Berenice Stories

Short Stories by John Oakes

Posts Tagged ‘National Force Alliance

LIBYA – ELECTIONS IN A HEAT WAVE II – WHO WILL WIN AND DOES IT MATTER?

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Preliminary results for the Libyan elections for the new House of Representatives which will sit in the Tebesti Hotel in Benghazi have just now been announced. My own superficial and inexpert assessment of the result favours Mahmoud Jibril’s largely secular National Force Alliance rather than the Libyan Moslem Brotherhood’s Islamist leaning Justice and Construction party. However the majority of candidates were required to stand as independents and whilst the list has been published it is very hard to say accurately which of the rival parties the winners will support in practice. The Islamists are saying that they have the support of the majority of independents.
A number of observers also appear to be cautiously forecasting a victory for the secular candidates over the Islamists. We will see, but it may take time for the horse trading to end and the political composition of the new Libyan House of Representatives become clear. Perhaps the recent escalation of violent attacks by Islamist militias is a sign that think they have failed to gain enough seats to control the House and wish to make military gains before it meets. Ansar Sharia has just mounted an all out attack on the forces of Major General Hafter in Benghazi and the Islamist Misratan militias have renewed their attack on the Zintanis at Tripoli’s International Airport. I suspect that the Libyan Islamists will not readily accept the will of the people as expressed in the ballot held on the 25th June, unless they win.
In his paper, The Role of Tribal Dynamics in the Libyan Future, Arturo Varvelli of Italian Institute for International Political Studies, proposes an impossible and near unique trilemma which the people of Libya must somehow accommodate in order to function as a nation. As I understand it, he argues that the coexistence of Islam, democracy and a rentier state has never been successful.
It is, he seems to argue, just possible to implement some democratic principles in an Islamic state. I too argue that in practice the separation of Islam from popular democracy is not easy to achieve. Both the holy Koran and the authenticated saying of the Prophet Mohamed contained in the Sunna are silent on the matter of representational ‘western’ democracy.
Some Muslims argue that the democratic process has its roots in ‘Shura’ or consultation. In effect this suggests that Shura is usleful but only when there is no guiding text in the Koran or the Sunna. The growing Salafist movement, however, rejects all such debate, arguing that what is not accounted for in the core texts is un-Islamic and thus outlawed.
Arturo Varvelli argues that the rentier state, one which derives most of its income from oil and gas, does not encourage democracy. He and others suggest that rentier states do not need to tax their people who consequently have no incentive to exert pressure on government to respond to their needs. We might upend the inspirational catch phrase of the American War of Independence – no taxation without representation – and suggest that democracy withers without taxation.
Varvelli offers the examples of the Gulf States such a Qatar, The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to show that a rentier state which is at the same time an Islamic state cannot also be a truly democratic state. The common factor that these states share is the presence, so far at least, of an hereditary ruling family; the House of Al Thani in Qatar, the eponymous Ibn Saud and in the UAR, Al Nahyan and Al Makhtoum amongst others. Gaddafi’s efforts to establish himself and his family in a similar role in Libya failed spectacularly in 2011, probably because of his serious character flaws, the low esteem in which his tribe is held and his suppression the Libya Islamists.
It would seem then that the brave attempt to elect a House of Representatives may not be the final solution to the Libyan trilemma.
These well researched pieces in Al Jazeera English may prove interesting reading for those who seek a more detailed analysis.
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2014/06/infographic-explaining-libyas-election-2014624134840313976.html
http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/7/libya-council-ofdeputieselectionsislamistssecuritybenghazi.html
and this excellent piece from the BBC.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-28418925
John Oakes
22nd July 2014

LIBYA – TRIBES AND TRIBULATIONS

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Jamal Adel, in a report in the Libya Herald dated 7th February 2014 writes; ‘A meeting at a Tripoli hotel of elders and tribal leaders from across the country descended into chaos yesterday when remarks by one of them provoked a backlash forcing the delegates to quit for an early lunch.
While the members had gathered in Tripoli to discuss the possibility of a more prominent national role, the meeting was disrupted by raucous heckling when a delegate from the Al-Awageer tribe, the largest tribe in Benghazi, accused his colleagues of various inadequacies.
The attack elicited a strong sense of dissatisfaction among most members and tempers flared to the point that lunch had to be called early. By the time talks resumed at 4:00 it was too late to make any formal decisions.
Beforehand, the head of Tripoli Local Council, Sadat Elbadri, had made opening statements greeting delegates, followed by an announcement of the meeting’s support for the army and police.
The delegate for the south, Abdisslam Ali Khalifa also expressed, at length and without reserve, his gratitude to Zintani and Misratan revolutionaries for restoring peace to Sebha after recent tribal violence.’

