LIBYA AND THE RETURN OF KHADAFI'S LOYALISTS
Libya is still split between those who supported Muammar Khadafi and those who fought him. The distinction between winners and losers is more evident today, after two years since the killing of the dictator. This circumstance is responsible for fueling hatred, revenges and social discrimination. If we add to the picture the widespread social anarchy, we are creating the ideal conditions for a return of those forces whom, even during the conflict, supported the dictator. And this is what is happening now in Libya.
The wrong example
Several among Khadafi's loyalists lead or engross the ranks of those militias running Libya today. Some of them turned coat out of belief, others for opportunism. For the latter, a pacified country is against their interests. What is more striking is that several members of the old security services stayed in their posts. Some of them have even been promoted. It is certain that no one is willing to take bets on their democratic reliability.
A law recently approved by the new Parliament in Tripoli has decided the lay off of all those public and government employees who had worked under the Khadafi regime. A decision that has created resentment in all those people - the majority of them as a matter of fact - who had officially adhered to the regime, worked for it, but did not share the responsibility for its deeds or misdeeds.
This is the same mistake that the US Proconsul in Iraq, Paul Bremer, had committed a decade before after the invasion and the removal of Saddam Hussein. He too had decided to fire all the government employees and the military in service during the regime. The result was the outburst of the Sunni guerrilla whose actions continue until today. Libya has decided to follow the wrong example.
What is more significant is that, following the civil war and the unwinding of the Libyan social fabric, the supporters of the old regime are gaining consensus among all those nostalgic of the pax under the Rais. This has fueled a growing armed opposition that can rely on an increasing popular support.
Those leading the opposition against the new authorities in Tripoli are not, at least for the time being, the members of the Khadafi family. His widow, his daughter Aisha and his sons Hannibal and Mohamed are now all in Oman. Mutassim, Seif al Arabi and Khamis all died during the war. Seif al Islam is imprisoned in Zintan waiting for his trial. Saadi instead has found refuge in Niger where he has married a local woman. There were rumors about a possible extradition to Libya for the only sibling of Khadafi who could, at least theoretically, still play a role in the loyalists' comeback. But Saadi, even though pompously invested of the rank of Colonel in the Libyan army, lacks the ability to play such a leading role. Even if he were extradited, this would not affect the nostalgics' chances.
In fact, there are a series of very active big shots of the old regime who continue to foment the dissidence from abroad. The majority of them resides in Egypt, where, after the return to power of the military, they can benefit from a good dose of protection. The deposed president Mohamed Morsi had menaced to extradite them and several among them had found shelter in Malta. They have money to spend - all those resources accumulated under the Rais - and can invest in a conflict that, if victorious, would see them return at the center of power and at the helm of their economic interests.
An indirect confirmation of the existence of an organized opposition to the new authorities in Tripoli came from PM Ali Zeidan's speech at the latest UN General Assembly held in New York in September 2013. The Libyan Prime Minister spoke openly about old regime figures involved in "criminal activities" in neighboring countries. Zeidan then appealed to Egypt, Niger and Algeria for an enhanced cooperation. The Libyan PM did not fail to mention the 100 billion dollars invested by Khadafi in Africa. This is a wealth Ali Zeidan would like to recover, but which now constitutes the backbone of the financial support of the armed conflict waged by the regime's nostalgics.
Chronicles from the resistance
There is definitely on the ground today a Khadafi-inspired form of armed resistance to the current Libyan leadership.
The most impressive action was undertaken in January 2014 with the occupation of an air base in Tamenhint, close to Sebha, that was freed after a few days following the intervention of the revolutionary brigades coming from Misrata and Zintan. The exploit showed the strength of the loyalists, but also the support they receive in the south of Libya, where they can move around with sufficient freedom.
At the same time of the operation in Tamenhint, the Libyan security forces apprehended five people in Sabratha who were going to Sebha to fight with the loyalists. Contextually, old regime flags appeared in Ajaylat. The fact that all these events occurred simultaneously in distant geographical areas suggests the existence of an unspecified command. In other words, these are not just isolated events, but they are linked to one-another. The latest episode of the series is the recent profanation of the Italian monumental cemetery in Tripoli, an action retracing offenses dear to both Khadafi and his people's committees.
Programs and statements from the opposition reach the Libyan soil also thanks to satellite TV channels. It is the case of Nilesat in Egypt, and of Al Hurrah, Al Jazeera and Al Arabya, all of whom air news that are not appreciated by the new authorities in Tripoli. In fact, the current Libyan leadership has tried to block them, but failed. There is also the issue of the Libyan students abroad. Many of them had received their scholarships from Khadafi and can be considered to be close to the now-defunct dictator. The Libyan government is monitoring the situation through its embassies. The plan is to probably withdraw
these scholarship, even
though the government doesn't have the strength to ask for or
impose such a measure. Overall, it is pretty evident an
opposition abroad exists and is gaining in vigor.
The biggest problem is that the blood feuds between families and tribes that have erupted following the civil war have not been healed and continue with in their endless series of clashes and deaths until this very day. The Kabyles that supported Muammar Khadafi are now persecuted. The feelings of revenge of the losers come face to face with the arrogance of the winners on a daily basis.
In Misrata around one hundred soldiers of the former regime are still under trial and could face the death penalty. In 2013 a former minister under Khadafi, Ahmed Ibrahim, was sentenced to death. In today's Libya each important faction has its own prison and tribunal. It is the case for Misrata, Zintan, Zawiya, Benghazi and Tripoli. As for now, the death penalties have not been carried out, but were still inflicted without offering the accused the opportunity to defend themselves.
Justice has been handled by military or civil tribunals, which international human right's organizations have criticized for their lack of fairness. The militias menace the judges, the solicitors and the families of those accused, while the police is incapable of granting the security of the judiciary. Recurrent cases of torture and abuses don't hit the news anymore. Recently a former Major General under Khadafi, Al Hadi Imbaresh, has perished in detention. It is unclear whether his was a natural death or not.
It's in such a context of "DIY justice" that the fate - pretty surely nefarious for most of them - of 30 high ranking officials of the former regime now awaiting trial in Tripoli (to which we should add Seif al Islam, who is still in Zintan under the control of the local brigades) will be decided. Khadafi's son is also wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague, but their request has still not been met. On November 5, 2013, Seif al Islam stated during a radio interview that he was more than happy to be judged in Libya. How spontaneous such a comment could have been is hard to judge.
The ICC has instead dropped its request for extradition for Seif's uncle and Khadafi's brother-in-law, Abdallah Senussi. Senussi recently appeared in Court in Tripoli and hardly resembles the man he was on the day he was delivered from Mauritania. Some claim he has a cancer, others think differently. Regardless, his destiny is written.
These showcase trials, whose role in the propaganda is pretty clear, should also offer the semblance of rule of law, but instead expose a country going adrift. And under the reign of chaos, there is plenty of room for the nostalgia of the old regime.