Berenice Stories

Short Stories by John Oakes

Posts Tagged ‘Ajadabia

LIBYA – THE ZAWIYA TRIBE. (A fifth in the Libyan Tribes series) UPDATED 14TH FEBRUARY 2013

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The Zawiya tribe wields considerable clout in modern Libya because of the vast size and strategic importance of its homeland in the old eastern province of Cyrenaica. From Ajadabia its members are spread out across vast interior regions around major oil deposits and water sources. They also command the trade, legal and illegal, that passes through the Kufra oasis archipelago and along the only tarmac road from thence to Jalo in the north.
Desert traders and nomadic pastoralists the Zawiya conquered Kufra in 1840 subduing the indigenous Tebu which, at some time in antiquity, maintained a notable presence there. The remnants of their dwellings and forts are still visible. Since that time the Zawiya tribe has owned most of the date palm groves of the Kufra oases, employing the Tebu as labourers and extending its trading route into the Wadai, now part of Chad. It is said that Kufra under their rule was the most noted centre of brigandage in the Sahara. Plus ça change – plus c’est la même chose.
The Zawiya leadership promised the Grand Senussi, Mohamed Ben Ali as-Senussi, a liberal donation of dates and water if he would establish a religious community there. This he did and the Senussi order eventually moved its headquarters to Kufra from whence it exercised its moral and temporal suasion and commercial competence over the hitherto predatory Zawiya, establishing a profitable trade in slaves and arms between the south and the north until the Italians drove it out in 1931.
A minority of the inhabitants of modern Kufra are the descendents of the Senussi religious community known as the Ekwan who align themselves with the Zawiya. The Tebu have long been marginalised and since the fall of Gaddafi have acquired arms and become belligerent. Kufra is now a problem for the new Libyan government which has recently declared the south of Libya a military zone.
Libya is a huge country. The very size of it alone would make it difficult to govern but the nature of the terrain adds immeasurably to the problem. The remoteness of Kufra, one of a number of oases deep in Libya, is profound. It is largely protected by the Ribiana Sand Sea to its north-west and the Kalansho Sand Sea to its north-east. The road from Benghazi, the old slave trade route, passes the oases of Tazerbo and Zighen and then the gap in the sand seas to Kufra proper.
In 1941, the famous desert explorer and soldier, Colonel R.A. Bagnold, described the oasis complex thus: “Imagine northern Europe as a rainless desert of sand and rock, with London as Tag (the site of the fort in Kufra), a little area a few miles across, with shallow artesian well water, palm groves, villages and salt lakes, and with a population of 4,000. The suburb of Tazerbo with another 1,000 inhabitants is north-west where Liverpool is. Zighen would be near Derby, and Rebiana near Bristol cut off by a sea of dunes. Cairo would be at Copenhagen, across a sand sea. Wadi Halfar (on the Nile) would be near Munich, with waterless desert in between.”
The dilution of traditional tribal ties, caused by urbanisation in the coastal towns of Benghazi and Ajadabia, has not occurred in the proudly isolated Kurfa. There, the hostility between the black Tebu people and the white Zawiya tribe has long been endemic. Recently it has escalated into open warfare, largely because Tebu migrants have flocked to Kufra from their homeland in the Tebesti mountain region of Chad. They are seen as inferiors and foreigners by the Zawiya majority who’s social, political and economic dominance they threaten.
On the 23rd of February 2012, the Jamestown Foundation published its report entitled “The Battle for Kufra Oasis and the On-going War in Libya”. It states, in part: “An escalating tribal conflict in the strategic Kufra Oasis has revealed once more that Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC) is incapable of restoring order in a nation where political and tribal violence flares up on a regular basis, fuelled by a wave of weapons liberated from Qaddafi’s armoires. Though this is hardly the first clash between the African Tebu and the Arab Zawiya tribe that took control of the oasis from the Tebu in 1840, it is certainly the first to be fought with heavy weapons such as RPGs and anti-aircraft guns, an innovation that is reflected in the various estimates of heavy casualties in the fighting. Fighting began on February 12 and has continued to the present [22nd February]. Well over 100 people have been killed in less than two weeks; with many hundreds more wounded.”

