Abdel Hakim Belhaj, the head of the Tripoli Military said that the best solution to arms is to educate people
By Khadija Ali
(The Tripoli Post correspondent)
Clearing the capital Tripoli from arms is possible and is underway especially as various revolutionary brigades are willing to cooperate with the National Transitional Council, the head of the Tripoli Military Council said.
In a lecture on November 17 in Tripoli, Abdel Hakim Belhaj, head of the Tripoli Military said that as the country moves from the revolution to state building a decrease in arms will be noticed.
"The Al Qathafi regime worked on and propagated the spread of arms," Belhaj said as he affirmed that the most prominent influence of civil society is the absence of these armed scenes.
"Arms were used to liberate Libya and a small amount of a specific type will be needed to keep institutions secure," reminded Belhaj.
The head of the military council believes the lack of military organisation has led to an economic decline. This, he went on to explain, is because the presence of arms in the capital projects an image to companies and foreigners that Libya is not yet stable.
"Doctors have been negatively effected as well; armed men have threatened doctors." Belhaj went on to say, "Hospitals should be visited with bouquets and not anti-aircraft launchers."
He also pointed out the possibility of a gun-culture developing when he spoke of various weddings where anti-aircrafts were fired into the air by way of a celebration. He said they had come across places that had anti-aircraft launchers up for rent for celebrations.
The most worrying danger Belhaj expressed, is when it comes to elections. "We look forward to a democracy. If we are going to have political parties and elections then this (the issue of arms) may induce problems."
All the same the head of the military council pointed out that weapons can't be banished all at once. He disclosed that since liberation Libya's borders have been unstable and that illegal immigrants, roaming around, the country have been arrested.
Many mechanisms are being studied in order to deal with the question of how to remove weapons, Belhaj said. "The best solution to arms is to educate people through television programmes so that freedom fighters and weapons carriers understand the direct damage being caused."
Weapons have started to go back to their storage sites; Belhaj emphasised the importance of doing so in a step-wise manner and within a time frame. That way, he explained, freedom fighters will accept to surrender their weapons.
"Some problems may be tribal, we are a tribal society and we saw the conflict between Wershifanah and Zawiyah," he said.
He went on to say that the solution to more complicated issues like this, is to call for the formation of the "Institution of National Reconciliation". It would be a permanent establishment tasked with clearing up conflict.
Belhaj also invited questions from his audience, and when he was asked why, despite the NTC's order to evacuate, the military council HQ still based at the Maitiga airbase, he said: “We were not asked to leave Maitiga air base, but to leave the airport; there are several sections in the airbase. The airport was handed directly over to the NTC chairman Mustapha Abdul-Jalil.
Belhaj was also asked to react to comments by former interim prime minister Mahmoud Jibril suggesting an annoyance with the role Qatar is playing in Libya or what some have described as "Qatar's interference"
He said: “On behalf of the military council, freedom fighters and, if I may, on behalf of all Libyans we thank all those who stood by our side. I feel that Qatar is the most advanced in terms of giving help and support to the people of Libya.”
He denied reports in local media that Qatar had provided the Tripoli Military Council with nine-plane loads of weapon. He said that was completely false. “The military council is not independent, it is part of the NTC and it follows all the NTC's political decisions. I completely deny the allegations regarding these planes,” he said.
It was pointed out to Belhaj that before liberation he spoke of a plan to keep the capital stable. Where is this plan, particularly when there are freedom fighters from other cities in Tripoli? he was asked
He said that the freedom fighters of Tripoli have the abilities and the means to protect the capital. “We need to support the internal security office; the power and means we have should be at the disposal of the internal security office.”
He went on to say that the brigades from other cities have been asked to leave the city and that already, freedom fighters from Jadu have said they were leaving. “We don't want to use force in handling such issues but through coordination,” he said.
Belhaj does not control a formidable force when compared to other revolutionary brigades such as those of Zintan, Misurata, Zawiyah and the Western Mountains. All of these played a major role in liberating Tripoli from Al Qathafi's forces and brought down his military compound of Bab Al-Azziziyah.
These brigades have insisted that they would remain in and around the Libyan capital until such time as the central government takes complete charge of the security situation in the city and bring the whole country under its control.