Translation of the French text of Libyan Turmoil 19, by Bernard Lugan.
Many thanks to an English reader of my blog. He stays anonymous but I owe him one.
Who really knows the history of Libya? Well, in the midst of mass media and statements by pretend specialists and the great strategy of BHL, here is a structured reflection, with conviction, of what the true reality is of the history of Mouammar.
Is the Libyan crisis democratic or a clash of tribal alliances? (opinion of Bernard Lugan).
No one will regret the dictator responsible for many attacks, crimes and destabilisation of entire regions of Africa. That apart, let us leave the emotions to the superficial amateurs and the partisan journalists so as to only focus on the reality;
The end of Gaddafi risks having consequences of a magnitude that we are far from comprehending, and is really less of a democratic popular aspiration but rather the clash of tribal alchemy on which his power was based.
The difference between Tunisia and Egypt is that Libya‘s land is 90 percent desert. It is not a state but a conglomeration of more than 150 tribes divided in sub tribes and clans. These groups have traditional alliances based on the regions that make up the country, La Tripolitain with the capital in Tripoli and looking towards Tunis, the Cyrenaica whose capital is Benghazi and leans towards Cairo and Le Fezzan ( a desert region of Libya) whose main city is Sebba which descends toward the basin of Tchad and the Niger .
From the independence of Libya in 1951 until a coup d’etat which brought Gaddafi to power in 1969 Libya was a monarchy directed by the tribes of the Cyrenica. Gaddafi was a member of a small Bedouin camel caravanserai tribe, he was brought to power by a multi tribal military junta in which were dominant the two principal tribes of Libya, the Warfallah of Cyrenaica and the Meghara of the Tripolitain. Most of the Cyrenica tribes remained attached to the monarchy, Gaddafi succeeded in the coup and married the daughter of the clan of Firkeche, a member of that royal tribe of Barasa, which now supports the uprising of the Cyrenica rebellion.
Today the system of alliance with the Cyrenica is breached/ broken. This date of the deterioration of the tribal system under Gaddafi is 1993 when an attempted coup d’etat by the Warfallah ended in bloodshed. The perpetrators were killed in a reign of terror by the regime but the tribes were waiting for an opportunity to revolt and this presented itself during February 2011. They therefore took up the flag of the old monarchy. Gaddafi had certainly lost the Cyrenica like the Turks and Italians before him, but loyal to him were the Tripolitain and the Fezzan. In these two regions the regime had created subtle tribal alliances. At the time of writing, 27 feb 2011, certain tribes have left the Gaddafi camp, but the large tribes remain loyal, even if they are thinking on it.
Short term the main danger for Gaddafi is not the Cyrenica, separated 1000km by desert from Tripoli; it is not the Libyan army nor even the volunteers/rebels who parade the streets of Benghazi and Tobruk. All hangs on the choice which the heads of the warrior tribes of the Meghara, which dominate the Tripolitain area, make. Long time allied to those of Gaddafi, the Khadija, one of their members was the number two of the regime, Commandant Abdeslam Jalloud before his disgrace in 1993 when he was suspected of collaborating with the Warfallah putsch. If the Meghara remain loyal or at least neutral, Gaddafi will retain his power for some time on part of the country. If not he will be in difficulty and can only rely on his one tribe which numbers 150,000. If the Meghara abandon Gaddafi it means they intend to come to power and Libya will be cut in two, Tripolitain and Cyrenaica will find themselves dominated by tribal alliances made up of the Warfallah and Meghara. The question will then be on the survival of Libyan as a state.
Will these two opposing parties fight each other or will they divide the power in a federal or confederal way.? We ignore this but the danger that may appear is a situation of tribal clans and wars as in Somalia. This could be followed by the destabilisation of many regions, which would open a welcome space for Al Quaida of the Maghreb Islamique, who will prosper in the midst of chaos and also in the south of the country problems with Tchad and Touaregs from Mali and Niger.; notwithstanding the petroleum consequences .
Author- Bernard Lugan born in Morocco, is a French historian specialising in Africa.
He teaches at the University of Lyon.