By George Grant.
Tripoli, 26 September:
Mahmoud Jibril has said that Libya’s transition to democracy cannot succeed without an all-embracing dialogue that would . . .[restrict]include even radical Islamists with links to Al-Qaeda.
The National Forces Alliance chief made the remarks during a meeting of moderate political leaders in Cairo aimed at combining and learning from different regional experiences in the wake of the Arab Spring uprising that swept across North Africa and the Middle East last year.
The remarks come as the Government and the National Army seek to impose greater control over the myriad armed militias still operating in Libya, a process which Jibril said could not succeed unless all factions and political groups felt included in the process.
“When you are excluded from taking part in the future of your country, you may become extreme,” he said in an interview on Monday. “In a national dialogue, no one is excluded; no Salafists, no Al-Qaeda, no Ansar Al-Sharia will be excluded.”
Jibril reminded his audience that many Islamist groups played an important role in helping to topple the Qaddafi regime during last year’s revolution, and argued that they should be enticed back into civilian by providing them with jobs and giving loans to small business as opposed to alienating them from Libyan society.
“The way we should deal with them is by dignifying and appreciating what they did.”
Last Friday witnessed an extraordinary wave of popular protest demanding an end to militia rule in Libya and calling on the government to crack down on extremist groups who have been responsible for numerous attacks on both Libyans and foreign nationals in recent months.
Between 30,000 and 40,000 people marched through Benghazi carrying banners such as “No to Al-Qaeda” and “No to terrorism”.
The rally came 10 days after an armed mob ransacked the US consulate in Benghazi and a nearby safe house, killing the American ambassador to Libya and three of his staff.
It has been widely alleged that the Islamist Ansar Al-Sharia brigade was involved in the attack, and there have been growing suggestions of some form of foreign input from Al-Qaeda or its subsidiaries.
A month earlier Islamists desecrated three major Sufi shrines in Tripoli, Misrata and Zliten, whilst the authorities did nothing to stop them.
Following the Benghazi rally, protesters stormed the headquarters of Ansar Al-Sharia and three other militias and drove them out.
Since then, National Army officers have been placed in charge of all of Benghazi’s remaining brigades, whilst several others, including Ansar Al-Sharia, have been disbanded completely.
In Tripoli, meanwhile, the National Army has been moving against numerous militias deemed to be illegitimate by the Government, whilst in Derna both the Ansar Al-Sharia brigade and the Abu Salim Martyr’s brigade have voluntarily disbanded.
Already, however, protests by disgruntled militiamen have been seen in Tripoli. Yesterday, a protest outside the National Congress turned violent, resulting in two injuries and the temporary evacuation of the entire Congress.
Concerns have also been raised over the decision of National Congress President Mohammed Magarief to divide Libyan militias into categories of “legitimate” and “illegitimate”, with no obvious criteria for distinguishing between the two yet having emerged.
Whilst the National Army has succeeded in moving against several smaller miltias, there are also genuine questions as to how successful the Government will be in imposing its authority over some of the larger brigades, particularly in parts of the country where the state’s authority remains comparatively weak. [/restrict]