The former Kingdom of Libya's flag is being us...

The former Kingdom of Libya’s flag is being used by the National Conference. NCLO website (retrieved 23 March 2011) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Security Intelligence Analysis

A new report paints a rather gloomy picture of post-Gaddafi Libya: fighting between tribes, ethnic groups and rival militia has accounted for instability at a local level; and flare-ups continue to occur in the country’s hubs of Benghazi and Tripoli. This has made travel more dangerous and the risk of assets being damaged or looted greater.

Reports gathered by the UK-based risk analyst Maplecroft, point to “a noted increase in violent incidents” in recent weeks in both Tripoli and Benghazi. Also, serious clashes have in the meantime broken out in recent months in the west of the country around the Nafusa mountain areas and in the south-eastern Kufra basin.

The proliferation of heavy and light weapons continues to undermine stability and the prevalence of unexploded ordinance (UXO) poses a risk to business operations when travelling in the country.

A report published in August 2012 by Harvard University’s International Human Rights Clinic, described the country as being “awash in weapons, ranging from bullets and mortars to torpedoes and surface-to-air missiles”. It also describes how much of the ordinance left over from the uprising is “often unsecured and unstable.”

Given that there remains insufficient capacity to tackle the problem and government coordination still remains weak, the risk to the security of Libyans is described as “significant”. Moreover, oil and gas companies in particular are said to be facing the potential security risk of UXO in and around their operations and may have to embark on costly de-mining programmes,

Moreover, many militias and individual Libyans are unwilling to part with their arms. As such, disputes can rapidly turn violent with the use of heavy weaponry. Such escalation poses a particularly high human security risk in more densely populated urban areas.

For instance, on August 4 a gun battle took place between market vendors in Tripoli who were vying for selling space. A car bomb was also widely reported to have exploded in the same area, although local reports claim that the car exploded after being hit by TNT (of a type frequently used in fishing) which was hurled by individuals involved in the dispute and was therefore not a separate incident. One Tunisian national is reported to have been severely wounded.

According to the report, concern persists that Libya’s still embryonic security forces are ill equipped to tackle the variety of challenges they now face, making the security outlook for the country uncertain in the short to mid-term. Libya’s police do not have the capacity to patrol the streets, and the incidence of petty crime is on the rise. Many also lack professionalism and awareness and the case in early July 2012 of 140 Libyan police trainees rioting in Jordan and setting fire to an aircraft hangar over their flight being delayed may be indicative of this. Efforts, such as the recent agreement with Turkey to provide training to security forces to address these shortcomings are notable steps forward though.

At the same time, security forces are likely to be challenged by militias who may be reluctant to cede to their authority. Although militias have in some cases been critical in keeping the peace and in areas such as Misrata helped restore order and helped challenge corruption in and around the ports, they nevertheless remain unaccountable.

There are multiple examples submitted by human rights organisations of militias contributing to instability and carrying out human rights abuses. Equally, although the Libyan army has played a key role in rooting out groups suspected of carrying out or planning bomb attacks and intervened in violent inter-communal disputes, much work needs to be done before it becomes a unified national army. In addition to the army there exists the Supreme Security Committees (SSC) and the Libyan Shield Forces (LSF), the former falling roughly under the auspices of the Ministry of Interior and the latter the Ministry of Defence.

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