A POSSIBLE COUP IN TRIPOLI -COLONEL MUHAMED MUSA AND THE MISRATAN THWARS COME TO THE AID OF THE CIVIL POWERS
Colonel Muhamed Musa commands the Misratan Brigades of the Libyan Shield Force and others which entered Tripoli on 11th August to forestall armed attempts to influence the democratic process of the General National Congress.
According to the Libya Herald dated 11th August 2013 ‘More than a thousand vehicles belonging to the Libya Shield forces for Central and Western Regions are reported to have arrived in Tripoli over the past four days. The troops have been deployed to various military locations in and around the capital. The move is to defend it from forces causing instability or planning a move to impose their will on Congress and the government by force…………’ The Executive officer of Supreme Revolutionary Council, Muhammed Shaaban, told the Libya Herald….. It was timely to authorise the Libya Shield movement. The threat of a coup was very real and those informed know about its repercussions .’ There has clearly been a threat to undermine the democratic process in Libya.
The new Chief of Staff, Abdulsalam Al-Obaidi, enjoys better relations with the countries’ many Revolutionary Brigades which have hitherto refused to relinquish their independence and join the regular army. That Colonel Musa has led his considerable following into direct cooperation with the civil power speaks volumes.
The two questions are;
Who is the likely coup leader, where does he come from and how strong would his challenge have been?
Will Colonel Musa’s agreement to come to the aid of the civil power mean that others will follow so that the Revolutionary Brigades (Thwars) will be absorbed into the regular army with one command structure and a common aim?
(Even so, Libyan TV has just reported that ‘Amazigh demonstrators stormed the General National Congress on Tuesday, after a protest was staged to demand their language to be recognised in the new constitution.
The protesters broke into the conference room without causing any sufficient damage or casualties, expressing their anger at the lack of recognition the culture receives and to promote Amazigh rights.
The GNC halted any activity due to the protest, in order to swerve any further interruption.)
SOME NOTES ON THE ‘LIBYA SHIELD’ AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO THE LIBYAN NATIONAL ARMY
The 17th February Revolution which finally toppled Gaddafi from power started as an escalating street protest in Libya’s second city Benghazi. Gradually various street fighting groups acquired weapons and leadership and gelled into revolutionary brigades. In Benghazi some of the leadership was supplied by Islamists long suppressed by Gaddafi. A similar pattern emerged in the other centres where fighting was at its most intense, namely Zintan and Misrata., though in these last two Islamist influence was not as strong.
The fighting brigades managed to gain control over the large quantities of arms which Gaddafi had accumulated over the years. These included an especially large number of tanks which they learned to operate effectively. Thus the majority of weaponry is in their hands. To date the revolutionary brigades have not disbanded nor have they relinquished their weaponry despite a number of arms amnesties.
The brigades do not see themselves as militias but as Revolutionary Brigades of Thwars. Between them they control 80 percent of the battle hardened troops in Libya and around 80 percent of the weaponry. As do the British Army regiments, they have developed strong loyalties to their leadership and there peer-bonding is notably strong despite their varied backgrounds as students, workers, academics and professionals. They resemble the Boer Commandoes in the South African War and follow the ancient Libyan tribal ways in that their decision making processes is consensual.
The majority of Revolutionary Brigades are coordinated by local military councils. However, some brigades have broken from the majority in one way or another and operate lawlessly. They remain the main obstacle to peace in the country and are responsible for the majority of human rights violations.
In the aftermath of the revolution a security vacuum developed. Largely as a result a number of ‘Post Revolutionary’ brigades formed. They are often engaged in local violent conflicts.
There are a number of criminal groups which pose as Thwars. There are also extremist groups with Salfaist/Wahabi/Jihadist links which are gaining in importance in the post Gaddafi security vacuum. They are prominent in Benghazi and Derna. They may derive support from external sources but have little popular support.
So far the Revolutionary Brigades have steadfastly refused to amalgamate with the National Army the leadership of which they distrust and do not, by and large, respect. They have, therefore, formed a second Libyan Army called the Libya Shield. The control of the Libya Shield is ceded directly to the Chief of Staff of the Libya Army.
This means that, at the time of writing, the Chief of Staff has to try to lead two separate armies, the National Army and the Libya Shield.
A spokesman recently told the Libya Herald:
“There is genuine desire to form the national army and support the Chief of Staff to make it happen. One suggestion is to appoint army commanders who were loyal to the 17 February revolution from the beginning as well as the defectors that parted ways with the (Qaddafi) regime after seeing the bloody crackdown – but not the ones that jumped from the sinking ship. These points would be accepted by all the revolutionaries as this has been their demand from October 2011. They can serve under such officers. The brigades would then be dissolved – because the main factor stopping them from joining the army would be taken care of.”
That is why Colonel Musa’s action of bring his Libya Shield brigades to the aid of the civil power in Tripoli recently has so much significance.
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Update 15th August 2013
Ali Tarhuni talks sense. His words are clearly reported here by the editor of the Libya Herald;
Update 17th August 2013
The Tobruk Libya Shield Brigade has taken a lead by relinquishing its weapons to the LIbyan Air Force and disbanding.