By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 4 August 2014:
Two contrasting statements were published in the early hours of Sunday morning by the General National . . .[restrict]Congress (GNC) and the Libyan government.
In what is seen as a parting shot, GNC head Nuri Abu Sahmain in a statement issued in his capacity as the Supreme Commander of the Libyan Army and dated 27 July, said that the Zintani-led Qaaqaa and Sawaq brigades are rogue and outside the legitimacy of the state and are the remains of the Qaddafi security brigades.
“At this difficult time during which our beloved country is going through, [there are] vicious attacks by remnants of the former regime and its security brigades to abort the creation of a democratic state through their internal and external activities”, the statement explained. It was being done by “their open threats to the legitimate institution elected by Libyans, and their attacks on the GNC and the kidnapping and holding hostage of some of its members, and the issuing of statements by some of their brigades and military personalities to hinder legitimate institutions in Libya”.
“Based on GNC decision No 33/2014 issued 8/4/2014 regarding commissioning the revolutionaries that are grouped under its legitimacy to protect the Libyan state and its gains of the 17th February Revolution, we therefore call on our brave revolutionaries all over the country”, the statement continued, “to stand as one to protect the revolution and defend it, ridding Libya of the remnants of the (Qaddafi) security brigades that are threatening the security of the country and attempting to steal power, most of which of these (Qaddafi security brigades) are to be found within the Qaaqaa and Sawaq brigades that the Chief of Staff’s of the Libyan army consider as rogue brigades outside the legitimacy of the state”.
This decision was taken, the statement said, “so as to be able to build our new state that the people can prosper in, in safety and security and enjoy the wealth of the nation that they were denied for years”.
In contrast, the Libyan Interim government’s statement an hour later talks about the “continuing attacks on the city of Tripoli by armed groups that are outside the control of the state” and “in a clear violation to orders and calls and requests issued from the government and the public and from local and international NGOs for the end of the attacks that the armed groups are carrying out on the city of Tripoli, its residents, neighbourhoods, state institutions and public and private property”. These “heavily armed groups using heavy weapons and under false pretenses”, the government statement said.
|Saturday 2 August 2014|
The government statement said that these illegal attacks led to 22 dead and 72 injured on Saturday alone as well as “hundreds of families” forced to flee their homes within and outside Libya.
The statement said that the government is making all efforts to put an end to these attacks that are now into a third week, and is trying to put an end to bottlenecks \(shortages of fuel, food supplies, cooking gas, bread, electricity cuts) in the capital and as well as efforts of mediation between the two warring blocs of militias.
However, the government complained in the statement of the “intransigence” of the fighting protagonists, and their “unwillingness to respond to even humanitarian” requests.
The two statements clearly show the current polarisation of Libyan politics and the seemingly unbridgeable gap that has long existed between the outgoing GNC, dominated by the Islamist bloc which includes the Justice and Construction Party and supported by Misratans, and the moderate caretaker government of Abdullah Al-Thinni supported by the Zintani-led militias and the Mahmoud Jibril’s National Forces Alliance.
Whilst the GNC statement names the Zintani-led Qaqaa and Sawaiq militias, the government statement is as usual vague and non committal. It does not name the two sets of militias calling them “armed groups”. Neither does it refer to them as the Libyan Army or even “revolutionaries grouped under the legitimacy of the state”, as the GNC did.
The government statement does, however, deny the Misratan and Islamist militias’ pretext of attacking Tripoli airport as a “false pretense” and refers to them as “armed groups that are outside the control of the state” and “in a clear violation of orders and calls and requests issued from the government ..for the end of the attacks”.
The statements also show a split over the division of powers and responsibilities as to who has control and command over the armed forces – the legislature or the executive.