This was all started by a group of militiamen that have been clamouring for this law to be passed for some time now. They had already set up a tent on Martyrs’ Square in central Tripoli, and organised several protests
in front of the General National Congress. This time, they wanted to go big: they joined forces with militias from different cities. Once they launched their siege, yet other militias decided to join them.
I went to the ministry Sunday night to check out the situation. I learned that most of its employees fled when they saw the militiamen arrive. Those who wanted to stay were kicked out, without the militiamen firing a shot. One of their leaders told me that their operation was a “pacifist” one. However, I did count about two dozen automatic weapons. They blocked roads, which created huge traffic jams and caused people to get really mad at them. Many Libyans are in favour of the proposed law, but the militiamen’s strategy is not helping their cause.
What links these militias is their demand for an immediate purge of the current administration. But when you talk to them, it becomes clear that each of them has their own agenda. Some of their leaders believe that since they fought during the revolution, they should automatically be given high posts in government. Other militiamen have actually received training that was supposed to help them get public sector jobs, but now realise that the old guard is blocking their advancement. In addition, there are those who are angry that some foreign diplomats named under Gaddafi have kept their jobs. [The process of replacing foreign diplomats is under way, according to the Libyan authorities. In January
, they called back all ambassadors and mission chiefs named under Gaddafi’s era, and aim to replace them.]
After Gaddafi’s fall, Mustafa Abdeljalil, then the president of the National Transitional Council, had asked that all government employees who had not been charged with crimes stay in their posts. This is why many former members of Gaddafi’s administration have kept their jobs to this day. It is inevitable that they eventually be replaced, but demanding their jobs by taking up arms is simply counter-productive.