Having hardly come out of a civil war that concluded with the removal of the Muammar Gaddafi regime, Libya is getting closer to a full-blown armed internal conflict once again.
In less than 12 months, one of its prime ministers was kidnapped in his sleepwear, two of its prime ministers were ousted and its parliament, the General National Congress, has been attacked by militias repeatedly. Libya’s troubles lie in the continued weakness and inability to assert control over the country and the culprit is the lack of a government monopoly over the use of force. The country is awash with weapons that are in the hands of militias of various stripes, undermining the authority of the very government that is meant to represent all the country’s people.
Let the Libya experience be a lesson for other such conflicts in the region. Arming a civilian population without a concrete plan for disarmament is a recipe for a protracted conflict that has no end in sight. The weapons the young men carry become an addiction, giving them a power trip that cannot be matched. Unlike armed soldiers who see their weapons as tools for their job, armed civilians with no prior combat experience or training in the rules of war see their weapons as factors of their lives that they cannot be detached from.
The longer this situation lasts, the more attached the men will become to these weapons and less likely they will be to giving them up without a fight. Attempts at trying to incorporate some militias into government-controlled forces have so far been unsuccessful, with those who have joined continuing to enjoy autonomy.