Berenice Stories

Short Stories by John Oakes

Posts Tagged ‘Zintan

LIBYA – A GOOD START IN THE VOLUNTARY SURRENDER OF ARMS AND AMMUNITION

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There has been some success with the planned weapons amnesty in Benghazi. On Saturday and today Tahir Square has been the venue for citizens to hand over arms and ammunition to the Libyan National Army. At a similar event in Tripoli’s Martyrs Square two tanks were handed in by the Triq Asour militia brigade.
The hope is that the amnesty will be expanded to other parts of the country. It may not be as readily accepted in Libya’s third city, Misurata, where a large number of militia brigades have become deeply entrenched. The Misuratans are wary of their neighbours, the Warfella tribal confederation based in Beni Walid, and may be reluctant to believe that the National Army will be capable of keeping the peace. Many members of the Warfella federation held out for Gaddafi until the last days of the civil war. They are suspected by many of being pro-Gadaffi still. The Misuratans may feel that the Libyan National Army is still tainted by ‘Gadaffism’ and will favour the Warfella.
In the eastern sea port of Derna, Salafist militias are in power at the moment but may not be popular. The prominent families in Derna are unlikely to live with the situation for too long but may still feel powerless. The Libyan Navy has recently stationed a warship there. It may help to tilt the balance of power in favour of ordinary citizens. In the meantime there are known to be a number of radical Islamists in town.
In the Jebel Nefusa, the mountain range south west of Tripoli, there were serious clashes in June between a Zintan militia and the Mashasha tribe. More than 100 people were killed and several thousand displaced. This area will remain tense for some time.
In Kufra in the south east the long standing differences between the Sway tribe and the Tebu minority is still simmering and neither party is likely to hand in its weapons. This is a region troubled by arms, drug and people smuggling.
The successes in Tripoli and Benghazi must be heartening for ordinary Libyans. Many are stating openly that the killing of the US ambassador in Benghazi was the catalyst which started a reaction against heavy handed militias. If that is so, Ambassador Stevens will not have died in vain.

LIBYA –The trial of Saif al Islam al Gaddafi and New Labour – Dining with the Devil without long spoons (Update 2nd May 2013)

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It is hard for us to remember Tony Blair’s brief sojourn with Muammar Gaddafi in a posh Bedouin tent pitched in the desert near Sirte. In hindsight it was not the wisest of things for Mr Blair to have done. He was on a tour designed to demonstrate the success of his interventionist foreign policy and the love-in in the tent was vaunted as bringing Gaddafi in from the cold and opening channels between MI6 and Gaddafi’s personal intelligence service. When dining with the devil one needs to use a very long spoon and Tony Blair left his behind when he posed in the tent with the ‘Brother Leader’ that day.
It should be noted that a spokesman for Mr Blair said: “As we have made clear many times before, Tony Blair has never had any role, either formal or informal, paid or unpaid, with the Libyan Investment Authority or the government of Libya and he has no commercial relationship with any Libyan company or entity. The subjects of the conversations during Mr Blair’s occasional visits was primarily Africa, as Libya was for a time head of the African Union; but also the Middle East and how Libya should reform and open up.”‘
The MI6 connection has landed sometime Foreign Secretary Jack Straw with the unwanted problem of a potential court case brought by one Abdul Hakim Belhadj, recently Chair of Tripoli’s Military Council and hero of the attack on Gaddafi’s bunker at Bab Azzizia. Abdul Hakim Belhadj, who fought the Russians with the Taliban in Afghanistan, is asserting that MI6 was complicit in his imprisonment and torture by the Gaddafi regime. Because MI6 will never disclose secret information it is a good ploy to try to get Jack Straw into court where he may be forced to tell what he knows. The subsequent bad odour would probably drive a wedge between the CIA and MI6 or at least put serous pressure on the intelligence services which they could well do without.
The other founder of New Labour, Peter Madelson was apparently unwise enough to meet Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al Islam al Gaddafi. Mr Madelson’s Achilles heel was always his pretentious social life and Saif al Gadaffi was often seen about in those doubtful circles that the powerful and carless are fond of inhabiting. It will be recalled that the London School of Economics was induced by Saif al Gaddafi to approve his PhD thesis and to accept his cheque for a considerable amount of money. They were lulled, no doubt, by Muammar Gaddafi’s Judas kiss for Blair during the fateful meeting in the desert.
Saif al Gaddafi may soon go on trial in Zintan, an impoverished and remote town some four hours drive from Tripoli. There are no hotels there and the international press corps will be less than sympathetic if it finds itself short of accommodation, restaurants and the communications facilities it has come to expect when covering great show trials. Let us hope that the Libyan government will ship in some temporary facilities in time for the trial. (It is interesting to note that the Libya Herald is reporting today – 21st August – that Libya’s deputy prime minister is denying that the trial will take place in Zintan).
Saif al Gadaffi is charged with war crimes and more but Libya’s new government is said to be threatening to carry out a further investigation into his corrupt dealings with ‘western figures’. According to the Sunday Telegraph and the Tripoli Post, Blair and Mandleson are included in the list. That these two are implicated by the Telegraph, which may be wrong, is not surprising on two counts. The first is that the Telegraph would do that anyway and the second is that Blair and Mandelson have a gained a reputation which allows speculation of this nature to sound plausible. Both of them seem to have dined at doubtful tables without their long spoons.
John Oakes

