After 42 years of Gadaffi humiliation, Libya has now found itself in a modern type of deep turmoil. The country is engaged in a war between an ex-Gadaffi army General and a cause-driven, terrorist militia group notorious for causing unrest in Libya and with affiliations to international extremists who smell blood and see opportunities in a leaderless and defenceless Libya. This is in addition to the havoc played by a number of strong, heavily armed militia groups in the West as well as in the East of Libya. These strong militia groups have affiliations to randomly distributed agencies such as religiously motivated groupings, and ambitious politicians hovering around the political scene ready to seize opportunities.
It is quite clear that the Libyan Ansar-Al-Sharia groupings have very little heart for the aspirations of the Libyan people for a decent state with security and a measure of democracy. Democracy and Ansar-Al-Sharia do not mix. The objective of General Hiftar’s campaign (labelling it ‘operation dignity’) is to use force to eliminate the power of Ansar-Al-Sharia in the east of Libya. This on the face of it sounds like an admirable objective and should be supported by all. However the history of this gentleman does not give an enormous amount of comfortable feeling.
Major General Belqasim Hiftar assisted Muamar Gadaffi in the coupe d’etat of 1969, which resulted in the 42-years of darkness. Hiftar later became Gadaffi’s military chief of staff, and led Gaddafi’s escapades in the Chad-Libyan war in the 1970s. That miserable and pointless war with Chad sent many young Libyan men to their deaths and cost Libya dear. Hiftar and 500-600 of his men were captured as prisoners of war by the Chadians in 1986, and were then released in the early 90s (the circumstances of his release are a bit shady). He then spent two decades in Virginia in the United States of America.
General Hiftar’s chequered past (and alleged links with the CIA) do not exactly make him the ideal candidate to sort out the current mess and rescue the nation in these difficult times despite the vulgarity of the opposition. Non-Libyans and outsiders in general would be questioning why on earth a prominent ex-Gadaffi military man is being welcomed with open arms by many Libyan people. The answer is very simple. At this point in time in the eyes of the Libyan’s, they were not given many choices. There are no options on the table that can defeat Ansar Al-Sharia and stop their march in the East of the country.
This is a very desperate situation that the Libyan people have been driven to. It is not black and white; there is no ‘good versus bad’, and many would agree that both Hiftar and Ansar Al-Sharia are technically as bad as each other. Many of those who support Hiftar and his army are not necessarily doing so because they have fond memories of the Gadaffi regime or are nostalgic for the Gadaffi era. Many are actually embarrassed to admit their support for Hiftar and his army (considering his past and understandably so) but would argue that there simply is no alternative. Many believe that Hiftar is the only one who can deal with these people and ‘finish them off once and for all’.
In contrast, there are a section of Libyans (many outside of Libya) who have not voiced their support for either Hiftar or Ansar Al-Sharia, believing that both groups are as bad as each other, even going as far to label this mess as a ‘conspiracy’- a thinly veiled attempt to continue to create fitna amongst the Libyan people, and an obvious divide between the nation. Regardless of which group one supports, one has to look at who is actually suffering and being affected directly by this disaster: Benghazi and the East of Libya.
Already over 90 civilians have been killed in Benghazi alone (at the time of writing this article) and what is so devastating about this is that their deaths were unnecessary. It could have easily been avoided if the right measures and decisions were carried out by the people in charge to have avoided this entire catastrophe in the first place.
One should go back and inspect how the country was driven to this chaos in the first place. The various reasons that pushed the country to the current state of disorder are far too many and have become diffused into a non-ending circle of difficulties. In the view of many and on the basis of logic alone, the current desperate state in man-made. A variety of decisions that were made by the General National Congress (GNC) very early on contributed heavily to where we are today. It is no secret in Libya that a small section of the GNC members are affiliated with Ansar-Al-Sharia and other terrorist groupings in Libya. This energetic section with the help of many others within the council (knowingly or otherwise), had very clear objectives right from the very beginning. These objectives included (as far as we can tell now), weakening the government (which they appointed) to the point of ridiculous measures, denying funding for vital projects, diverting huge amounts of money to their own causes (including financing Ansar-Al-Sharia), promoting and financing militia groupings to spread chaos in the country, and generally extending the chaotic conditions in the country and diverting attention and effort away from establishing a state with a secure atmosphere. The GNC humiliated the national army and the police and denied them funding for improving the infrastructure for these hugely important sectors in the country.
In early June the Supreme Court in Libya declared the election of Ahmed Maiteeg as Prime minister, ‘unconstitutional’, to which Mr Maiteeg has since complied and stepped down. Ahmed Maiteeg, who is a rather shadowy and dodgy fellow, was elected in early May by a fraudulent vote, and was hurriedly installed as Prime minister. He is also said to have the backing of Islamists groupings in the GNC. His (very illegal) election came at a time when the GNC is very close to passing its expiry date. But it is all to do with the BUDGET. The key word in all this chaos is MONEY. The section within the GNC who schemed the fraudulent vote to install Maiteeg as PM, desperately wanted a government (before the end of their session) that would pass the budget according to their wishes. Terrorists do not work for free. They need funding to keep going and to buy more toys to play with (i.e. weapons and the like obviously). On top of all this (could it get any worse? I’m afraid it can) there is no police, no border control which means that more terrorists from Syria and elsewhere have flooded and spread into Libya like the great plague. Libya is a fertile country for the Islamists with potentially billions of dollars and virtually no security forces and these difficult people want to milk this money and use it for their own causes.
How unfortunate for the rest of us that in the end because of the colossal mistakes and clearly planned out activities carried out by the GNC, that the Libyan people have been left with no choice but to apparently rely on a prominent and notorious ex-Gadaffi General turned opportunist, who not only sent so many of our young lads to their deaths in the Chad war, but also has shown not an ounce of respect towards the Libyan people. General Hiftar has not even apologised for his role in the Gadaffi era or has shown any remorse for the role he played during the Chad war.
One has to ask now, where are the responsible Libyans? Where are the Libyans with a heart for the country? Why are they not on the scene? The answer to this question is another article altogether. While we ask where are the responsible Libyans, we must give full credit to members of the GNC who struggled to take the case of Maiteeg’s instalment issue to the Supreme Court, and to the judges of the Supreme Court who saw that it was high time to pass the correct judgement against all the obvious dangers that they may personally face. We must also applaud the GNC members who chose to resign very early on, in protest of the appalling activities that were being carried out within the GNC. Many of these brave folks went on to protest from the outside.
We also must take a moment to pay tribute to the very brave journalists in Libya who dared to publicly speak out against Ansar-Al-Sharia – we remember Mr. Meftah Buzeid who was known for his ferocious criticism of Ansar-Al-Sharia and other Islamist terrorist groupings in Libya, and began challenging the rise of these groups very early on. He was sadly assassinated just hours after his last appearance on Libyan television.
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