libya – land o’ tribes

so, libya’s got a handful of ethnic groups

“Native Libyans are primarily Berbers, Arabized Berbers and Turks, ethnic ‘pure’ Arabs (mainly tribal desert Arabs ‘Bedouins’), and Tuareg. Small Hausa, and Tebu tribal groups in southern Libya are nomadic or seminomadic.”

(here’s a nice map outlining from whence they hail.)

plus there’s a whole bunch o’ immigrants (some legal, a LOT illegal) from egypt and tunisia and sub-saharan african countries…

“Among foreign residents, the largest groups are citizens of other African nations, including North Africans (primarily Egyptians), and Sub-Saharan Africans. Libya is home to a large illegal population which numbers more than one million, mostly Egyptians and Sub-Saharan Africans.”

simply having all these various ethnic groups in one country would make things really interesting on the political scene (with all those conflicting ethnic genetic interests); but THEN, libya is full o’ tribes, too! tribes, tribes, and more TRIBES! all of the berbers and arabs and arabized berbers are divided into who knows how many tribes and clans and familial-what-nots (i dunno — i couldn’t find a comprehensive list online).

97% of the population is muslim, and 90-95% of them are sunni muslims. so there’s not really any obvious ethnic/tribal divides along religious lines like there is in bahrain.

nope. what there is is TRIBES.

tribes seem to be a complete mystery to (most) contemporary cultural anthropologists, prolly ’cause most of them don’t do science.

however, mr. snappy dresser himself knows what tribes are (pg. 299). in fact, he sounds like he’s been reading a lot of steve sailer!:

“A tribe is a family which has grown as a result of procreation. It follows that a tribe is a big family….” unfortunately “…tribalism damages nationalism because tribal allegiance weakens national loyalty and flourishes at its expense…. It is damaging to the political structure if it is subjected to the family, tribal, or sectarian social structure and adopts its characteristics.

so, he’s not quite as dumb as he looks, eh? not quite.

muammar al gaddafi is a member of the — you guessed it — al gaddafi tribe. i’ve seen the gaddafi tribe described as a both a berber tribe and an arabized berber tribe, so i’m not sure how berber and|or arab m. gaddafi himself is. in his early years he was a big follower of nasser and pan-arabism, so i’m guessing he’s quite arab, but you never know. maybe he was just keen on allying himself with powerful folks in the arab world. (apparently, there are one million members of the al gaddafi tribe in egypt. don’t know if that makes the gaddafis arab tribes or arabized berber tribes or what. -??- i wonder how many of the illegal egyptian immigrants in libya are gaddafis?)

anyway. at the beginning of his glorious revolution, gadaffi apparently tried to get rid of the tribes and tribal sentiments in libya. at the very least, he tried to minimize their power (while appointing members of his own tribe to important positions, of course.) this didn’t work out. the tribes didn’t just miraculously go away just ’cause he instituted a new -ism in libya. (what he should’ve done, of course, if he truly wanted to break the tribes, was to force everyone in libya to marry out of their tribe. ah, well. looks like it’s too late now!)

when that tactic didn’t pan out, gaddafi, in the ’80s, began to (try to) work with the tribes:

“Al-Qadhafi said political parties – whether they are Arab nationalists, communists or religious parties – had failed in liberating, developing or in uniting Arabs. He argued that only tribes can realize such a dream because they are united by high ideals and traditions: ‘We have gone back to tribes because other forces have failed. Where is the Ba’th Party, where are the Arab nationalists, where are other nationalist parties, where are the communist and religious parties? They are all dispersed and they did nothing. They have failed to unite or liberate the nation. Now the modern party is the tribe, and tomorrow’s army is the tribe.'”

apparently, gaddafi was a master at pitting the tribes against one another. up until now.

so, the state of libya now is as it ever was — full of inbred tribes that are all looking out for themselves (not that there’s anything wrong with that! — but democracy ain’t gonna work well in such a place):

