By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 12 November 2013:
At Sunday’s press conference, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan confronted head on the question of the moral . . .[restrict]and political legitimacy of the ex-fighters (thuwar).
Asked what response he had to the claims by the thuwar that it was they that had the moral and political legitimacy in the new post February 17th 2011 Revolution Libya – Zeidan said that that legitimacy was temporary.
“The thuwar’s legitimacy is temporary and partial”, Zeidan explained. “It was only imposed by the situation or force majeure. The real permanent legitimacy is that of the government and GNC in the form of the official army and police”.
This is probably the first time that Zeidan has felt confident enough since assuming office a year ago to publicly question the moral legitimacy of the thuwar. He was probably emboldened by the negative public reaction to his kidnapping last month and to the weekend fighting by the two groups of thuwar in central Tripoli.
Libya’s post-Qaddafi era government has been weak, stripped of all its institutions and more importantly its monopoly on the use of force by the revolution. It has been unable to offer a deterrent against the multiplicity of armed groups, who feel that it was their military action on the field of war that dislodged the Qaddafi regime.
It was thought that after the widely acclaimed legitimate and democratic elections of 7 July 2012, which resulted in the formation of the 200-seat GNC, this moral and political legitimacy would transfer to the newly elected body and its chosen government.
It must be pointed out, however, that it seems that the overwhelming majority of the general public recognize and support the legitimacy of the government and the GNC. All opportunities to “vote” against them in the form of huge demonstrations have failed.
This does not mean that the general public is happy with their performance, however, the view over the so-called “9 November” Movement weekend was that better an inept, but democratically elected civilian government and GNC, than any armed militia group.
So whilst political legitimacy has been transferred to the GNC and its chosen government in theory, or de jure, de facto and in reality the armed groups representing tribes, regions, towns, cities and often themselves, have still held on to their weapons and have resisted giving them up to the official de jure central agencies.
Libya has therefore found itself in a catch 22 situation, with the armed groups saying that there is a power vacuum and that the state is weak, and therefore they cannot give up their weapons. The state, on the other hand, is saying that the armed groups must give up their weapons, demobilize and return to civilian life or join the official security forces.
The irony and paradox is that it is the state that continues to pay the wages of all these armed groups – the very armed groups that challenge its legitimacy and block the flow of oil. The very oil that pays for their treatment abroad, pays their monthly salaries, subsidises their food, electricity and fuel.
It is worth noting that it is very easy and convenient to lump all the armed groups together in the role of the political destabilizers of the new Libya. However, in reality, when a small group did kidnap Prime Minister Zeidan, the botched attempted coup failed within hours.
First, local civilians where he was held stormed the site, helping free him. Secondly, none of the multiplicity of the armed groups rallied to the group that kidnapped him.
It will be interesting to see if both the government and the GNC can stay strong in the face of anticipated pressure from the armed groups. Zeidan has threatened to use force and stop paying fighters not part of the official security forces by the end of the year. Will he be able to gain some public credibility by sticking to his word? [/restrict]