In the absence of durable political and security institutions at national level, there can be no ‘one size fits all’ approach to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) across Libya. But as the country’s sprawling security sector continues to grow, with fresh recruits signing up to join both state-affiliated and non-state-affiliated armed groups, it is clear that planning for DDR cannot wait for a ‘post-conflict’ situation.
Drawing on a set of interviews with key figures with close knowledge of Libya’s security landscape, along with in-depth interviews with residents of Misrata, Zawiya and Zintan, this research paper explores how the security apparatus of each of these three cities has evolved since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The case studies highlight that significant variation exists in each city’s security dynamics, reflecting its social composition; its experience of conflict; the structure of the local economy and economic opportunity; and relations with neighbouring locations as well as with the state’s formal institutions.
Such highly localized factors underscore the scale of the challenges to be overcome in efforts to reform Libya’s security sector. Even so, the fact that the country’s armed groups mainly operate in the areas where they originated ensures a degree of social accountability that should not be underestimated. This accountability has the potential to check the behaviour of the armed groups within their own communities, and to provide a foundation, where conditions allow, for DDR planning in line with specific local contexts.