, at Thursday’s (17 June) meeting in Tripoli between Libya’s Caretaker Prime Minister Abdullah Thinni and US ambassador Deborah Jones, both sides stressed the need to hasten the completion of the training that Libya’s security forces are currently receiving in order to strengthen Libya’s state security apparatus.
Libya’s security forces have or are receiving training from the USA, UK, Italy and Turkey, to name the main providers. The idea is that these regular police and army forces would take over the security of Libya from the officially recognized militias.
The meeting between Libya’s Caretaker Prime Minister and US ambassador Jones also comes on the back of the current fighting that took place between purportedly two sets of ideologically opposed militias in and around Tripoli’s international airport. Although many see the battle as no more than turf and power grabs by the sets of militias with little ideological justification.
LD 7 billion budgeted for security sector wages
In the much delayed LD 56.95 bn 2014 budget passed in June, the Ministry of Defence is allocated LD 3.674 bn for wages, the Ministry of Interior is allocated LD 3.193 bn for wages and NOC’s Petroleum Facilities Guards receive LD 425 million in wages. This totals LD 7.292 or 13 percent of the total 2014 budget.
By any measure, LD 7 billion (US $ 5.6 billion) is a considerable amount of money disbursed by the Libyan state on behalf of the Libyan people in the expectation that these security forces would actually provide some kind of security. In reality, not only do they not provide security, but quite clearly since the Tripoli airport clashes – the militias part of the security forces have become an obstacle to security and the cause of insecurity in Libya.
It is an accepted fact in Libya that, like quite a number of state sector employees in other sectors, a large number of these wage recipients do not turn up for work. In short, the average Libyan citizen is not getting a good return for his or her LD 7 billion.
|LD 56.95 bn 2014 Budget
|Ministry of Defence budget
|Ministry of Interior budget
|Petroleum Facilities Guards
Whilst in the days of gushing oil wells (1.5 million bpd) and fully operating oil terminals, the squandering Libyans may not have been bothered about the LD 7 billion, today with a growing deficit, depleting reserve and increased insecurity and instability, many Libyans are beginning to ask questions about the lack of security and stability the LD 7 billion is not providing them.
The Tripoli militia clashes leading to civilian and public property damage as well as injuries and deaths, has made this issue high up the on the Libyan public’s agenda.
The National ID Number
In an effort to combat the phenomenon of absenteeism by state sector employees, a practice largely inherited from the previous regime but increased post 2011 due to the weakness of the state, the state attempted to introduce and enforce the National ID Number last year.
Payments were only meant to be paid to security personnel who had conscripted to the regular police or army as individuals and not as part of a whole militia and on the basis that the militias leave their Tripoli bases. Failing that, all wages were supposed to be stopped.
In reality, the state has been unable to force all state employees, civilian and military, to start using the number, and it continues to pay them regardless. This has contributed to the continued weakness of the state. Many accuse the GNC, and particularly specific members of the GNC, of collusion with the militias to undermine the implementation of laws 27 and 53.
Beyond the issue of the military and political power that the militias pose to the state, the oil ports blockades and resultant deficit and depletion of reserves has meant that the unmonitored payment of state employee wages has become more pertinent.
The issue of the use of the National ID Number has become politicized. There are some who accuse one political stream of not wishing to enforce the ID Number. Others accuse the GNC of being controlled by the militias who naturally wish to perpetuate their existence. Even the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) has been drawn into the National ID Number melee.
Overpayments to the thuwar (militias)?
In May, the CBL Governor Saddek El-Kaber defended his institution resolutely against accusations of being complicit in the irresponsible payments made to the militias. “We asked that the thuwar (militias) be counted prior to the payment being made out”, he explained. “But I am sorry to say that nothing happened regarding this”, he confirmed, pointing the finger of blame straight at the government.
Only 30 percent of state wages paid through the National ID number
However, the Governor went on to explain that since earlier payments to the militias, progress had been made in some quarters. The Civil Registry has created a database and a National ID number system has been created and is available for use. “It should be used”, he pleaded, “but there is no political will to use it”, he said in a damning indictment of the government and the GNC.
Giving an example of the possible effectiveness of the use of the National ID number, CBL Governor El Kaber said that prior to adopting its use, the military had on their wage books 135,000 personnel. This fell to 104,000 after the National ID number was used to disburse wages.
“Everyone knows there is duplication of salaries but if the Ministries of lnterior and Finance enforce the National ID number it would reduce this duplication. The law for enforcement of the National ID number was passed in August 2013 and all salaries should have been paid through it by the end of 2013. In reality only some ministries have implemented it covering about 30 percent of salary payments”, the Governor had said despondently.
More recently, to reinforce this, article 28 of the 2014 budget passed in June commits the government to using the National ID number in all disbursements of the budget.
Beyond arriving at the true number of all of Libya’s officially recognized and paid militias by reducing duplication of wages, the Libyan state has stated that it wishes to have a small yet well trained professional army. This means that it needs to reduce the number of militias by demobilizing them so that they can be reintegrated into the regular army or police as individuals as opposed to as a whole militia.
This effort at the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of Libya’s militias is going to be the biggest challenge facing the newly elected House of Representatives, if it chooses to take it head on. Both previous legislatures, the NTC and the GNC have ultimately avoided a confrontation with the militias. It is not clear if this is because they could not confront them because they felt weak or because they did not want to confront them – or a combination of both. In retrospect, critics say that both previous legislatures were actually controlled by the militias.