It might be interesting to use this excellent report to look briefly at the influence tribes exert in the struggle for power in post Gaddafi Libya. Before embarking on a discussion of the points raised I offer this as a working hypothesis. ‘Whilst 80% or more Libyans now live in towns and cities the influence of its historic Arab tribes is still significant but tends to be divisive.’ Secondly I suggest that the security of Libya and her near neighbours is threatened by the minority rights issues raised by indigenous Tebu, Tuareg and Berber people. Thirdly I argue that the Eastern (Cyrenaican) cites of Benghazi and Derna are the intellectual centres of militant religiosity supported by forces outside Libya and fourthly I would note that Southern Libya, long known as the Fezzan, is now perilously out of control. The consequence of this is that the trans-Saharan routes through the Libyan oasis staging posts and hubs, such as Sebha and Kufra, attract illegal trade in arms, drugs and people. The battle for control of Sebha and Kufra and the illegal trade they attract is largely between the Tebu people and Arab tribes – the Sway in Kufra and the Awlad Suleiman and its allies in Sebha.
The aristocratic Arab tribes of Libya are perceived to have descended from the Beni Hillal and Beni Sulaim, two tribes from the Nejd, now part of Saudi Arabia, which migrated through Egypt into Libya in the 11th Century. Anyone who can successfully claim descent from them is a nobleman or Hurr by birth. These pure Arab Bedouin tribes displaced the indigenous Berbers and settled mainly, though not solely, in Eastern Libya and founded the nine Saadi tribes one of which is the Awaqir. They pressed onwards and some of their descendants can be found in Sothern Libya. The Awlad Sulieman is one such tribe which has its homeland (wattan) in the Fezzan (Southern Libya) and in neighbouring Chad.
BENGHAZI – TRIBES AND JIHADISTS
The delegate from the Awaqir tribe mentioned in Jamal Adel’s report appears to have torpedoed the conference of tribal leaders and elders by expressing his frustration at considerable length. I and my family owe a great deal to one of the leading families of the Awaqir and I can empathise with the delegate’s anger whilst feeling somewhat embarrassed by his efforts. The Awaqir tribe is one of the nine aristocratic Saadi tribes which were influential during the reign of King Idris but stripped of their power by Gaddafi. It holds extensive lands to the south and west of Benghazi. It is a complex and multiethnic tribe, some braches of which were semi nomadic pastoralists and some more sedentary.
When the oil boom began in the 1950s Awaqir tribe members migrated from their homelands into Benghazi to find employment, living at first in makeshift huts on the outskirts. As employment increased the rough huts were improved with corrugated iron and Benghazi’s ‘Tin Towns’ came onto being. Gradually the tin huts were replaced by permanent buildings but tribal and sub-tribal ties were maintained in the new neighbourhoods of Gaddafi’s Benghazi, a city he disliked intensely.
This movement from the traditionally tribal hinterland into the burgeoning cites accelerated as Libya developed a society which derived most of its wealth from oil. Nowadays at least 80% of the population lives in the coastal cities supplied with abundant water from the fossil aquifers below the Libyan Desert and the Sahara via the Great Man Made River.
Benghazi presents us with an interesting case study. The fall of Gaddafi has been followed by a severe breakdown in security in Benghazi and by the rise therein of Jihadist and Salafist militias. Benghazi and Derna, the coastal city to its north east, are said to be the intellectual centres of the fiercely religious Islamist factions with Al Qaeda contacts and deriving much of their support from external sources. It is said that these two cities draw aspiring jihadists from Libya’s neighbours for indoctrination and motivation. It is this militant religiosity, long suppressed by Gaddafi, which is now one of the major wrecking factors in Libya today. Killings and abductions are now commonplace in the Benghazi. It will be recalled that a US ambassador was killed there and the culprits appear to remain above the law. In the present climate of discord in Benghazi no judge would hazard his life to preside over the trail of the ambassador’s killers
No doubt the raucous Awaqir leader described by Jamal Adel was voicing his frustration with the central government which has, so far, been unable to restore order and the rule of law. He may have also harboured some anger because the Awaqir has not been included in the higher reaches of the post Gaddafi government despite intensive lobbying.
MISRATA AND ZINTAN – TWO POWERFUL TRIBES AND THE STRUGGLE FOR POWER IN LIBYA.
From Jamal Adel’s piece above we read of Abdisslam Ali Khalifa’s profuse thanks to the revolutionaries (Thuwars) of Zintan and Misrata. This highlights the fact that tribal and clan allegiances are very strong in both cities. Firstly the cities and tribes bear the same name and have developed formidable armed forces which are largely independent of the state. In Misrata, Libya’s third largest city, fierce independence, a mercantile and martial spirit and civic cohesion have long been characteristic. The battle between Gaddafi’s forces and the rebels in Misrata was brutal. The battle hardened Misratan revolutionary militias are relatively well organised and disciplined. They have recently been called into Tripoli to forestall a coup and have been involved in the taming the powerful Warfella tribe, their traditional enemy to the south, which was said to harbour Gaddafi loyalists – and may still do so. The Misratan militias are said to favour the Moslem Brotherhood’s somewhat theocratic Justice and Construction Party in the current Libyan General National Congress (GNC).
The city of Zintan has a long tribal tradition. There are, in fact, two tribes in Zintan, one of which is Arab and the other Berber. Long practice of cooperation in the ‘Shura’ (the council of tribal elders) has assured strong local government and strengthened the Zintani’s. They have acquired large quantities of Gaddafi’s abandoned arms and developed considerable military clout. Gaddafi’s second son, Saif al Islam Gaddafi, remains in prison in Zintan awaiting trial, officially until the rule of law and the judiciary are restored in Libya, but more likely as a ‘hostage of influence’. The Zintani’s also maintain a strong military presence in Tripoli in order to safeguard their influence over the shaky coalition currently struggling to govern Libya. Whilst stable local government exists in Zintan there have been armed clashes with the neighbouring Mashasha tribe over a land rights dispute which has its origins in Gaddafi’s arbitrary redistribution of tribal land. The Zintani militias are said to favour Mahmoud Jibril al Warfelli’s more pragmatic National Forces Alliance in the GNC.
SABHA – TRIBAL AND RACIAL DISCORD
The modern town of Sebha has developed from the three oasis settlements of Jedid, Quatar and Hejer and now houses a population of around 200,000. It is the seat of the Saif al Nasr family, the most prominent and revered leaders of the Awlad Sulieman tribe and its historic allies and clients. The Saif al Nasr family gained heroic status in its wars with their Ottoman Turk overlords in the early 19th century and with the Italian colonists in the early 20th Century.
Gaddafi’s father migrated from Sirte to Sebha to take menial employment with the Saif al Nasr family, something which his son was said to resent. Gaddafi attended secondary school in Sebha and staged his first anti government demonstration as a school boy in the city. He also held a demonstration in the lobby of a hotel owned by the Saif al Nasr family, thus ensuring his expulsion from school. The relationship between Sebha and Gaddafi was ambiguous!
The Saif al Nasr family and the Awlad Suleiman tribe it led were the dominate force in Sebha and in much of the Fezzan throughout the Ottoman Turkish regency (1551 – 1911), the Italian colonial period (1911 – 1943), the short period (1943 – 1951) of French military government after WWII and the Kingdom of Libya (1951 -1969). During the forty or so years of the Gaddafi era the dominance in the Fezzan of the Awlad Suleiman was reversed in favour of his own tribe, the Gaddadfa and that of his closest supporters, the Maqarha tribe. This process has been dubbed ‘tribal inversion’ by Jason Pack and his colleges writing in their book ‘The 2011 Libyan Uprisings and the Struggle for the Post-Qadhafi Future’. This book is essential reading but somewhat expensive.
Apart from a number of so called al Ahali, the name given to long time town dwellers, Sebha offers a home to people from other tribes such as the Gaddadfa, Muammar Gaddafi’s tribe, which is based near Sirte but ranges south towards Sebha. There are also colonies of the Maqarha from the Wadi Shati to the north, the Awlad Abu Seif and the Hasawna tribe who, in the past, were the true nomads of the south and allies of the Awlad Suleiman.
There is one district of Sebha which has been a source of discord for some time. It is the Tauri district which is colonised by some Tuareg and many Tebu. The Tebu people 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 neighboring 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, subsistence smuggling and date cultivation.
Since the fall of Gaddafi, Tebu militias have come to dominate the South and Libya’s borders with Chad and Niger. They are perceived by the majority of the inhabitants of Sebha to be non Libyans trying to control the city. In particular they now dominate the majority of the trade (legal and illicit) routes between Sebha and the Chad basin. Thus they have a firm grip on the regional arms and drug trade and on people trafficking. The Awlad Suleiman tribesman may still have their own trade routes in this area but perceive the Tebu to be a foreign and ethnically inferior threat to their historic dominance of the region.
There is a great deal of racism in Libya where the white Arab majority dispise black Africans. This may well stem from the trans-Saharan slave trading era which was still active in Benghazi until 1911. There are now thousands of black Africans incarcerated in Libya’s prisons and brutal reprisals were taken by some rebel militia against black Africans who may or may not have been Gaddafi’s mercenaries during the 2011 rebellion.
The Tebu make common cause with the Tuareg and the Berbers of the Jebel Nefusa in efforts to have their rights enshrined in the new Libya constitution currently under consideration.
The Libya Herald report quoted above tells us that Zintani and Misratan Militias were largely responsible for restoring a fragile peace in the Sothern city of Sebha. This from the Libya Herald datelined Tripoli, 12 January 2014 gives us some insight into events there;
‘Fighting eased today in Sebha, but not sufficiently for a newly-arrived team of mediators to begin the process of defusing the conflict between Tebu tribesmen and members of the Awlad Sulieman clan.
According to Ayoub Alzaroug of Sebha local council, 21 people have now died and 45 have been wounded, some of them seriously, in four days of fighting. Alzaroug told the Libya Herald that today the situation was “relatively calm” compared with the past three days.
According to one local resident, Tebu fighters now control some strategic areas within the city and around the airport, as well as occupying several compounds used by the Awlad Sulieman clan .
Members of the Western region mediation committee, which includes representative from Tripoli, Misrata, Zintan and the Jebel Nafusa reached the city this morning, but could not begin their work because of concerns for their safety.’

