You are here

Rebuilding Security in Fragmented Societies: Libya

In contrast to the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the overthrow of Colonel Mummer Gaddafi in Libya was the result of an armed uprising and a civil war, where Libyans resorted to weapons, rather than just protests, to bring about political change. Since then, security in general and the reshaping of security institutions in particular have constituted extremely sensitive issues and major obstacles to Libya's political transition. The case study of Libya within the broader research project assesses the politics of security sector transformation after the conflict of 2011 by analyzing the links between power-sharing arrangements and the reshaping of security institutions. The research also investigates the challenges of SSR and political transition at both national and local levels and the interactions between them. In so doing, the research focuses on five key issues:

  1. The security apparatus on the eve of the Libyan revolution and Gaddafi’s legacy. Gaddafi significantly weakened the conventional army and entrusted the bulk of military capacities to paramilitary brigades commanded by his relatives. The case study assesses the impact of this legacy on the army’s position at the start of the revolution, and how these pre-2011 arrangements should be taken into account in the rebuilding process.
  2. The fragmentation of the security sector after the civil war, and the challenges of rebuilding national security institutions in the transitional period. The 2011 conflict led to the fragmentation of the security sector among a disparate set of armed groups, characterized by their strong links to local communities and/or ideological groups and only loose degree of coordination. The project explores how the National Transitional Council (NTC) tried to stabilize the security situation and centralize authority after the war.
  3. The rise of militias, from state-sponsored armed groups to political militias outside the central authority’s control. To ensure short-term security, the NTC and the first transitional government chose to rely on the local revolutionary brigades and armed groups, subcontracting these groups to carry out specific security tasks that would normally have been performed by the state. This approach accentuated the fragmentation of the security sector, creating a hybrid security apparatus in which the local armed groups were stronger than - and autonomous from - state institutions. The case study researches how revolutionary brigades can be integrated into the rebuilding process and rendered acceptable to the civilian authority.
  4. The existence of local security arrangements as a response to the absence of neutral state security institutions. The incapacity of the successive transitional governments to rebuild an efficient and neutral security apparatus working under its authority and control has resulted in widespread mistrust among Libyans towards the so-called “national" security institutions, and in the prevalence of local security arrangements, with each city and community preferring to entrust the provision of security to its own members. The research will conduct several comparative assessments of such local arrangements.
  5. The security sector as a driving force of the second civil war and its resolution. In May 2014, Operation Dignity, initiated by retired-army general Khalifa Hafter in Benghazi, caused a definitive break between rival militia-political factions and marked the beginning of a new civil war. The armed confrontation between competing political factions at least partly overlapped with the conflict opposing members of the former national army and members of the armed groups born after 2011. The research explores the highly political nature and various stakes in the rebuilding of the security apparatus in post-2011 Libya. 
Project Publications
Libya’s political dialogue needs more security content
The formation of a Government of National Accord (GNA) between Libya’s warring factions has been delayed once more as representatives of the General National Congress (GNC) withdrew from talks a few weeks after refusing to sign the preliminary agreement initialed by all other participants on 11 July.
Virginie Collombier