(Reuters) – Libya’s parliament on Wednesday voted to disband the country’s militia brigades and called on the United Nations to protect civilians in an effort to end the worst fighting between armed factions since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
Lawmakers appeared to be seeking to strip the groups of former rebel fighters of the legitimacy they say they were given by the previous parliament and government ministries, and loosen their grip over Libya’s fragile democracy.
But with Libya’s army still in formation, it was unclear how the new Congress would enforce its decision. Composed of ex-rebels who once fought Gaddafi, the brigades are heavily armed and allied with powerful political factions.
U.S., U.N. and European officials hope the new parliament can forge dialogue among the warring factions. But there is little appetite among Western governments for on-the-ground intervention beyond encouraging the sides to talk.
For more than a month, two rival brigades have battled with rockets and artillery, turning southern Tripoli in a battlefield and forcing the United Nations and Western governments to close their embassies and evacuate diplomats.
One lawmaker said parliament’s decision would include the Libya Shield brigades tied to Misrata city and their rivals, the Qaaqaa and al-Sawaiq brigades, allied with Zintan city, who have been fighting over Tripoli airport for a month.
“The decision will dissolve all armed brigades, including all the Shields and Qaqaa and Sawaiq,” the lawmaker told Reuters.