This and other reports make it clear that the mediators were called in by Ali Zeidan, the Libyan prime minister, to settle a bitter and lethal series of inter-tribal and inter-racial skirmishes which have left many dead and wounded in Sebha. The armed clashes had become so intense that Gaddafist forces drawn, I believe, from the Gaddadfa and Maqarha tribes, took the opportunity to take control of an important air base close to Sebha and spark off Gaddafist hopes of a restoration of the dread regime under the leadership of Gaddafi’s playboy son Al Saadi Gaddafi who, as I write, has arrived in Tripoli having been extradited from Niger.
GADDAFIST ‘ALGAE’ MAKE A FLEETING APPERNCE
The Gaddafist hopes were raised further by a sympathetic uprising of factions of the Warsifana tribe in the immediate neighbourhood of Tripoli. The uprising was quelled by militias who, with typical Libyan irony, refer to the Warsifana tribe as ‘algae’ because of their long allegiance to Gaddafi and his Green Flag.
The Small Arms Survey ‘Dispatch No 3’ dated February tells us of the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s support from the tribes of Sothern Libya. Unless the Libya government is able to project civil and military power into the region very soon it will face losing control completely. A key paragraph is quoted here:
‘The Qaddafi era’s legacies weigh heavily on southern Libya, which had been the regime’s main stronghold along with Sirte, Bani Walid, and Tarhuna. The communities in the region were among the main recruitment bases for the regime’s security battalions and intelligence services. Key units were based on particular tribal constituencies:
• The Maghawir Brigade, based in Ubari, was made up exclusively of recruits from Tuareg tribes of Malian and Nigerien origin.
• The Tariq bin Ziyad Brigade, also based in Ubari, was dominated by Qadhadhfa and Awlad Suleiman.
• The Faris Brigade, based in Sabha, was recruited from Qadhadhfa, Warfalla, Awlad Suleiman, and Tubu.
• The Sahban Brigade, based in Gharyan, was led by Maqarha.’

