By Sami Zaptia.
London, 9 October 2016:
Further to the high profile kidnapping of the Deputy General Manager of the Libya Foreign Bank and the arrest by the RADA Special Deterrence Force (SDF) of a 12-man kidnap gang in Tripoli reported on by Libya Herald, a Tripoli armed robbery and car-jack victim contacted this writer to report his ordeal.
‘‘I am a 42 years old Libyan citizen, married and a father of four children and a state employee’’, *Ali said.
‘‘Last Sunday (2nd October) I was driving on my way back to work on the motorway at about 10 a.m. after completing some work errands from my home in Siyahiya’’.
‘‘I was driving through the usual motorway traffic, then shortly after passing the Ghoat Al Shaal roundabout I was stopped by a black Chevrolet saloon car with two people in it, with its number plates intact and with one of those security stickers on the side of its front car door. I wasn’t sure what the brigade, battalion or militia’s name was’’, added Ali.
Ali was referring to the fact that many of the militias operating in Libya generally and in Tripoli specifically often use normal family saloon cars as their official vehicles. Most of these militias and their brigades are officially recognized by the state which has continued to pay their salaries since the 2011 revolution.
To make these security forces official, they simply stick an emblem of their militia or brigade on the side of their vehicle, which is often stolen from a state institution, citizen or a supporter of the former regime.
‘‘The front passenger came out of the car window waving a gun at me and ordered me to stop ahead of the speeding cars. I stopped my car after they stopped in front of me’’, added Ali.
‘‘As soon as I stopped one of them started shouting and swearing at me and pointing his gun at me. He started searching me and my car and taking all my personal belongings, my wallet, my mobile as well as some money that I had on me’’, Ali explained.
‘‘He then ordered me to get out of the car as I watched traffic drive by and people looking on sadly but speeding on in their journeys without stopping’’.
‘‘Then one of the kidnappers jumped into the driver’s side of my car and sped off with my car leaving me on my knees on the side of the road’’.
Asked how he felt about living in the capital Ali said that ‘‘Tripoli is not safe from marauding bandits or highwaymen that are part of brigades or militias, or whatever name you want to use to describe them. There is a hundred percent possibility that you will be the victim of an armed robbery. For God’s sake how can you feel safe in Tripoli?’’
‘‘I am a Tripoli residents and I don’t feel safe and my family is my obsession and their safety is in danger’’, concluded Ali.
Ali’s case is yet another example of life in Tripoli under the UN-brokered and internationally supported Faiez Serraj-led Presidency Council and Government of National Accord (PC/GNA).
For despite enjoying international support and backed by a United Nations Security Council Resolution, the Serraj PC/GNA seems to enjoy absolutely no authority and legitimacy within the capital, as it has been totally unable to positively affect the living conditions of ordinary citizens.
General criminality, extortion, car-jackings and kidnappings have become the norm in Tripoli with anyone deemed to be wealthy or with a well-paying job liable to be kidnapped at any time. Having a car is sufficient to make you susceptible to a daytime car-jacking.
The increase of daytime kidnappings is evidence of the confidence of criminals that there is no deterrence or possibility of retribution from central authorities in the capital, despite the best and limited efforts of Rada.
Victims and their families have no legitimate state institutions to revert to for help, and have to rely on their own efforts, any one of the many Tripoli-based militias such as Rada, informal networks or tribal connections in order to seek their kidnapped relative.
The PC/GNA, having made the strategic move to depend on local militias to protect them and enable them to remain in the capital – seem to be held hostage by the militias that are in control of the capital.
Indebted to the militias in control of Tripoli for their political survival, the PC/GNA, it seems, are unwilling to attempt to implement any of the security sector reforms promised in the UN-backed Libyan Political Agreement signed in Morocco in December 2015.
This, it must be pointed out, contrasts sharply with matters in eastern Libya generally and in Benghazi specifically. An engineer, *Salem, who wished to remain anonymous, told Libya Herald today that in Benghazi the majority of people are now convinced that it is necessary to create strong state institutions in the short term.
Asked how was life in Benghazi in comparison with Tripoli, he replied ‘‘Everything is great. People in Benghazi are interested in security despite what is going with the military’’, in reference to the appointment of a military governor for the east and the appointment of military Municipality heads to replace those democratically elected.
‘‘People in Benghazi, including me, are looking for democracy after stability and security’’, he stressed. ‘‘But now there is no place for democracy’’, he explained.
‘‘One strong army with strong security institutions are needed now irrespective of how they are achieved. By Hafter or by others. Democracy cannot be established with weak government’’.
Pushed if he had any fears on the final outcome, however, Salem did admit that ‘’My most fear is another dictatorship’’.
*The names Ali and Salem were used in the article in order to protect the sources who were prepared to speak to Libya Herald only on the condition of strict anonymity.