Blog: The Way Out of this Mess

By James Hopkinson.

Whatever one’s view on the geopolitical and security situation in Libya I think we can all agree that it is not simple or easy.  But equally we should also be clear that it was never going to be neither of those.  Conflict-affected states don’t become models of tolerance, stability, security and justice overnight.  The recent histories of Afghanistan and Iraq clearly show that and Libya is a great deal further on in less time than both of those countries.

That is not to say that Libya doesn’t face considerable challenges in those fields but its leaders appear, in recent weeks, to be prepared to tackle many of the issues head on.  Key amongst the issues is how to deal with the Militias that provided the ‘blood and sweat’ to overthrow the Gaddafi regime and still see themselves as the self-appointed guardians of Libya’s security and stability.

The perception of a ‘State within a State’ comprising Militias that do not necessarily adhere to the direction or rule of law as laid down by the Government does not inspire confidence to those looking in from outside Libya and certainly those Libyans having to endure it.  Business confidence is a key enabler for Libya particularly as it affects the Oil and Gas sector from which it draws its financial lifeblood currently.

And the Oil and Gas community is concerned by the current situation.  A situation that is acknowledged by the Government through many of its actions but is then downplayed in its rhetoric with the Oil and Gas community, as shown by the recent reported talks with BP regarding security.

It is understandable that Libya does not want to adopt the private security models of Iraq and Afghanistan with large numbers of expensive western private security companies and their heavy presence of western security personnel on the ground.  But that does mean that Libya must either build a private security industry of its own where there will be the requirement for skills transfer and capacity building by experienced expatriate security personnel; or fully invest in the nascent and ill-equipped Petroleum Facilities Guard to do the job properly.

The current situation cannot continue for much longer without damage to inward investment and general business confidence.  As a recent UN report put it: “While a national army exists, the majority of military power rests with various militias, mostly associated with local councils.”

The Libyan Government knows this and is struggling manfully to address it but what it really requires is a comprehensive Security Sector Reform strategy to be devised and then implemented.  This is something where the international community could make a meaningful contribution…

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