The many facets of this series of armed disputes are not easy to resolve unless we understand that the tribes which were dominant in Libya during the reign of King Idris (1951 – 1969) were superseded by Gaddafi’s own tribe, the Gaddadfa, which was considered to by many to be Marabtin, that is a client tribe and thus inferior. Some call the Gaddadfa an Arabized Berber tribe but I suspect that it may have originated as a faction which broke off from the greater Warfella tribe at some time in the distant past. In any event it is clear that the Awlad Suleiman are attempting to reassert their historic dominance though the suspicion lingers that they are also vying for control of the lucrative illegal trade routes with the Tebu.
TRIPOLI AND THE FALL OF ALI ZEIDAN
We might legitimately ask why Prime Minister Ali Zeidan called upon Zintani and Misratan forces to intervene in this dispute rather than the National Army. There may be two answers to the question. The first is disconcertingly significant. The army Chief of Staff Jadallah Al-Obaidi refuses to take orders from Ali Zeidan. He may also feel that the still ‘embryonic’ National Army is not yet capable of deploying sufficient force 476 road miles to the south and lacks the training to intervene in civil disputes.There are disturbing signs today (10th March 2014) of a rift between the Chief of Staff and the government. Second, the General National Congress has today sacked Ali Zeidan from his post as Prime Minster and replaced him temporarily with Defence Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni, whose reputation for dealing with the troubles in the South is encouraging. We will see.

