is The Economist
’s correspondent in Jerusalem and a writer on Arab affairs for the New York Review of Books
. From 2005 to 2010 he was the Israel/Palestine senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, where he extensively covered the rise of national-religious movement...
Rivalries for authority in Libya
Nicolas Pelham, 7 June 2012
Throughout their ten-month campaign to topple Colonel Qaddafi, Libya’s opposition forces struggled to reconcile two competing streams. While fighters fired with revolutionary zeal rushed off to the front, politicians tried to establish a semblance of order in the territory that these fighters had won. Since the fall of Tripoli in August 2011 tensions have escalated into a power struggle between the thuwar
, or militia forces, waving the banner of revolution, and the architects of would-be reconstruction, seeking stability to give their designs foundation. As elections approach in mid-June 2012, this rivalry is coming to a head. Both sides view the ballot as the seminal event that could break the deadlock and signal the transfer of power from centrifugal revolutionary forces to a sober central authority.
Increasingly, the government has viewed the thuwar
as an impediment to its efforts to establish a new security force. It has recruited from the pre-existing order for the bulk of security force personnel, nervous that rebellious, undisciplined thuwar
would be ill suited to promoting its plans for law and order. But its measures have only exacerbated centrifugal forces surfacing across Libya, which the government is ill-placed to contain. Even if the political process survives election day unscathed, Libya’s fledgling authorities should rapidly implement inclusive measures that will address the grievances arising both from decades of inequality between the capital and Libya’s other cities, and the Qaddafi dictatorship’s suppression of the country’s regional and ethnic diversity.