Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Libya: Government fails to control escalating tribal and ethnic violence

Libya has run into a storm of tribal and ethnic violence, and the government and National Transitional Council (NTC) appears to have little or no control over the deteriorating situation. Historically, conflicts in Libya have tended to revolve around the main tribes in the Sirte region confronting one another for supremacy over large parts of the country. Over time, this pattern has only changed very slightly but, in recent years during which the central tribes have developed signs of extreme confrontation, the traditional rivalries between the major northern groups have become more acute under conditions of revolution and the demands for political change.

At the same time the conflict has accelerated between local tribal groups in the south - particularly between the Tebu and other tribes who originally came from the Aouzou Strip region and further across the border in Chad - and sections of the Berber population with whom there were traditional alliances. During last year's fighting problems between the revolutionaries and the Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi loyalists led to the southern tribes changing sides, from having supported the Leader to prosecuting a war of supremacy with their rivals in the border areas.

The underlying forces behind the dispute in the south are not complicated and mainly involved an attempt by the Tebu and other incoming tribes to oust their former hosts from border settlements and abandoned townships.

The locally-based Arab and Berber groups regarded themselves as the traditional owners of both land and water in these areas but found themselves confronted by the new claimants, drawn from the various alliance groups who supported Qadhafi during the February 2011 uprising, against their normal alignment with the southern tribes.

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

© 2012 Menas Associates

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