Readers looking for an in depth analysis of the role of tribes in Libya might find this helpful:
http://www.ispionline.it/sites/default/files/pubblicazioni/analysis_172_2013.pdf

John Oakes
11th March 2014

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 24th March 2014

There is still unrest in Sebha it seems.

http://www.libyaherald.com/2014/03/24/sebha-airport-still-closed/#axzz2ws5Riwm2

LIBYA’S PARLOUS STATE.- SOME NOTES ON THE MAY 2013 CRISIS IN LIBYA

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Armed militia units entered the Libyan capital, Tripoli, with the intention of influencing a vote in the democratically elected General National Congress. The likelihood that the government and the armed forces would be destabilised has alarmed many observers.

A Reuters report datelined 7th May 2013 from Tripoli read –“ Libya’s defence minister resigned on Tuesday in protest at a siege by gunmen of two government ministries that he denounced as an assault on democracy almost two years after the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

He was the first cabinet minister to quit in a crisis over the siege, which armed groups refused to lift even after parliament bowed on Sunday to their main demand by banning from government posts any senior official who served under Gaddafi.

“I will never be able to accept that politics (can) be practiced by the power of weapons … This is an assault against the democracy I have sworn to protect,” Defence Minister Mohammed al-Bargathi said.

Members of parliament in Libya, plagued by armed disorder since Gaddafi’s demise, say the new legislation could be applied to around 40 of 200 deputies and could also unseat the prime minister, who some protesters demand should quit immediately.

Diplomats fear that parliament, in agreeing to vote under duress, could effectively embolden the powerful armed groups that fought to topple Gaddafi and are now more visible in Libya than state security forces, and that the sweeping terms of the vote could cripple the government’s ability to function.

On Monday a spokesman for parliament conceded that the siege of the ministries was out of the government’s hands and that it would be up to the militiamen now to leave as promised.”

Update 18th May 2013

It now seems that the Interior Minister also tendered his resignation (according the Libya Herald dated 18th May 2013):-

Interior Minister Ashour Shuwail handed in his resignation ten days ago, but Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has refused to accept it.

“The Interior Minister handed over his resignation to the Prime Ministry but it has not yet been accepted,” spokesman of Libya’s Interior Ministry, Majdi Urufi, said, speaking live on state television station Al-Watanya.

It now (22nd May 2013) seems that the Interior Misister, Ashour Shuwail, has refused to withdraw his resignation despite the Prime MInister’s efforts to retain him. Dr. Zedan has asked the GNC to approve Khalifa Shiekh for the post. He is from Suq Al-Jumaa and was an assistant to former Interior Minister Fawzi Abdelal with whom he fell out.

AN ATTEMPT TO SUBVERT LIBYA’S DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED GENERAL NATIONAL CONGRESS BY FORCE OF ARMS?

