see, it’s not just me! from reuters:
“Libya’s tribal politics key to Gaddafi’s fate”
February 22, 2011
By Peter Apps, Political Risk Correspondent
“LONDON, Feb 22 (Reuters) – Powerful military elites ultimately decided the outcome of Egypt and Tunisia’s revolutions, but in Libya it is the much more opaque and complex tribal power structures that could decide how events play out….
“More important are the larger tribes who had been co-opted into his rule such as the Warfalla, who make up an estimated 1 million of Libyan’s more than 6 million population. Some rumours suggest the ferocity of Gaddafi’s crackdown on his own people may already be prompting tribal leaders to switch allegiance.
“This week leading members of the Warfalla issued statements rejecting Gaddafi and urging him to leave Libya.
“‘In Libya, it will be the tribal system that will hold the balance of power rather than the military,’ said Alia Brahimi, head of the North Africa programme at the London School of Economics….
“‘[P]ower is largely vested in a series of paramilitary formations, bolstered by groups of foreign African mercenaries, that have largely remained loyal to the Gaddafi family,’ he [Noman Benotman] wrote in a paper for Britain’s Quilliam thinktank….
“The presence of African mercenaries was the result of years of relationship building by Gaddafi in Africa, he said….
“Parts of the military had long appeared reluctant to use excessive force against their own people, she [Alia Brahimi] said. Popular rumour held that Gaddafi was forced to rely on Serbian mercenary pilots to bomb civilian areas during offensives against Islamist militancy in the 1990s….”
oops! there’s those serbians again. they’d BETTER get out of the country!
“Some say Gaddafi’s tribal strategy has effectively amounted to a system of divide and rule, buying off particularly established tribal leaders from key groups. In recent years, they say, control has been faltering and recent events may accelerate this.
“‘Gaddafi made sure to keep the people aware of their tribal divisions, winning the alliance of larger ones and hence keeping the population under control,’ wrote Jerusalem-based journalist Lisa Goldman after a Skype conversation with a Libyan contact she said was well placed to talk on some military matters.
“”Although the larger ones like the Warfallis and the Megrahees were privileged with power and money, his recent actions angered these tribes and for the first time in decades tribal barriers have withered away. People are uniting with other formerly rival tribes or even different ethnicities like the Amazeegh or Berbers.’
“If Gaddafi can persuade other tribes to stay loyal to him, most experts believe he will probably try to arm them directly, raising the risks of ethnic conflict that could tear the country apart, send refugees pouring into its neighbours and jeopardise oil supplies….
“‘We could see something more along the lines of Lebanon’s civil war — a prolonged period of violence and bloodshed.'”
“rivers of blood.”
and this is from the arab paper, asharq al-awsat — and if anybody should know about the importance of tribes, it’s the arabs!:
“Libyan Tribal Map: Network of loyalties that will determine Gaddafi’s fate”
By Abdulsattar Hatitah
“Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Libyan tribes played an important role in the country’s fight against Ottoman, and later Italian, colonialism, with many Libyan tribal members sacrificing their lives in this war. It is believed that there are currently around 140 different tribes and clans in Libya, many of which have influences and members outside of the country, from Tunisia to Egypt to Chad. However Dr. Faraj Abdulaziz Najam, a Libyan specialist in Social Sciences and History, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Libyan tribes and clans that have genuine and demonstrable influence on the country number no more than 30 [tribes and family clans].
“In a country that has lived under the brutal dictatorship of one man for more than forty years, namely Colonel Muammar Gaddafi –of the Gaddafi tribe – the majority of Libyans depend on their tribal connection in order to obtain their rights, and for protection, and even in order to find a job, particularly in the state apparatus. In a study conducted by Dr. Amal al-Obeidi at the University of Garyounis in Benghazi, it was revealed that the two largest and most influential Arab tribes in Libya originated from the Arab Peninsula, and these are the Beni Salim tribe that settled in Cyrenaica, the eastern coastal region of Libya, and the Beni Hilal that settled in western Libya around Tripoli. However other Libyan researchers and expert also revealed that around 15 percent of the Libyan population have no tribal affiliation whatsoever, being descendents of the Berber, Turkish, and other communities.
