Libya: Print The Legend


April 23, 2012: Tribal fighting in the southeast continues, with about a hundred casualties in the last week. The troops sent by the government are seen as partisan because they are from the north (and thus Arab).  Things had been quiet down there for over a month, but so far this year the violence has left over a hundred dead. This is one of the many expected tribal wars and is taking place near the borders of Egypt, Chad, and Sudan. There, the dark skinned Toubu tribe, which was persecuted under Kaddafi, is under attack by the larger and lighter skinned Zwai. The Toubu accuse the NTC (National Transitional Council) government of backing the Zwai. Like many tribes in Africa the Toubu have branches in Niger and Chad. There has long been racial and ethnic conflict along the southern border of the Sahara Desert (the Sahel region), where light skinned Arabs, Tuaregs, and Berbers bump into darker skinned Africans. Kaddafi put down a tribal uprising in 2009 with great violence (including helicopter gunships). Kaddafi never tried to eliminate tribal loyalties but exploited them to divide any potential opposition and keep himself in power. Thus tribal loyalties and tribal leadership remains strong in Libya. This makes it difficult to make a democracy or honest government work.

In the northwest Arab and Berber militias have clashed. The Berbers have long resented the coastal Arabs (who conquered Berber controlled North Africa over a thousand years ago). On the Tunisian and Egyptian borders the government tried to hire militias to carry out border guard duties. This has not worked out too well. The militia leaders tend to be corrupt, take bribes from people crossing the border, and tell the government they have more men on duty than they actually have. The militia leaders pocket the cash for the phantom gunmen. This is an ancient scam and the government warned the militia leaders to play it straight. But Libya has always been corrupt, with honesty only likely when dealing with fellow tribesmen. This is causing problems for any program that is meant to help most Libyans. A recent program to pay compensation to those who fought Kaddafi ran into lots of corrupt local leaders who claimed more eligible veterans than were actually there. It got so bad that the government has suspended the program.

There's much media coverage of looted (from army bases) Libyan weapons showing up elsewhere (Egypt, Gaza, Nigeria, Mali, Somalia) but little hard evidence. As the old saying goes, given a choice between fact and legend editors tend to print the legend. There are some weapons being smuggled out of Libya but hardly a flood.

Libya will sort itself out, as it and similar countries have in the past. There is already a coalition of coastal and interior tribes and clans that control the oil. This is the source of ultimate power, and the oil money will be used to buy as much loyalty as is needed. Oil production is about 75 percent of pre-rebellion levels. There might still be a civil war but for now most Libyans want some money and much less violence and mayhem.

April 20, 2012: In the southeast tribal fighting flared up again, leaving two dead and fifteen wounded.

Outside Tripoli the government finally persuaded the Zintan militia to leave the main airport. The government has been trying to take control of the airport for months. The Zintan militia has held the airport for eight months, often demanding bribes for access and causing all sorts of trouble.

April 16, 2012: Near the Tunisian border Libyan militiamen kidnapped nearly a hundred Tunisians in order to force the Tunisian government to release four Libyans arrested for crimes in Tunisia. The Libyan government later persuaded the Libyan militia to release the Tunisians.

Algeria has agreed to restrict the political activities of Kaddafi family members (the wife, daughter, and two sons of Moamar Kaddafi who fled to Algeria last year). The Algerian government was pro-Kaddafi during the rebellion but most Algerians backed the Libyan rebels. The Libyans want the Kaddafi kin returned to Libya for prosecution, but Algeria has refused and offered to prevent the Kaddafi kin from trying to interfere with Libyan politics.  

April 12, 2012: Iraq has agreed to provide experts and equipment to help destroy Libyan chemical weapons. Moamar Kaddafi stockpiled nerve, mustard, and several other types of poisons over the decades. Some of these chemicals are so old that they are dangerous to handle.

April 10, 2012: Near Benghazi someone threw a grenade at a UN convoy, but there were no injuries.





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