OIL AND WATER
There are two other reasons why the Zawiya is important in Libya today. The first has to do with water. From 1,116 wells which tap into the ancient Nubian Sandstone Aquifer system below the Sahara a network of pre-stressed concrete pipes, known as the ‘Great Man Made River’, brings the pure ‘fossil’ water to the Libyan coastal cities of Tripoli, Misurata, Sirte and Benghazi for irrigation, industry and domestic use. Much of the water comes from the 126 wells in the Sarir field, 108 wells in the Tazerbo field and the 300 wells in the Kufra field, all in the homeland of the Zawiya tribe. The potential threat to the government of Libya should the Zawaya tribe sabotage the power supply to the wells and pumping stations is patiently obvious.
The second reason for taking note of the Zawiya tribe is oil. The Sarir oilfield, which falls squarely within Zawaya tribal land, is one of the biggest in Libya and produces around 11% of its total output of crude oil. It flows through a 400 km pipeline to an oil terminal at Marsa Hariga near Tobruk on the Mediterranean coast of Libya. The Zawiya tribal leader, Sheik Faraj al Zwai, has been known to threaten to interrupt oil exports from the Sarir field and some believe he may have threatened the other major Arabian Gulf Company fields of Messla and Nafoora-Aquila. Taken together the capacity of these three fields is believed to amount to over 1 million barrels per day or around two thirds of Libya’s output.

TRIBAL VALUES
At the time of writing sectarian violence has broken out yet again in Belfast, a part of the United Kingdom. The lesson is that tribal values that are seen as anachronistic are still unresolved in Belfast, as they are in Kufra.
A few words about the Zawiya might be helpful. Its tribal homeland coincides in the northwest with that of the al Magharba tribe which occupies a swath of the shore and hinterland of the Gulf of Sidra, including some of the important oil ports such as Marsa Brega. The Magharba also has holdings in the oasis town of Jalo which it shares with the Awajila tribe and the Zawiya. The al Magharba is one of nine Sa’adi tribes of Eastern Libya which trace their ancestry to the true Arab Bedouin tribes from the Nejd which migrated belligerently into Libya in 1050, pushing the indigenous Berbers into the Jebel Nefusa. The Sa’adi tribes, therefore, own their homeland by right of conquest. Their people are ‘Hurr’ or free.
The Zawiay’s neighbours to the north east are the Fawaqiur, a landlocked client tribe with ties to the Awaqiur tribe around Benghazi. Like the Zawiya the Fawaqiur is a client tribe or ‘Marabtin al sadqan’. Theoretically both these tribes occupy their homeland in return for ‘sadaqa’. Sadaqa is a fee payable to a free tribe for using its earth and water and for its protection. In effect the Zawiya no longer pay the fee but the relationship between it and the Magharba still retains remnants of class distinction.
The Libyan civil war left the Sothern borders with Egypt, Darfur and Chad undefended. Arms from Gaddafi’s looted armoires have been smuggled across the boarder and have done much to destabilise regimes in the Sahel. The new Libyan government has declared Sothern Libya a military zone and intends to restore a semblance of order there. Its relations with the Zawiya will be of some importance.

Update 8th January 2013
The trial of a member of the Zawiya tribe has recently commenced in Tripoli and will be worthy of attention in the future.
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/07/court-cases-adjourned/

Update 9th January 2013
Inter-tribal killing still!
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/08/new-fatal-clashes-in-kufra/

Update 11th January 2013

A member of the Zawiya appointed Deputy Minister of the Interior:

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/11/new-deputy-ministers-appointed/

Update 14th February 2013

News of efforts to reconcile the Zawiya and the Tebu in Kufra. The mutual attachment to the Senussi sect is invoked:

http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2013/02/12/feature-02

Libya-The Tebu of Kufra, Sebha and Muzuq; A black people in search of a nationality. Updated 30th April 2014

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‘A delegation of some 36 Tebu representatives arrived in Tripoli on Tuesday 27th November 2012 to press the new Libyan government and the General National Congress on citizenship and civil rights issues for their people.’ Who are the Tebu and why are they important?