“Tribalism remains a key determinant in political allegiances in Libya. Neither oil wealth and modernizing influences nor Qadhafi’s revolution have altered the web of kinship-based loyalties that has characterized Libya’s domestic political scene for centuries. Libya’s tribes are arranged in a pyramidal lineage scheme of subtribal, clan, and family elements.” [source]

from 2002:

“The rivalries among the tribes of Libya extend to an era well before the formation of the modern Libyan state. Such rivalries are most pronounced in the armed forces. Each of the main tribes is represented in the military establishment and the various popular and revolutionary committees. For instance, Qadhafi’s Qadhadfa tribe has an ongoing rivalry with the Magariha tribe of Abdel Sallam Jalloud, the man who was second-in-command in the country for decades until he fell out of favour….

“The Warfalla tribe, which turned against Qadhafi during the coup attempt in 1993, is numerous and is closest to Jalloud’s Magariha tribe. The Al Zintan tribe backed the Warfalla as well. The coup attempt was spearheaded by Warfalla officers in the Bani Walid region, 120 km south-east of Tripoli. The main reason for the coup attempt was that, despite its size, this tribe was poorly represented in the regime and only occupied second-echelon posts in the officers’ corps.

Moreover, Warfalla tribal officers have been excluded from the air force. The air force is reserved almost exclusively to the Qadhadfa tribe, to which Qadhafi belongs. [and now the air force is bombing the protestors. what a surprise!] It was the air force which crushed the coup attempt in October 1993. Jalloud’s Magariha tribe comes next to the Warfalla in terms of numerical strength and is bigger than the Qadhadfa….

If Jalloud’s Magariha, the Warfalla and Islamic militant groups unite against Qadhafi in an all-out confrontation involving the military, they could take over power. But that would soon be followed by challenges from other tribes. Ultimately, if Qadhafi is overthrown, these tribes could fight each other and Libya could be split into several regions.”

confused? i am.

gaddafis. magarihas. warfallas. al zintans. that’s a lot of players to keep track of! right now, the warfallas and another tribe called the al zuwayyas are siding with the protestors. (the al zuwayyas are the ones who threatened to stop the oil exports.)

from the nyt:

“Libyans tend to identify themselves as members of tribes or clans rather than citizens of a country, and Colonel Qaddafi has governed in part through the mediation of a ‘social leadership committee’ composed of about 15 representatives of various tribes, said Diederik Vandewalle, a Dartmouth professor who has studied the country.

“What’s more, Mr. Vandewalle noted, most of the tribal representatives on the committee are also military officers, who each represent a tribal group within the military. So, unlike the Tunisian or Egyptian militaries, the Libyan military lacks the cohesion or professionalism that might enable it to step in to resolve the conflict with the protesters or to stabilize the country.

terrific.

gaddafi needs (needed?) to go ’cause he’s a psychopathic lunatic that has driven his country into the ground with his bizarro political strategies. but, just as in egypt and bahrain, democracy clearly AIN’T gonna make things much better.

__________

note: no idea what the consanguinity rate for libyans is because of the completely f*cked up health-care system in libya (most of the cousin-marriage research done in the arab world is connected to medical research ’cause of all the genetic diseases|conditions). there is one report which states in the abstract that there is a “high frequency of consanguineous marriages in Libya.” the rate is not in the abstract and, unfortunately, i don’t have access to the journal.

it wouldn’t, i think, be unreasonable to suppose that the consanguinity rate in libya is not unlike its neighbors, egypt and tunisia, which are 38.9% (2000) and 26.9% (1980s) respectively. the moral of the story is: all of those tribes are inbred. and you know what that means.

see also: Libya crisis: what role do tribal loyalties play? and What’s Happening in Libya Explained

previously: baharnas and ajams and howalas, oh my!, cousin marriage conundrum addendum and aígyptos.

(note: comments do not require an email.)

14 Comments

  1. > If Jalloud’s Magariha, the Warfalla and Islamic militant groups unite against Qadhafi in an all-out confrontation involving the military, they could take over power. But that would soon be followed by challenges from other tribes.