Update 2nd May 2013
Saif al Gaddafi is still in prison in Zintan. This short piece in the Libya Herald seems to indicate that his state of mind is disconcerting.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/05/02/saif-al-islam-appears-in-zintan-court/

Update 31st July 2013

Trails of Gaddafi’s relatives and ministers have begun.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/07/2013731164359925959.html

IS A MILITARY STRONGMAN NECESSARY IN LIBYA?

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On the 17th February 2012 Libyans will celebrate the first anniversary of the Benghazi uprising which triggered the fall of Gaddafi. As they do so they may feel that their new leaders have been too slow to control the numerous revolutionary militias (known as thwars) formed during the civil war and have yet to disband. The militiamen argue that they fought to topple Gaddafi and are entitled to say who runs their country. Since they are heavily armed, some with artillery and tanks, they easily assert their authority because the regular army is weakened and there is no real police force. What is more, the Gaddafi regime destroyed civic society and outlawed political parties. Ordinary Libyans lack the democratic machinery to fill the power vacuum.
The capital, Tripoli, is a case in point. There are at least seven armed militias controlling the city, one of which is led by the sometime Islamist fighter, Abdul Hakim Belhadj. He fought the Russians in Afghanistan and now heads the Tripoli Military Council. He is loudly proclaiming that the British MI6 was complicit in torture. The leader of another group, Abdullah Ahmed Naker, recently claimed to have 22,000 armed men at his disposal and that his forces already controlled of 75 per cent of the capital, whereas Belhadj could only call on 2,000 armed supporters.
More significantly thwars from other regions of Libya control parts of the capital. One of them is from Misurata and has recently been in a gunfight with Belhaj’s militia. A further thwar is from the town of Zintan and it controls Tripoli airport. It is this Zintan militia which captured Gaddafi’s favourite son, Saif el Islam. He is still incarcerated in Zintan, apparently without access to a lawyer. The Berbers from the Gebel Nefusa also maintain a militia in Tripoli. Clearly they intend to see that the Berbers, long suppressed by Gaddafi, are not marginalised in the new Libya.
The provisional Libyan government seems to have abandoned Misurata to its militias of which there are thought to be 170 or so. The strongest is probably the Hablus Brigade which still has 500 militiamen at its disposal. The Misuratans appear to control a region stretching from the east of Tripoli to Sirte, Gaddafi’s old home town. We may yet find that a Misuratan militia executed Gaddafi.
Some of the militias have been accused of mistreating suspected Gaddafi loyalist. According to the UN Commission for Human Rights, there has been torture, extrajudicial executions and rape of both men and women. The medical charity, Doctors Without Frontiers, has refused to treat prisoners in Misurata jails where its volunteers have been asked to revive torture victims. According to the U.N., armed militias are holding as many as 8,000 prisoners suspected of being Gaddafi loyalists in 60 detention centres around the country.
The appearance of a Coalition of Libyan Thwars (revolutionaries) and a Cyrenaica Military Council to represent militias from several parts of Libya is disconcerting. Is it likely that a military strongman will soon emerge in Libya or will the country disintegrate into civil war again as Gaddafi predicted? Neither would be desirable.