The Libyan region in which the Tebu live is rich in oil and underground water which, via the Great Man Made River, is piped to the coast where an estimated 90 per cent of Libya’s population live. It is also prime territory for illicit trade, with government-subsidised fuel and food smuggled out of the country in return for weapons, drugs, alcohol and migrants. The fall of Gaddafi triggered a minor war for control of the border trade between the black Tebu residents of Kufra, Sebha and Muzuq and the white Arab tribes – the Zawiya, the Awlad Suleiman and the Warfella.
There are visible signs of discrimination against the Tebu. For example, at Kufra a wall built by the Arab Zawiya tribe encircles the small town and traffic funnels through a guarded entrance. The Zawiya are in charge of Kufra’s government, military council, the commercial centre and small airport. The minority Tebu people live in shacks surrounded by rubbish heaps in the ghetto communities of Gadarfai and Shura. They are cordoned off by checkpoints monitored by the Libyan army.
Speaking in Tripoli to the editor of the Libya Herald on 27th November the Tebu military leader, Essa Abdul Majid Mansour, pointed out that fighting in Kufra between the majority Sway [al Zawiya] tribesman and minority Tebu clans had resulted in a number of deaths. He said that relations between the Sway and the Tebu were still tense and there was an urgent need for a government delegation to go to Kufra to achieve some form of settlement, otherwise matters will get worse. “There is already smuggling of weapons to Al-Qaeda groups outside the country, as well as drugs being brought into Libya. A main issue [for the Tebu] is the question of citizenship.”
The problem for the Tebus stemmed from Libya’s 1954 citizenship law when traditionally semi-nomadic tribes lacked identification, denying them access to higher education, skilled jobs, housing and health care. Michel Cousins of the Libya Herald writes ‘Large numbers of Tebus were stripped of their citizenship by Gaddafi in 2009 following a Tebu uprising the previous year, itself the result of persecution by the regime. There were forced evictions and demolition of Tebu homes. Because of it, the Tebu joined last year’s revolution from the very beginning. Officials say that there are some 12,000-15,000 Libyan Tebus. However, Essa Abdul Majid Mansour claims that there are at least 200,000 who are now stateless, having been stripped of their citizenship.’
The Tebu people of Kufra, Sebha and Muzuq are part of a wider ethnic group called the Teda, desert warriors living in the eastern and central Sahara and, effectively, a black people without nationality. The majority of them can be found in the Tibesti Mountains on the Libyan-Chad border. Their harsh environment, extreme poverty, and remote location make them a very tough people. They have often clashed with the neighbouring tribes and with the Tuareg and, like the gypsies in Great Britain, are despised by the dominant communities who see them as petty thieves and liars.
Traditionally, the Teda controlled the caravan trade routes that passed through their territory. They were widely known in the past for plundering and salve trading. Their language is Tebu and their basic social unit is the nuclear family, organized into clans. They live by a combination of pastoralism, farming, substance smuggling and date cultivation.
In Libya the Tebu people of Kufra have long been marginalised. For many years, Gaddafi’s people pursued a program of ‘arabiseation’ which effectively meant the persecution of the Tebu as this report by the Human Rights Council makes clear: “Some 4,000 Toubou [Tebu] people are living in the town of Kufra, an oasis city of 44,000 inhabitants some 2,000 kilometres from Tripoli. In the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya [Gaddafi’s Libya], they were treated as foreigners by the authorities. In December 2007, the Libyan Government withdrew citizenship from members of the Toubou group, stating that they were not Libyans but Chadians. Furthermore the local authorities issued decrees barring Toubou from access to education and health care services. The armed movement “Front for the Salvation of the Toubou Libyans” …. opposed these measures. Up to 33 people died in Kufra, during five days of fighting between the official security forces and the Toubou in November 2008. Despite public criticism, the government of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya [continued] to expel Toubou people from their residential areas in Kufra. Since November 2009 dozens of families lost their homes due to forced destruction by bulldozers supervised by state security forces.”
The hostility between the black Tebu people and the white al Zawiya tribe has long been endemic in Kufra and has escalated into open warfare since the heavy hand of the Gadaffi regime was lifted after the 2011 civil war. Traditionally practicing nomadic pastoralism of sheep and camels in a triangular area with its apex at Ajadabia, the Zawiya conquered Kufra, in 1840, subduing the indigenous Tebu. The Zawiya tribe owns most of the date palm groves of the Kufra oases, employing the Tebu tribesmen as labourers. The Zawiya might not be the biggest tribe in Libya, but they are still a considerable force because of the vast size of its homeland. Its members are spread out across the areas around the oil export facilities on the Gulf of Sidra to the interior regions around the oil deposits, as well as the Kufra oasis. The Zawiya are known as a fierce and xenophobic tribe and they intend to control the trade, legal and illegal, that passes through the Kufra oasis complex.
On the 23rd of February 2012, the Jamestown Foundation published its report entitled “The Battle for Kufra Oasis and the On-going War in Libya”. It states, in part: “An escalating tribal conflict in the strategic Kufra Oasis has revealed once more that Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC) is incapable of restoring order in a nation where political and tribal violence flares up on a regular basis, fuelled by a wave of weapons liberated from Qaddafi’s armouries. Though this is hardly the first clash between the African Tebu and the Arab Zawiya tribe that took control of the oasis from the Tebu in 1840, it is certainly the first to be fought with heavy weapons such as RPGs and anti-aircraft guns, an innovation that is reflected in the various estimates of heavy casualties in the fighting. Fighting began on February 12 and has continued to the present [22nd February]. Well over 100 people have been killed in less than two weeks; with many hundreds more wounded (Tripoli Post, February 22).”
Essa Abdul Majid Mansour told Michel Cousins; ‘The stability of Libya depends on the stability of the south and the stability of the south depends on the stability of the Tebu. The stability of the Tebu also affects Europe, he added, referring to the need to secure Libya’s southern borders to prevent sub-Saharan migrants using the country as a gateway across the Mediterranean to Europe.’ He may well be right.

