Sunday, March 20, 2011


Libya Turmoil 20

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.


  1. Lugan wrote, Today the system of alliance with the Cyrenica is breached/ broken. What are the chances of repairing it? Apart from peace, what are the preconditions to be repaired?

  2. And if I may ask one more question, not strictly related to Lugan's commentary. Why are there so few Libyans educated as engineers, and even highly educated Libyans in general? In his Green Book, Gaddafi wrote:

    "Knowledge is a natural right of every human being of which no one has the right to deprive him or her under any pretext, except in a case where a person does something which deprives him or her of that right."

    It follows that Libya would do a lot promote learning. Cuba is a much poorer country, centralised, and under pressure, but has an educational system of excellent quality.

  3. Excellent education system? Produce a lot of excellent workers but not thinkers; experts in their fields yet totally oblivious to the world. That is what I feel about the education system of the world today.

  4. @ levantine

    The relation with Cyrenaica has never been "good".
    I did business with nephews of king Idriss. When I shook hands I had to count my fingers afterwards-))).
    The Libyans are Phoenicians mainly and trading, money earning is in their blood. Money solves all problems in Libya, even murder, through blood-money.
    Cyrenaica has started this "revolution"under false pretenses, they simply want the control of the oil, with cooperation from certain "Western" parties, though one of those "Western" parties sits in the East of Egypt and was represented by BHL.

    As far as education is concerned, this had now restarted since 5 years. Because of the embargo the Libyan students in foreign universities were not allowed to pay their foreign university bills anymore. Saif Gaddafi had jumpstarted the educational system again, 2 French television crews visited 2 different schools , junior high level, which they chose freely from the list of Tripoli schools, without any monders present, just their drivers.
    They came back shocked and admitted that the quality-level was equal or superior to the French system. The pupils and students spoke perfect English. I wrote about this in one of my earlier articles here on this blog.

  5. Thanks.

    "Produce a lot of excellent workers but not thinkers; experts in their fields yet totally oblivious to the world. That is what I feel about the education system of the world today. "

    I concur. The exceptions are few and far between.

  6. The bottom line is when demons smell oil, it becomes a curse to the soil under which it is found; truly, it's the devil's elixir! Embargoes, sanctions, warfare et al are all various vessels through which the devil and its demons get drunk on oil.