AFP
Last updated: 31 March, 2012

8,000 Libyans enlist to protect borders and oil

The Libyan ministry of defence on Saturday enlisted more than 8,000 former rebels who will be trained in the protection of borders and strategic sites including the nation’s vital oil installations.

“The 8,000 who joined are from all over Libya,” said the deputy defence minister, Sadiq al-Obeidi, at the signing of an agreement to bring former rebels under his ministry’s authority and provide them with specialised training.

The agreement stipulates the training of 8,055 former fighters who will be deployed to protect the North African Nation’s vast borders and strategic sites.

“Many of them are residents from regions near the oil fields and many of them have already been protecting oil installations in the past few months,” Obeidi said, adding that training would take six weeks.

The programme is part of broader efforts to bring former rebels who fought Moamer Kadhafi’s forces last year in the fold of state authorities, or nudge them back to civilian life through business loans and educational opportunities.

“State institutions cannot be strengthened without the integration of revolutionaries,” said Mustafa al-Saqizli, chairman of the board for veteran affairs, adding that 200,000 rebels have registered with his body.

The interior and defence ministries have taken charge of approximately 25,000 former rebels each. Of the 200,000 registered war veterans, at least 30 percent want to join the private sector, Saqizli said.

The initiative comes amid concerns over the interim government’s capacity to exert its authority across Libya, with tribal clashes claiming dozens of lives in the south this week and a loud faction clamouring for autonomy in the east.