The Libyan General National Congress (GNC) voted on Sunday 5th May 2013 to form a High Committee to Implement the Criteria for Occupying Public Positions to implement a Political Isolation Law. Under the law all those who held key posts from September 1, 1969 when Gaddafi took power, until the fall of his regime in October 2011 will be excluded from government. The ban will remain in force for 10 years, according to the draft.

The law could force out several ministers as well as the congress leader, depending on the wording finally adopted. The GNC Vice President, Salah al-Makhzoum, said a compromise had been reached among the political blocs by adding “exceptions” in the bill in order to retain key individuals. It remains to be seen if these exceptions were included in Sunday’s vote.

As they voted the freely elected legislators of the GNC may have been influenced or even intimidated by armed revolutionary militia brigades surrounding the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Justice Ministry. Observers have noted that brigades from Misurata, Nalut, Benghazi and Tripoli were numbered amongst them. It is estimated that more than 300 armed militia vehicles entered Tripoli during late March and early May.

Prime Minister Zedan at first stated that the pressure brought upon the GNC by armed militias may have ensured that the vote for the Political Exclusion Law was passed in haste and under duress. In this context it is noted that Dr. Zedan revealed he had been targeted by armed men during a conference with the militias.The Libya Herald quotes him thus:

It has emerged that militiamen tried to intimidate Prime Minister Ali Zeidan when he met and negotiated with them. He said today that they had brandished a grenade and a gun at him. He did not say when this happened. ”The rebels unlocked the grenade in front of me but no one was hurt because the grenade did not explode and it was taken quickly outside the Prime Ministry headquarters,” he stated today at a press conference. He said that they also had put a gun on the table in front of him saying that they could easily use force against him.

So incensed was his defence minister, Mohamed Bargahthi, that he resigned in protest against the use of force to influence a democratically elected congress.

Prime Minister Zedan singled out Adel Al-Ghiryani, the president of the ‘Supreme Council of Libyan Revolutionaries’, as the possible instigator and leader of the armed intervention. It is easy to see why. Al-Ghiryani spoke to the media outside the besieged Foreign Ministry in Tripoli demanding the dismissal of Ministry employees, including Libyan ambassadors who had worked for Qaddafi. His Vice President, Mr Kaabar, went further and stated: “We are determined to bring down the government of Ali Zidan.”

It is interesting, therefore, that no less a figure than sometime post-Gaddafi Libyan Prime Minister, Dr. Mahmoud Jibril, has had the courage to speak out against the law. He is now the Head of the National Force Alliance party in the GNC and commands a considerable following in the country. He told Al-Arabiya TV, “We participated in the overthrowing of Gaddafi but the law says we must go. But I say that I have performed my part in the 17 February Revolution and no isolation law is able to erase that from history.” Political proscription should, he said, be based on what individuals had done rather than the jobs they had held. In his interview with Al Arabiya TV Jibril said that legislation as sweeping as the Political Isolation Law was unprecedented in any country. He also deplored the presence of militias besieging government ministries before the GNC took its vote. “The law was passed under duress and force of arms.Libya needs to approve the isolation law, but not now.”

The case of Mahmoud Jibril illustrates the difficulties the ‘political isolation’ law may create for the governance of Libya.

The problem for Jibril is that from 2007 to early 2011, he served the Gaddafi regime as head of the National Planning Council of Libya and of the National Economic Development Board of Libya. He was one of the ‘jama‘at Saif,’ a group of apparatchiks recruited to high level posts by Gaddafi’s favourite son, Saif al Islam, who was attempting to soften his father’s autocratic rule but expected to succeed him. Jibril’s tribe, the Warfella, is thought by some to be Gaddafist. It supplied many of Gaddafi’s security personnel and army officers.

A DILEMMA FOR THE NEW HIGH COMMITTEE TO IMPLEMENT THE CRITERIA FOR OCCUPYING PUBLIC POSITONS

Jibril has a point and the key role he played in the days when the ‘17th February 2011’ anti-Gaddafi rebels were close to extermination in Benghazi may have been forgotten outside Libya. A short summary of the key events may serve to remind us.

On Saturday 5th March 2011, the Libyan opposition movement in Benghazi nominated an Interim National Council to lay the foundations for a government. Not all the members were named for security reasons.

