"It is important to understand a basic problem," wrote Umar Khan in the English-language Libya Herald newspaper. "The government blames the militias for still clinging to their weapons whilst the militias accuse Congress and the government of allowing former regime figures to get back into power."
This mutual suspicion complicated Zeidan's efforts to tackle Libya's two problems: Militia violence and a moribund economy.
Libya's violence has different dynamics in each of its two main provinces. In western Tripolitania, where most people live, the guns never properly fell silent. The divisions of war continued on into the time of peace, with score settling between those militias and tribes who backed the rebellion, and those who opposed it. Last November the former rebels of Misrata, the most powerful army in Libya, launched a full-scale offensive, backed by the government, to smash former-Qaddafi elements clustered in the desert town of Bani Walid. Elsewhere in the province, it is smuggling rather than politics that causes the violence. Militia gangs battle for the trade in petrol and weapons heading out of the country and immigrants and drugs heading into it.
Cyrenaica, in the east, has violence from a different source, in the shape of Islamist militias. Benghazi, its capital, was the cradle of the revolution, with the whole province joining the rebels within 100 hours. Among the rebels that swept to power two years ago were Islamists who had been suppressed by Qaddafi. They played an important part in the revolutionary war, and since then have battled government forces intermittently to keep their own vision of an Islamic state alive. Islamists don't merely an Islamic state -- Libya is already almost 100 percent Sunni Muslim -- but one where imams, rather than a secular parliament, hold sway. For many of them, those best qualified to steer the country along the right path are the most learned -- the Islamic scholars and imams. Relying on the less schooled population to choose their leaders through elections seems to some Islamists rather like the sheep leading the shepherd.
The most obvious weapon to get the militias off the streets was to offer them jobs, but Zeidan faced a herculean task in sorting out the chaos left by Qaddafi.
Qaddafi came to power in a coup in 1969, displacing King Idris -- who oversaw Libya's independence, and came to see Libya almost as his own personal fiefdom. Libyans will often tell you that the dictator commanded his sons, "What is below the ground (oil and gas) is mine, what is above it is yours." True, or apocryphal, that dictum was the reality for more than four decades. While Qaddafi kept control of the oil and gas earnings, his seven sons were given carte blanche to carve out their own business empires. One son had a monopoly on mobile phones, a second on cement production, while a third, Hannibal, commissioned a massive 4,000-bed super liner that was never completed. Each of them collected a group of like-minded businessmen, thugs, and party hacks who enriched themselves in the process. Nowhere in this process was there room for the normal structures of commerce, law, regulation, or the free market.
An insight into the bizarre nature of Qaddafi's Libya came with the WikiLeaks publication of U.S. embassy cables detailing the tussle for the Tripoli franchise of British clothing store Marks and Spencer. In 2008 the franchise was bought by Husni Bey, one of Libya's most prominent tycoons. The cable recorded Bey's rivals complaining to Qaddafi that the store had "Zionist" ownership back in Britain, and should be shut down. Qaddafi's figurehead Prime Minister Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi then ordered it closed, according to the cable, unless Bey agreed that Mahmoudi's allies got a slice of the business. In the end, it stayed open after British diplomats assured the Libyan government that there was no "Zionist" ownership of the store.