JOHN OAKES
For books by John Oakes see… (USA): http://www.amazon.com/John-Oakes/e/B001K86D3O/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 ….. (UK): http://www.amazon.co.uk/John-Oakes/e/B001K86D3O/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Update 18th December 2012. There is some hope at last! Read this:
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2012/12/20121216201619436647.html

Update 19th December 2012
This is part of an article in the Libya Herald which throws an interesting new light on this complex problem:
‘According to immigration officials, an estimated 40,000 non-Libyans, the majority of them Africans, were granted Libyan nationality during last year’s uprising in exchange for their support for the Qaddafi regime. As part of a broader power-struggle, some Arab tribes have exploited this situation, branding the black African Tebu, many of whom supported last year’s revolution, as part of the problem.’

Read the full article:
http://www.libyaherald.com/2012/12/06/200-inmates-escape-sebha-prison-as-congressmen-from-fezzan-stage-walkout/
and also:
http://www.libyaherald.com/2012/12/19/libyan-jets-continue-border-sweeps-over-the-south/

Update 8th January 2013
An interesting interview from the Tebu point of view:
http://www.minorityvoices.org/news.php/fr/1145/interviews-with-activists-ahamat-molikini-says-tibu-minority-still-face-oppression-in-post-arab-spri

Update 9th January 2013

Inter-tribal killings continue:
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/08/new-fatal-clashes-in-kufra/

Update 15th January 2013
An excellent in depth piece about the Tebu and Libya’s south;

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/13/deserts-forgotten-worriers/

Update 14th February

News of attempts to reconcile the Zawiya and the Tebu in Kufra. The attachment to the Senussi sect is invoked:
http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2013/02/12/feature-02

Update 10 April 2013

Reports of more killing in Kufra despite the cease fire:

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/04/10/fresh-violence-flares-in-kufra/

In contrast this next is an outstanding and sympathetic report about the Tebu and deserve a wider audience.
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/04/08/defying-the-odds-the-first-national-tebu-festival-draws-libyans-from-across-the-southern-region-to-murzuk-despite-security-concerns/

Update 29th May 2013

The Tebu’s are now blockading one of Libya’s major oil fields. They have a list of grievances. See the flowing piece in the Libya Herald;
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/05/27/tebus-protest-after-military-leader-vanishes/

Update 21st June 2013
A detailed and well written piece from the Libya Herald on the situation in Sothern Libya where fears that a terrorist group has set up shop are growing;

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/06/03/zeidan-promises-investment-in-kufra-in-bid-to-improve-security-in-south/

Update 3rd July 2013

News that Tebu protesters have shut down the ‘Elephant’ oil field west of Muzuk:
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/07/03/oil-disputes-costing-libya-50-million-a-day-congress-energy-committee-chairman/

Update 20th July 2013

The Tebu, Tuareg and Berber minorities in Libya have protested that they are under-represented on the Congressional Constitution committee and have threatened to take direct action. The Tebu action in the ‘Elephant’ oil field is already affecting Libya’s oil exports.

