Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Qadhafi tribe play-down influence

A member of Muammar Qadhafi's tribe, the Qadhadhfah, published two letters on a Libyan opposition website this month defending his tribe against all sorts of accusations. There is a strong perception both inside Libya and within the opposition abroad that the Qadhadhfah are, to all intents and purposes, in control of Libya.

The Qadhadhfah are an Arabised Berber tribe that traces its roots back to a well-known wali (saint), Sidi Qadhafaddam, who is buried in Al-Gharyan, south of Tripoli. They consider themselves to be murabitoun (saintly) and Ashraf (i.e., they claim descent from the lineage of the Prophet).

The tribe moved away from the Al-Gharyan area over two centuries ago. Some settled in the lush pastures of the Cyrenaican plateau but were driven out to the barren deserts around Sirte by an alliance of tribes from the Sa'adi confederation, led by the Bara'sa (the tribe that Qadhafi's wife, Farkash al-Haddad al-Bara'sa, comes from) and the Maghara.

The Qadhadhfah are a small and rather insignificant tribe by Libyan standards, hence the importance for Qadhafi of making strong alliances with other key tribes such as through marriage and by drawing his security personnel from tribes such as the Warfalla.

It is true that the Leader has consolidated the role of the Qadhadhfah in the ruling elite and appointed family members to key positions in his regime. However, this does not mean that he has supported all members of the Qadhadhfah tribe, or that they are all in positions of power.

As the author of the letter asserts,'We Qadhadhfah have a number of officers but they are old. They form just 2 per cent [of the regime].' Simply being part of the Qadhadhfah does not automatically entitle one to special privileges, and many of the Qadhadhfah young are unemployed and suffering just like everyone else.

The author of the letter asserted that the whole of the Qadhadhfah tribe cannot be held responsible for what is happening in the country and that the importance of the Qadhadhfah is diminishing because the Leader's children, who are now appointing officials themselves, have stronger relations with the Bara'sa, the tribe of their mother.

In addition, he claimed that Mohamed Qadhafi, the Leader's eldest son but who has a different mother from his half-brothers and is from Tripoli, insists on appointing his assistants and bodyguards exclusively from Tripoli rather than from Sirte, which is where Qadhafi's branch of the Qadhadhfah are from.

The author recounted how, despite having a masters degree in communications from the UK, he was rejected by Mohamed when he applied for a position in the Libyan Post and Telecommunications Company because 'I am Qadhadhfah.'

For more news and expert analysis about Libya please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

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