The first Council had 32 members representing various regions and cities. Mustafa Abdul Jalil was elected Chairman. A judge from al Baida, he was Justice Minister under Gaddafi but resigned after the Benghazi uprising began. As Chairman of the Council, he had a price on his head believed to be 500,000 Libyan Dinars.

Dr. Mohammed Jebril el Warfally, and Ali Aziz el Esawi, the former Libyan ambassador to India and a sometime minister for the economy, trade and investment were made responsible for foreign affairs. Both these men would be ineligible for office if the new political isolation law is exercised without care.

Mohammed Jibril played a key role in the negotiations to achieve French support for military intervention on the side of the National Transition Council. It will be remembered that on 5th March 2011 President Sarkozy issued a press release, in which he welcomed the formation of the Interim National Council. This was the Council’s first sign of legitimacy. With Gaddafi’s heavily armed forces threatening Benghazi this news brought hope and a number of French flags sprouted around the besieged city. What Sarkosy now needed was the approval of President Obama and a mandate from the United Nations.

By the following Thursday, National Transition Councillor Mohammed Jebril was in Sarkozy’s office in the Elysee Palace and an agreement of considerable importance was reached. Sarkozy agreed to recognise the National Transitional Council as the legitimate government of Libya. Sarkozy also agreed implement a ‘no fly zone’ and to bomb three key airfields in Libya, notably the one in the south used for receiving mercenaries from Chad and elsewhere.

US Secretary Hillary Clinton was in Paris at the time. Jebril later met her at her Paris hotel and persuaded her to back the National Transition Council.

On Thursday 17th March, resolution 1973 was put before the UN Security Council in New York, when France, Britain and the USA

were among the ten who voted in favour of the use of all necessary means to protect civilian lives in Libya.

Russia and China were amongst five nations which abstained. It was thus that the intervention of NATO in Libya’s civil war was assured. Qatar joined NATO on behalf of the Arab League. Jibril’s role in these negotiations is a matter of history and cannot be overlooked. Should Jebril be barred from public office?

THE PEOPLE FIGHT BACK

By Tuesday 7th May 2013 it became clear that Prime Minster Zedan had persuaded his defence minister to withdraw his resignation. This event seems to have given courage to those who supported the democratically elected government.(It was later to emerge that the Interior Minister had also resigned but D. Zedan has refused to accept it and, for a while, denied it in public.)

On Friday 10th May around 400 anti-Militia demonstrators gathered in Tripoli’s Algeria Square carrying placards in support of democratic government. There are some reports that a number of them were chanting slogans against, Sheik Hamid bin Kalifa al Thani the Emir of Qatar. This is disturbing as Qatar played an important part, alongside NATO, in the battle to depose Gaddafi.

The Islamic Wahabi sect is dominant in Qatar, as it is in her larger neighbour Saudi Arabia. It is possible that some Libyans believe that funds are being channelled from Qatar to the Salfists in Libya: social media sites have been full of such rumours for some time. The Qatar embassy in Tripoli was quick to state that there was no interference in Libyan affairs. It was my impression that an agreement had been reached between the Libyan government and Qatar that the latter would communicate with Libya via official channels.

It seems that 200 or so protesters left Algeria Square and began to march along the seafront road to the Foreign Ministry building. As they did so their numbers grew. From the testimony of one of the marchers it is clear that they were divided about the Political Isolation Law but united in their determination to see that democracy should not be high-jacked by armed militias. The angry and, by now, large crowd was successful in clearing the militia ‘guards’ from the Foreign Ministry and its grounds. The Ministry (and the Justice Ministry) is now back in business after a two-week siege.

QATAR WAS THE MAIN TARGET OF A DEMONSTRATION IN BENGHAZI. THE FLAG OF THE OLD SENUSSI EMIRATE OF CYRENIACA APPEARED ON THE STREETS.

On 10th May a demonstration outside the Tebesti Hotel in Benghazi was interesting because an effigy of Emir Sheikh Hamid bin Khalifa al-Thani was burned. Benghazi is a troubled city where the US ambassador Stevens was killed in an attack on his consulate and over 20 senior military, air force and police officers have been killed. Many suspect the Salafist militia Ansar Sharia of complicity in these killings.

Rumours that Qatar may be funding Salafist have recently been circulating via social media. One hypothesis is that the Wahabi of Qatar and the Ansar Sharia militia of Derna both have Salafist leanings and there may be unofficial back channels between them.

