Cairo: Tribal clashes in western and southern Libya have left at least 15 people dead over the past 48 hours, the state news agency reported on Wednesday, as old grievances between Libyan tribes and cities resurface in the absence of strong leadership in post-revolution Libya.
The violence led the country`s transitional ruler, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, to appeal to Libyans in a televised speech to lay down their arms and unite before the country`s election next month, when Libyans choose a 200-member Assembly to form a government and oversee writing of a new Constitution.
The election is supposed to be a milestone on the path to democratic rule after the overthrow last year of Muammar Gaddafi`s dictatorship of four decades, but chaos and tribal conflicts have badly marred the transition.
"Everyone should stand united behind building a state of institutions, law and justice," Abdul-Jalil said late Tuesday, "to overcome this agony and reach our dream and the dream of all Libyans: free and fair elections which will be a real beginning in the history of Libya."
Abdul-Jalil`s appeal is seen as another example of weakness that has plagued the country`s leadership since it declared the liberation of Libya in October after toppling Gaddafi.
Since then, Abdul-Jalil has called upon armed militias that fought Gaddafi to integrate under a national Army and hand in their weapons, but little has been accomplished.
On Wednesday, dozens of Libyans held a protest in the eastern city of Benghazi expressing dismay at the security situation and demanding to dissolve the militia groups and integrate them into the Army, according to the Libyan news agency, LANA.
They raised banners reading, "Yes to security and safety, no to weapons and chaos," the agency said.
The country is awash with weapons seized by citizens-turned-fighters during the uprising from military barracks and compounds. Former rebels and militias frequently engage in armed clashes with rival tribes and armed groups.
In western city of Zintan, home of the rebels who were the first to sweep into the capital of Tripoli in August, dealing the decisive blow to Gaddafi`s regime, militiamen have been engaged in gunbattles with a rival tribe called el-Mashisha.
That tribe did not join the uprising, and Zintan rebels accuse them of maintaining loyalty to Gaddafi.
According to Nasser al-Manie, the government spokesman, 12 people were killed in the clashes and 89 wounded over the past two days.