“The degree of political allegiance to the ruling regime in Tripoli varies from one tribe to the next, particularly over the forty years that Gaddafi has been in power. The tribe which has the strongest, and longest, ties to the Gaddafi region is the Magariha tribe, who which has yet to announce their position on the bloody demonstrations that have been taking place across the country for the past week. Former Libyan Prime Minister Abdessalam Jalloud, widely regarded as Gaddafi’s right-hand man for much of his reign, is a member of the Magariha tribe. Gaddafi’s own tribe, the Gaddafi tribe, had historically not been an important tribe in Libya prior to Colonel Gaddafi’s ascent to power, and the Gaddafi tribe was not known for playing a major role in Libya’s right against colonialism over the last 200 years….”
there’s a lot more dizzying detail on the libyan tribes in that article if you’re interested. LOTS more detail. but i’ll spare you those details.
ok. just a little bit more, maybe:
“Experts say that the Magariha tribe is in the best position to carry out a coup against the Libyan leader, as many members of this tribe are in sensitive and senior positions of the Libyan government and security services. Whilst the Zawiya tribe is also in a strong position, and has threatened to stop the flow of oil into western Libya unless the authorities stop their deadly crackdown against the Libyan protestors.
“Tribal influence in Libya is extremely important, particularly since the 1970s, with tribal affiliation being important with regards to obtaining employment in Libya’s General People’s Committees, as well as in the country’s security apparatus.
“The largest and most influential tribe in eastern Libya is the Misurata tribe, which takes its name from the Misurata district in northwestern Libya. The tribe has particularly strong influence in the cities of Benghazi and Darneh.”
benghazi is where the recent protests in libya started.
and, finally, from france24:
“Tribes’ support ‘legitimises’ uprising”
“In Libya, several tribal chiefs have lent support to the anti-government movement. France24.com spoke to Hasni Abidi, director of the Study and Research Centre for the Arab and Mediterranean World in Geneva, about the role of tribes in the events….
“FRANCE 24: What role to tribal chiefs play in Libya?”
“Hasni Abidi: There are several dozen tribes, subdivided into little sub-tribes, which exist all over Libya and are very active. Libya is one of the most tribal nations of the Arab world. And historically, the tribes played a very important role: they were, notably, the motor behind the struggle against Italian colonisation.
“Officially, according to the Green Book [the text written by Gaddafi in 1975 that sets out his political philosophy], tribal chiefs have no political influence. On the other hand, they are essential in maintaining the social cohesiveness and stability of the country.
“F24: What relationship do tribal chiefs have with Muammar Gaddafi?
“Hasni Abidi: After his coup d’état against King Idris in 1969, Gaddafi wanted to reshape Libya into a nation-state modelled on the Western example. That effort entailed a full-blown attack on tribal chiefs. He took away all their political power, but did not succeed in stripping them of their strength and influence.
“We see the result today: Gaddafi is reaping what he sowed forty years ago.
“F24: Do the tribal chiefs have any influence in the current revolt in Libya? If so, what is it?
“Hasni Abidi: The uprisings in Libya are popular, not tribal. But just like the army, tribal chiefs can have a crucial impact in this movement, even to the point of toppling the regime. They legitimise the anti-government movement and if they join it, they can considerably expand the movement’s reach. The tribal chiefs represent a sort of moral and social support, and a refuge, given the total absence of Libyan political institutions. The main Libyan tribe, Warfallah, counts nearly one million people and was the first tribe to support the current anti-government movement. It’s a very bad sign for Gaddafi’s regime. And the regime knows that.”
if you haven’t had enough of libyan’s tribes by now, here’s more: Libya – Tribes
update: you know it’s not good when your own family doesn’t support you anymore —
“Clampdown in Libyan capital as protests close in”
“Two air force pilots jumped from parachutes from their Russian-made Sukhoi fighter jet and let it crash, rather than carry out orders to bomb opposition-held Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, the website Quryna reported, citing an unidentified officer in the air force control room.
“One of the pilots — identified by the report as Ali Omar Gadhafi — was from Gadhafi’s tribe, the Gadhadhfa, said Farag al-Maghrabi, a local resident who saw the pilots and the wreckage of the jet, which crashed in a deserted area outside the key oil port of Breqa….”
another update: see also Qaddafi survival means weak army, co-opted tribes
previously: serbians being evacuated from libya!, libya – land o’ tribes and cousin marriage conundrum addendum.
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