By Umar Khan.
Tripoli, 18 June 2013:
Following the General National Congress’s demand that Prime Minister Ali Zeidan set out plans to dissolve . . .[restrict]all brigades throughout the country, the task has fallen to the Interior Ministry.
Resolution No. 53/2013, passed by Congress on 9 June, was both an acceptance of the resignation of Yousef Mangoush as Chief of Staff and an order to Zeidan to send plans within a fortnight for the dissolution of all brigades by the end of the year, by force if necessary, and the integration of their members on an individual basis into the army or police.
The resolution was a response to events the day before when 31 people died in Benghazi in protests against Libya Shield Brigade No. 1. It was originally aimed at dissolving the dozen brigades of Libya Shield that come directly under the Chief of Staff’s office. However, in view of the sensitivity of the incident, Interior Ministry officials lobbied to extend the resolution to include all armed groups and brigades.
Faced with such a major task, the Ministry has been holding meetings with the brigades to decide the mechanism of disbanding them and integrate their members into the regular security forces.
A senior Ministry official told the Libya Herald on the condition of anonymity that the Ministry would seek an extension on to the two-week deadline as preparing such a plan in the time period was “almost impossible”. He also said that the Ministry had met with the commanders of all the Libya Shield brigades in the first of what would be series of meetings to outline steps on disbanding the brigades and how to implement the resolution.
“We are meeting the Libya Shield commanders today. There are 12 of them in attendance. It is a start and we will meet all of these brigades to come up with a plan. It is like an impossible mission given the current situation, but fortunately many are willing to put Libya before their own interests.”
The plan, when ready, would see all armed groups and brigades disbanded and would render any permission or letters of authority granted by any ministry null and void.
“All the permissions and authorities would be withdrawn. The fighters would have the choice of either joining the security forces or they will be helped to reintegrate into the normal life. There are government departments taking care of that, already.”
The official also said that brigade members would be allowed to join the security forces on an individual basis.
“All the fighters would be required to join the security forces independently and nobody would be allowed enter as a commander of a thousand or so fighters – only as an individual fighter. This would end the system of affiliating cities with brigades or vice versa. There is no space for regionalism in professional security forces.”
This is the most serious effort by officials as yet to dissolve of the armed brigades and strengthen the national army and police. The government has come under severe criticism for failing to rein in on the militias and provide security and stability to the country.
The brigades of Libya Shield are not the only ones that will be dissolved. The plan will include the many other powerful brigades that already fall under the ministries – including, but not limited to, the Qaaqaa, Sawaq, Nawasi and Swehli brigades – as well as brigades that currently do not take orders from any government department. All brigades are to go.
Umar Khan can be found at twitter.com/umarnkhan