What is also not clear, however, is whether the newly trained regular police and army forces will in fact be able to tilt the balance of power away from the officially recognized militias towards the regular army and police. In otherwise, will Libya soon reach that tipping point where the regular police and army have enough power to either resist, deter or even overwhelm and dominate the militias?
A democratically accountable army?
The difference between the regular army and officially recognized militias is that in theory the Chiefs of Staff, appointed by the newly democratically elected legislature, the House of Representatives, would appoint the commanders of the new regular army. The regular army should be accountable to, under the control of, and loyal to the state, and not to a political philosophy, tribe, locality or person.
They should only operate after receiving instructions and would have rules of engagement. They would be accountable and would be used only in matters of national interest – and not for narrow political, tribal or regional reasons.
Militias: Guardians of the 2011 Revolution?
The problem is that presently, militias feel that they, a military fighting entity as opposed to the democratically elected civilian legislature in the form of the outgoing GNC or incoming House of Representatives, have the right to define and act militarily to guard the national interest or the ideals of the 2011 revolution.
This poses the question of who defines what the nation’s national interest is or what the 2011 revolution stood for and what are its current ideals? In a democratic society such as Libya, which has had two successful legislative elections since 2012, it should be the people through an election of their legislature that define the national interest and the ideals of the February revolution. It surely cannot be left to extra parliamentary or military institutions to act as self appointed guardians of national ideals and interests?
The militias formed during the 2011 Revolution share a bond of having fought against Qaddafi together. Usually, but not exclusively, these militias were formed based on tribal, local or regional affiliations.
The challenge, as is the case in many developing nations, is to transfer that tribal or local loyalty to the loyalty of the state. Historically this has not been easy in developing societies.
Carrots and stick
The Libyan state will probably have to use a combination of carrot and stick tactics and policies with the recalcitrant militias. It will need to engage in divide and conquer and in a strategy and policy of moral and political isolation as part of a wider DDR strategy.
In reality, the Libyan state, quite plainly, does not currently have much stick with which to deter the militias with. If it did, Libya would not still be where it is today – over three years after the 2011 revolution. However, all things being equal with regards to oil production and exports, Libya does have the money to incentivize and wean most militias away from their more militaristic comrades.
Militias have lost their halos
There is no doubt that the militias have lost their early halos and the lofty heights they had enjoyed within Libyan society after the early days of the revolution. The Gharghour incident was a pertinent watershed and the Tripoli airport clashes have confirmed their loss of special status. With the passage of time, it became clear that the narrow interests of the militias were not the wider interests of the general public.
The average Libyan has a long list of demands regarding the improvement of his/her standard of living such as better health, education, transport, telecoms, infrastructure (construction), entertainment etc etc – all of which need security and stability as a prerequisite. Security and stability that the so called self appointed “guardians of the Revolution” militias – have unequivocally failed to provide since 2011.
Hence Libya and Libyans find themselves in a catch twenty-two situation. The militias are loathed to give up their power positions in the fear that the revolution will be hijacked. The revolution cannot deliver its ideals and the Libyan public’s dreams of a better life while the militias continue to occupy the centre of power.
Clearly, something has to give in order for Libya to break out of this cycle and gridlock. The challenge for Libya and the House of Representatives is how can the democratic Libyan state become more powerful at the expense of the unelected militias, and how to convince (or force?) the militias to give up their arms and power to the safety of the new democratic Libyan state?
The Libyan state will need to come up with a comprehensive set of policies that can offer attractive Disarmament Disintegration and Reintegration (DDR) terms which must include attractive packages of incentives to militias in the form of jobs, training, business loans and job appointments for successful alternative civilian lives etc. But the state must also stand firm and put a halt to the idea that militias are prima donnas who are entitled to a blank cheque when it comes to top jobs and unlimited access to the state’s finances.
New location, new dynamics in Benghazi?
It is not going to be easy for the incoming House of Representatives members. The militias will probably in Benghazi try the trusted old formula practiced with the outgoing GNC in Tripoli of coercing the new legislature into giving them what they want and ensuring their military and political primacy.
However, the new Representatives must try and wean the militias off and try hard to change the relationship and dynamics. The House of Representatives represents all Libyans and not just the militias. It will be interesting to see if there will be a new determination by the new fresh set of legislature members to face off the militias. If the House of Representatives is indeed transferred to the east to convene in Benghazi they will definitely be out of the physical reach of the Tripoli-based militias.
Equally, Benghazi is not exactly a security paradise. It too has its own insecurity and militias. It is therefore entirely plausible that the new House of Representatives will be in the same situation in Benghazi – just being coerced by a different set of militias. Time will tell.
However, Libyans and their newly elected Representatives must not give up hope or reduce their efforts in attempting to create a viable democratic society. There have already been numerous successes in Libya since the 2011 revolution, including a free press and two successful democratic elections.
Democracy and freedom do not come easy or necessarily quickly. History has shown that liberty comes at a price. A look at the former Iron Curtain Eastern European states is a good example. However, Libya’s neighbor and peer Tunisia has shown that real progress can be made and can be made relatively quickly.
At a time when militias are bombing Tripoli and terrorizing civilians, Libyans must ultimately decide if freedom from tyranny and having democracy are worth the time and price. [/restrict]