By Mick Krever, CNN
A 32-year-old Libyan militia leader, sitting since July on billions of dollars of oil in the eastern part of the country, was defiant in an exclusive interview Tuesday with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
“This government has allowed Libya to become one of the most corrupted five states in the world,” Ibrahim Jadran said through an interpreter. “The government is not able to defend itself.”
Perhaps no single person better illustrates the post-war woes of Libya than Jadran.
In 2012, he was entrusted by the government to guard Libya's crucial eastern oil ports.
But last July he went rogue, seizing the ports – blocking oil exports – and demanding more autonomy and shared revenues for his eastern region, which he calls by its ancient Roman name, Cyrenaica.
“We used to be part of that government until the corruption became so visible, and the government started to sell oil without measuring units, and after we became certain that such a government is not credible and unable to rebuild the state. That’s why we declared independence of our province and we started to seek our fair rights.”
The government calls him an outlaw, says he has cost them billions of dollars in lost revenues, and has issued warrants for his arrest.
“We gave them three years to rebuild the institutions, but they were not able to do that or to secure the average citizen,” Jadran said. “This is a government whose prime minister was kidnapped. How could it secure or start the offensive of anything? This is a government of corruption and a government that's accused of all types of corruption.”
Jadran’s exact goals are a bit murky. He wants to return Libya to the federalist system it had in the mid-20th century, when the country was divided into three regions.
“The real solution here is fair distribution of wealth and fair distribution of decision making; to activate the federalism – the real federal system…and to build a government which takes care of the rebuilding of army and the building of police and the financial aspects.”
Jadran claims an astounding 23,000 militiamen – which is a huge number for a country Libya’s size, say the government and independent analysts.
“This number is true,” he said. “We have navy troops; we have army.”
Jadran is standing opposed not only to the government, but also Islamists, over which much concern has been expressed by the international community.
“We will not allow those groups to take safe haven in Libya and allow Libya to become another Iraq, another Syria or Afghanistan,” he said. “We are aspiring to a State of institutions and law and order.”
Thus far, Jadran has been unable to sell the oil he controls on the open market. Analysts say that he would be hard pressed to find a major oil corporation that would deal with him, given the pronounced legal questions surrounding him.
The Libyan Justice Minister, Salah Bashir Margani, told CNN that Jadran has made two unsuccessful attempts to export oil.
Jadran claimed that he is “about to start exporting oil,” and he will use those revenues to pay his soldiers – who by his own admission have not been paid for five months.
He would not disclose what, if any, international buyers he has lined up.
He was equally murky about where he gets his funding.
“Until now, we don't have any finance coming except from businessmen who believe in our cause,” he said.
“We are determined to export oil in order to secure finance for the military, the police and the administration – particularly the troops that protect the oil facilities. We will do that in the near future.”
UPDATE: This post was updated to reflect the fact that Jadran was speaking through an interpreter.