Libya: Freedom Does Not Mean Anarchy

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May 10, 2012: The interim government has adopted an unofficial motto: "freedom does not mean anarchy." This addresses three major problems, corruption, tribalism, and quickly resorting to armed force when there is a dispute. Major violence is down but the corruption (often outright theft of government money and property) is still abundant. Libyans are unhappy with all this and are having a hard time fixing the problems. Then there are the armed militias, which are often the source of corruption, as well as armed anger at the corruption.

Concentrating on the armed anarchy does little for the corruption and tribalism but you have to start somewhere. The interim government is starting with law and order. This is the first thing to disappear after a decades-old dictatorship is overthrown. Dictators get tossed out because their subjects are fed up with all the secret police and terror. But freedom brings with it a period of anarchy, with many people uncertain about how to restore order. No one wants the secret police and terror tactics (to maintain order) to return but also don't want to have a lot of lawless armed thugs running around. The government is trying to raise a force of 30,000 police, mainly to deal with armed disputes expected during the upcoming elections.

The interim government is also passing laws to clear up the legal chaos created by Kaddafi and the revolution last year that replaced him. For example, rebels have been exonerated for breaking any then-existing laws while participating in the revolution. The government backed off on an effort to outlaw political parties based on religion or ethnicity. There was too much popular opposition, so these laws were withdrawn a week after they were enacted. 

So far this month Lebanese police say they have intercepted two attempts to smuggle weapons from Libya to Syrian rebels. It's unclear if this is the work of gunrunners or the Libyan rebels trying to help their Syrian counterparts.

May 8, 2012: Over 200 former (and still armed) rebels tried to block access to the prime minister's office, in an attempt to extract more money and other compensation for their services. The prime minister ordered police to break up the action. This resulted in 14 arrests and several wounded.

Police also dispersed a two-week siege of the national oil company headquarters. The protestors wanted an end to corruption (especially stealing oil revenue) and more jobs for the many unemployed (Kaddafi preferred to hire foreigners to run the oil operations).

April 27, 2012: A bomb went off in a courthouse in Benghazi but caused no casualties. The bomb was apparently set off by Kaddafi loyalists.

April 25, 2012: The NTC (National Transitional Council) has fired the interim government cabinet, accusing the cabinet ministers of incompetence. The NTC is having problems finding replacements.  

 

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