Controlling arms in the new Libya: the bigger picture

10 Nov

As the dust tries to settle in the new Libya, loose arms left over is a major problem. With a future unclear and much internal competition, who wants to give them up? A level of progress has been made in some disarmament but the revolution created an explosion of guns, with many factions – including Al Qaeda affiliates – wanting to keep their weapons for now. Russia was quick off the mark drafting a Security Council Resolution calling on Libya and its neighbors to stamp out the proliferation of looted arms. With the resolution passing unanimously, the Council expressed concern over arms falling into the hands of al-Qaeda and others – with the main threats considered to be militant groups using man-portable surface-to-air missiles – or as we’d see on the news: shoulder-launched rockets. NATO had destroyed many weapons during its operations but officials remain unclear as to how many were still in circulation; in a confidential briefing, NATO revealed that it had lost track of some 10,000 missiles. With  a population of just 5.7 million, that’s a lot of loose missiles. Officials have argued that there is now a race to secure the weapons.

The UN argued that  mopping up weapons: small arms and light weapons will accelerate peacebuilding and peacemaking in the region. While the resolution will facilitate international cooperation, tracking and monitoring, it’s a long road ahead. This is clearly a big problem for the new government and the international community. With competing militias and Al Qaeda in the mix, it seems unlikely that Libya can return to normal anytime soon.

– Kees Keizer

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