Libya: Many weapons and poor leadership cast a shadow on Libya's future

world | Feb 17, 2012 | By Asia News

Rome - "Too few true democrats and too many weapons in the wrong hands are casting a shadow over Libya's democratic future. However, the Libyan people has a great thirst for freedom and is showing it," Prof Angelo Del Boca said. The Italian historian and expert on Libya spoke to AsiaNews on the first anniversary of the revolution that ended Muammar Gaddafi's 40-year dictatorship. Today the country is celebrating the fall of that regime. Out of respect for the victims of the revolt, no official ceremony is planned, but people are celebrating on their own in the country's main cities.

In Benghazi, where the anti-regime revolt began, thousands of people took to the streets last night, setting off fireworks and chanting anti-Gaddafi slogans. In Tripoli, the militias that control the city set up road cheeks to prevent anyone from stopping celebrations.

However, a climate of terror and fear still reigns in the country, Del Boca noted. In recent days, thousands of people took to the streets calling for the former rebels to be disarmed and for an end to all hostilities and atrocities.

"In the cities, especially Tripoli, there are too many weapons," the historian said. "Those in power are unable to guarantee a decent level of security. People do not trust the leaders of the National Transitional Council (NTC), who are mostly former officials from the Gaddafi regime. Sadly, no one is seriously concerned about the good of the country. Armed militias hold the real power."

Since the war ended in October of last year, thousands of rebels from Benghazi and the mountains of western Libya have taken over Tripoli. The capital's streets are full of armed vehicles, tanks and gun-toting militias ready to fight any would-be enemy. As the spoils of war go the victors, the former rebels are now staying in luxury hotels along Tripoli's waterfront. In Zintan, high-ranking militia officers have taken over the villas of former Gaddafi officials.

Although Tripoli University reopened a few days ago, it is more like an arsenal than a place of higher education. Students are in fact forced to share classrooms with stockpiles of grenades, bullets and machine guns.

Civilians are truly fed up. They want the country's civilian and military authorities to collect all weapons and integrate the rebels, many of whom are in their late teens, back into civilian life. Elsewhere in the country things are not that much different.

Yesterday Amnesty International released a report on torture of war prisoners and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa. NTC-run prisons are holding, the human rights groups says, more than 2,500 people without trial. At least 12 people are known to have died under torture.

"The situation is appalling," Del Boca explained. "Getting back to normal quickly will be hard."

Abdel Hakim Belhadj, an Islamist and a former member of al-Qaeda who would like to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on the whole country, is still in charge of the capital, the Italian historian explained.

"Among the people, there is a great thirst for freedom and democracy and they will oppose the imposition of the Islamic law along the lines of the most radical Islamic states. Even if 90 per cent of the Libyan population is Muslim, they have always had a moderate approach to religion."

"In recent days, some intellectuals have come together to rewrite the civil and criminal codes based on the Rocco (Criminal) Code, which dates back to Italian colonial rule, and other Sharia-based laws enforced under Gaddafi."



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