“Without a cabinet in place prepared to assume sovereign authority over security, finance, and strategic development, the only outcome can be continued drift,” says John Hamilton, a contributing editor at African Energy magazine in Britain.
To be sure, Libya’s oil industry, increasing stability, and a strong public stand against violence hold out promise for the country’s future and its ability to improve the economy and build democratic institutions.
But the interim cabinet, appointed by revolutionary leaders after Muammar Qaddafi's regime was brought down last year, has struggled to assert its authority. Leaders rely largely on local militias to keep order.
While many militias have officially aligned with the government, their shortcomings are plain. One example was Libyan forces’ failure to secure the United States consulate in Benghazi against an attack last month that led to the deaths of US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three colleagues.
Currently, militias from the city of Misurata are threatening assault on the town of Bani Walid to avenge Omran Shaban, a Misuratan fighter who died last month from injuries his family says occurred during weeks of captivity there.
But most Libyans reject potentially violent or divisive ideologies. In July congressional elections, first place went to a party that campaigned on a platform of big-tent inclusivity. On Sept. 21, a large anti-violence march in Benghazi prompted a hard-line Islamist militia blamed for the consulate attack to withdraw peacefully from its compound and city streets.