See this in the Libya Herald:

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/07/20/amazigh-tebu-and-tuareg-threaten-boycott-of-constitutional-commission/

Update 17th March 2014

The Tebu of Kufra still appear to be threatened by the majority Sway.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2014/02/07/supplies-blocked-from-reaching-tebu-community/#axzz2w7WeDK4K

Update 30th April 2014

These pieces brings the issue of the Tebu and of minority rights in Libya up to date:

http://securityobserver.org/inter-tribal-clashes-in-southern-libya-a-factor-of-local-and-national-instability/

http://www.refworld.org/pdfid/52aace474.pdf

LIBYA FACES SERIOUS SECURITY PROBLEMS (UPDATED 12TH FEBRUARY 2013)

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On Wednesday 8th August 2012 Libya’s new democratic Congress began to assume power. Late on Thursday it elected Mohammed Youssef Magariaf as its President. Magariaf won 113 votes from the 200-strong Congress against the independent candidate Ali Zidan who gained 85 votes.
President Magariaf is the leader of the National Front party – known as the National Front for the Salvation of Libya during the Gaddafi era. He is an economist and former Libyan ambassador to India who was born in Benghazi in 1940. His election is seen as an important boon for Benghazi where many feared they were being side-lined.
President Magariaf will lead Congress which now has less than 30 days to select a prime minister, begin the process of drafting a new constitution and organising parliamentary elections. Observers believe that Magariaf’s friend Mustafa Abushagur is the most likely candidate the prime minister’s job but he was also born in Benghazi. This may incline Tripolitanians to oppose his candidature in favour of one of their own. The outcome will be interesting and regional politics will play a major part.
Amongst his numerous problems Magariaf will have been distressed to hear that, almost immediately after he was elected, unidentified gunmen in Benghazi shot dead a Libyan army general and high-ranking defence ministry official, Mohamed Hadia al-Feitouri. Al-Feitouri was one of Gadaffi’s army generals who defected early to the 17th February movement. He is one of a number of ex Gaddafi men who have been assassinated in Benghazi by unknown killers.
There are other disturbing straws in the wind. Haji Fornani reported on 7th August that Zuwayya tribesmen stopped oil production in three oilfields in eastern Libya in protest against armed clashes in south eastern city of Kufra.
The nomadic Zuwayya tribe claims a significant area of Libya from Ajadabia in the north to the oasis of Kufra, which they captured from the Tebu in 1840. Kufra now has of around 44,000 inhabitants and is some 2,000 kilometres from Tripoli.
Violence in Kufra between Arab Zuwayya tribesman and the Tebu minority has been going on for some time. The Tebu are a race of desert warriors living in the eastern and central Sahara Desert. The majority of the estimated population of 215,000 can be found in the Tibesti Mountains on the Libyan-Chad border. Their harsh environment, extreme poverty, and remote location make them a very tough people, who have often had violent clashes with the neighbouring tribes. About 2,600 them now live in Kufra.
Fighting in Kufra first erupted as a smuggling turf war between the well-armed Tebu community and the majority Zuwayya tribe, but then developed into a war of attrition between the Tebus and the Libya army sent in by the authorities to restore law and order.
In their attempts to force the government to take decisive action against the Tebu in Kufra the Zuwayya are also threatening to stop the water supply from the sub-Saharan Aquifer which is transported in huge cement pipes from near Kufra to the populous coastal cities of Libya. The pipelines and wells are known as the ‘Great Man-made River’. Even though the source of the water is in a Tebu controlled area; the pipeline passes through Zuwayya territory, which means they can turn off the pumps and prevent the water heading north.
John Oakes – 14th August 2012

Update 6th January 2013

At last some effort is being made to absorb the militias into the police. See:

http://libya.tv/en/thousands-of-men-sign-up-for-police-training/

Update 13th January 2013

Disturbing news of one of Tripoli’s militias

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/12/fashloum-youth-demand-government-action-against-nawasi-brigade-others-support-it/

Update 28th January 2013

Misurata still appears to be in the hands of militias:
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/28/misrata-clamps-down-weapons-ban/

Update 12th January 2013

An attempt to make militiamen into real soldiers;

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/01/24/trying-to-make-thuwars-true-soldiers/

Update 30th March 2013
A good clear analysis of the security situation in Libya today:
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/03/01/analysis-the-security-conundrum/

Update 3 July 2013
Militia begin to join the Libyan Army
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/07/01/ghariyan-base-passes-into-army-control/

However, armed militia are still causing trouble in Tripoli

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/07/02/interior-ministry-besieged-by-hundreds-of-armed-men/