    That’s probably a slight understatement. I imagine that one tribe in such a coalition might double-cross others even before the coalition’s work is complete – and they all know it. That’s part of why the coalition doesn’t swing into action so readily. That and very rough reprisals, perhaps, from Gadaffi in the event that they fail.

    The ’67 Arab-Israeli war was very HBD. Israel destroyed the Egyptian air force on the ground in a bold and somewhat risky raid – which pretty much sealed the course of the subsequent ground war (if it wasn’t sealed already). Part of the reason that the Israeli air force succeeded even better than hoped, was that Nasser had been flying that morning, and had therefore ordered all anti-aircraft units to stand down. He was afraid someone would do a Sadat on him — only with an anti-aircraft gun instead of small arms. Thus their anti-aircraft ammo was in the garages, away from the guns, or something like that — whatever procedures the stand-down involved, it was enough to prevent them from making a significant anti-aircraft response to the hostile planes.

    Aside from that aspect, it was in general clear that the Israeli strategy was devised by generals with +4 SDs of IQ, and the Egyptian-Arab strategy not so much. Not only were they far less effective, but they obviously had no very good idea, going in, just how much less capable they would be. However, six years later the Egyptians came back with a inspired and audacious complex strategy in the surprise assault with which they kicked off the ’73 war, and executed like clockwork. The whole nation recovered a good degree of self-respect, despite not exactly conquering Israel in the end; they at least did a far sight better than they had in ’67.

    Naturally Israel, due to its high-trust nature, would almost never have this sort of problem (of the chief feeling the need to order the anti-aircraft to stand down), but among Arabs or Egyptians such an difficulty is not terribly uncommon.

    If Gaddafi wanted to make a proper nation out of his nation — as in natus, natal — turn Libya into “one birth” — he need not even force people to intermarry . . . he could probably just pay incentives of some sort . . . assuming he’s willing to wait for a century or two for that process to bear fruit.

    Reply

  2. @rs – “If Gaddafi wanted to make a proper nation out of his nation — as in natus, natal — turn Libya into “one birth” — he need not even force people to intermarry . . . he could probably just pay incentives of some sort . . .”

    heh! good point. guess that was just my dictatorial side coming out. (~_^)

    Reply

  3. Be not embarrassed – soon Libya may need your iron arm of imperium!

    one Jay writes: Some countries don’t even have the capacity to be an Iranian-style theocracy. Libya is so poor and backwards it will probably end up being the next Somalia.

    Half-Sig writes: I think there’s a possibility that something like this will happen; Libya will break up into several smaller regional entities run by warlords, with no central government controlling the entire country. This bodes ill for the country’s future oil output.

    Anything would be better than warlordism – except of course for a deranged dictator who finally emerges at the end of generations of warlordism (Mao). Not that Mao was really worse than Stalin or Hitler – and probably, warlordism usually doesn’t end so badly. Still, your rule might be more temperate and beneficial. But needless to say, the sad truth is that it might be very difficult for any person to keep power while also holding fast to our sort of morality.

    Have you seen the terrible price that Deng paid for his activity, through the suffering of his son? Deng and the people who installed him are true heros – indescribably beneficial persons.

    Libya has a high mean income around 10,000 nominal US dollars – half of this is from oil. The distribution of wealth looks to be severely unequal, though an actual gini coefficient appears not to be available. In 2008 Gadaffi wanted to redistribute the oil wealth through a universal dividend – or at least, he said he wanted to. His fellow elites, naturally, were not enthused. Obviously he’s interested in bringing the masses to his side at risk of alienating all the elites, a la Julius Caesar. I checked google news for 2010, and didn’t find much about the ‘distribution of wealth’. I’m guessing this means that Gadaffi’s plan has not come to fruition so far – or, not very much. Such a plan may never have had much hope to begin with.

    It looks the the amount of chaos in Libya per capita is quite high, yet after a number of days, the number of protester-rebels killed is only in the low hundreds. Remind you of any recent situation… say, Egypt ten days ago? The analysis to make, I think, is that nominally pro-Gaddafi forces are unwilling to shoot many people for Gaddafi. As a result, we can safely conclude that Gaddafi is history. If not all that many Libyans had not all that much angry energy, then letting them burn it off would be a viable strategy. That’s not the case. The only question is how long he will wait before capitulating. I’d say three days.

