Dressed in green military fatigues and clutching CVs under their arms, young Libyans who fought Moamer Kadhafi are now signing up to register for government jobs.
Some of these men spent months fighting Kadhafi’s forces on the front lines of the conflict that erupted last February and have provided security on Libya’s streets since fighting ended in October, after Kadhafi was killed.
Now these former rebels are trickling into the interior ministry, looking for jobs with the new security forces, part of a recruitment campaign the government hopes will lead to the disbanding of militias across Libya.
“Name, birthday, brigade?” asked a registrar at the Ain Zara recruitment centre area on the outskirts of Tripoli, wearing a cap that says “Free Libya.”
Khaled Milad, 24, said he left law school to join one of several militias that sprang up to fight Kadhafi and now wants to join the security services to “help protect the country” in the post-Kadhafi era.
“Militias have no future; we do not want to become like Somalia,” said Milad, who served with a brigade in Khoms, about 100 miles (160 kilometres) east of Tripoli.
Tens of thousands of Libyans like Milad, including teenagers who left school, joined the rebellion that led to Kadhafi’s death on October 20.
But with the conflict over, the men who helped topple his regime remain organised in armed brigades across the country and often clash among themselves.
Libya’s new military and police are far from fully operational and these militiamen have stepped in to provide security on the streets.
Libya’s new rulers want to disband the militias and to stamp out fears that their weapons — including heavy arms, anti-aircraft guns and artillery tanks — could spread across the country or over its borders.
The government estimates that there are about 200,000 former rebels that need to be disarmed, and hopes that some 50,000 will be integrated into the army or police.
Others could be eligible for government financial aid, either to start a small business or complete their education.
“We want security,” said Salem Attig, a former member of Kadhafi’s military who became a commander in the Khoms brigade and was standing outside the centre with some 20 young fighters in Ain Zara.
He told AFP his brigade had already surrendered its weapons to the authorities.
The registration process requires each recruit to declare if he possesses a gun and give a commitment to hand it over.
Hussein Nkibi, an engineering student, notes that he had not seen anyone admitting to having weapons as they signed up before him on Thursday.
Nkibi said the ex-rebels “do not want to let them go.”
“Kadhafi is dead. What do they want to do with them now?,” says the young man, adding that he was not a rebel and was signing up because he was “looking for a job.”
General Abdelmonem al-Tunsi, the interior ministry spokesman, said when it comes to final recruitment, priority will be given to former rebels who fought on the front lines or protected homes and vital installations.
He said integrating and training these fighters also provides an opportunity to overhaul the nation’s police force.
Tunsi said during Kadhafi’s regime the police were “marginalised … and were loyal to the regime, not the state.”
“In the new Libya, we want police that are cultured and know how to deal with citizens and respects human rights.”
Under the current plan, some of the recruits will be trained abroad to join either the administration services or the police.
The idea is to distribute them to various jobs in accordance with their skills and education.
Jordan will train 10,000 ex-rebels, but only 270 of these fighters have signed up so far, said Tunsi, who criticised the media for inadequately publicising the recruitment campaign.
The details of the plan are still confusing.
Recruits can turn down a job with the interior ministry after completing their training.
Tunsi said the idea is to give the former rebels “a change of air … take them out of their revolutionary mentality.”
“Of course it would be a waste of time and money” if they decided against joining the ministry, he said.