    A final word on Mao, Stalin, and Hitler. The pick of that litter is unmistakably Stalin. At least he saved his nation from Hitler in addition to savaging it like a rabid chimp.

    Reply

  4. I don’t want to seem totally detached – and in fact I’m not. This is a sad, and moreover extremely risky situation in Libya-Egypt, and I’m glad I’m not in it. This is frequently a sad world, yet our job is to find happiness and greatness in it, and create more of the same – both among our own, and also worldwide. Securing our own, first of all – which is the prerequisite to helping to promote others.

    Reply

  5. This just in. The Lybian conflict is perceived, by a reliable blogger who would know, as featuring the groups ‘Krinakis’ vs ‘Tripolitanians’. Kaddafi belongs to the latter, and he displaced a ruler who belonged to the former.

    Perhaps these two groups are more or less synonymous with some of the groups mentioned in the post.

    Source: http://h2oreuse.blogspot.com/2011/02/is-there-any-politics-that-is-not.html

    I shall have to take exception to the source’s terming one of these groups ‘European’! Ihappen to be European and I say no, no, no.

    Reply

  6. “gaddafi needs (needed?) to go ’cause he’s a psychopathic lunatic that has driven his country into the ground with his bizarro political strategies. but, just as in egypt and bahrain, democracy clearly AIN’T gonna make things much better.”

    You are implying, intentionally or not, that Gadaffi should stay! Or that’s what it sounds like to me.

    The Gadaffi of the past was the radical, today’s is a neutral. The Big Media in the USA seems to be pretending 2011 is 1986 vis-a-vis Libya.

    On a more general note, these crazy revolutions are worrisome. As crass as it sounds, maybe Gadaffi has the right idea in simply putting them down by shooting the anarchists,

    Reply

  7. Nice post and nice blog!

    I had no idea about the political importance of tribes and the consanguinity rate before visiting your blog (just shows how ignorant I was, I guess…).

    Reply

  8. @hail – “You are implying, intentionally or not, that Gadaffi should stay! Or that’s what it sounds like to me.”

    no, gaddafi’s got to go ’cause he really has made a mess of the country.

    on the other hand, mubarak wasn’t the worst for his country. sure the economic situation there isn’t great, but it might NEVER be that great ’cause we’re talking about a nation of middle easterners who are prone to nepotism and corruption. i mean, the economy doesn’t work very well in greece even! how can anyone expect much better from egypt?

    all i’m saying is that a fully free democratic system isn’t going to work in libya or egypt ’cause there’s too many conflicting group genetic interests (inbred clans, tribes, ethnic groups, etc., etc.). maybe a lebanese model is more the way for them to go if they really insist on democracy.

    i guess what i am saying is that, because of human biodiversity, i don’t believe that democracy is the best for everyone. h*ll, it don’t even work great here!

    Reply

  9. @rs – “The Lybian conflict is perceived, by a reliable blogger who would know, as featuring the groups ‘Krinakis’ vs ‘Tripolitanians’. Kaddafi belongs to the latter, and he displaced a ruler who belonged to the former.”

    so, the israeli water engineer is suggesting that gaddafi might be jewish or part jewish.

    huh. well, i guess it is possible. there were quite a lot of jews in libya in the past.

    strange that he was such a pan-arabist in his youth, tho. and he, himself, hasn’t treated jews very well. if he is jewish/part-jewish, seems unlikely that he would’ve known about it. unless he’s just been a big faker all along. (~_^)

    overall, i’d say it’s an unlikely story.

    Reply

  10. The world media is not exactly helping out by raising expectations in their HBD-denialist way. They act as though democracy will unleash a decade of 6% economic growth in Egypt. As you say, that will never happen. The more Egyptians expect it to happen, the more likely the revolution is to go radical. They will be disappointed by the results and say, ‘well then, that didn’t work, so why not try something more radical?’

    Reply

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