One intriguing aspect of the Benghazi demonstration was the appearance of the black flag of the old Senussi Emirate of Cyrenaica, which was founded in 1949 during the British occupation of Eastern Libya. It has been adopted by the ‘Federalist’ movement, prominent in Eastern Libya, which looks for the reintroduction of the three provinces, Tripolitania, the Fezzan and Cyrenaica. That they may envisage a separate state of Cyrenaica in which most of Libya’s oil and water is found must have raised the anxiety level of the Zidan government. A parallel is found in the Scottish Nationalist Party which is endeavouring to gain independence for Scotland and sequestering the income from North Sea Oil.

The febrile situation in Benghazi was made worse by a large explosion in the car park of al Jalaa hospital on 13th May. Three were killed and many injured. This sparked a street protest blaming the Islamist Ansar Sharia of Derna and demanding more action by the army to restore a semblance of quiet. The interior Minister has been dispatched to Benghazi to lead an investigation and attempt to supply better security for the citizens.

LIBYAN CHIEF OF STAFF UNDER PRESSURE TO QUIT

Those of us who are anxious to see Libya succeed are also watching, with some trepidation, the plots and manoeuvres going on around the current leadership of the Libyan armed forces. Libya needs its army. The remote southern region has been declared a military zone and Chad and Niger have complained to the Libyan government about Islamic extremist gangs finding refuge there. At the moment the army is outgunned by the militias.

The General National Congress voted on 5th May to consider appointing a new Chief of Staff in a month’s time. According to GNC spokesman Omar Hemidan this was because of the poor performance in rebuilding the army by the current Chief of Staff, Major-General Yousef al-Mangoush.

The Libya Herald reports that ‘the Major General faces opposition from officers of the new national army, especially in Benghazi and other eastern regions. Though government officials continue to express confidence in al-Mangoush, a recent conference in al-Burayqah saw army officers, militia leaders and civilian leaders call for the chief-of-staff’s immediate dismissal and an investigation into missing funds issued to the Libyan Army’s General Staff. One of the groups represented at the conference was composed of current and former army officers who have organized under the name “Free Libyan Army Officers Assemblage.” The group has called for the elimination of the Libyan Army’s General Staff and its replacement with an ‘independent body of qualified personnel’.

Update 26th May 2013. The destabilisation of the Libyan military has repercussions. Without a strong and well organised army Libya’s remote southern regions are impossible to control. It has been suggested that Mokhtar ben  Mokhtar, the man thought to have been responsible for the attack on the BP facility in southern Algeria, has established a base in Libya from  whence he dispatched an attack Niger. Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou has claimed that that suicide bombers who carried out the two deadly attacks in the north of the country had come from Libya

THE PRESIDENT OF THE GENERAL NATIONAL CONGRESS MAY RESIGN (Update 22nd May 2013)

There are indications that the GNC President, Mohamed Magarief, may resign on 28th May. The Political Isolation Law would seem to bar him from holding high office as he was a Libyan ambassador to India during the Gaddafi regime. He broke with Gaddafi and joined the opposition in 1980.

Update 29th May 2013. Mohamed Magarief resigned as President of the GNC yesterday after an eloquent speech. It seems that he retains his seat in Congress and it will be interesting to see what becomes of him. He spent many years of his life in exile from Libya as an opponent of the Gaddafi regime.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:

The Political Isolation Law has yet to be scrutinised by the legal arm of the GNC. It will be interesting to see how it emerges for final ratification.

The future of Major General Mangoush will be interesting. The Zedan government has expressed its support for him but he is perceived as being too slow to build up the army and absorb the armed militias into its fold. The development of the ‘Free Libyan Army Officers Assemblage’ needs watching.

Update 10t June 2013
A terrible incident in Benghazi when around 200 protesters were apparently fired upon by Libya Shield militia has resulted in at least 27 fatalities and the resignation of Major General Mangoush. His position as Chief of Staff has been less than secure of for some time. The Benghazi incident is complex and needs more attention so I have appended a link to the Libya Herald report for readers who wish to keep up to date.
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/06/09/mangoush-resigns/

The drafting of a constitution for Libya will be difficult as the Salafist are ruthless and will try to insist on a theocratic government. Also Adel al Gharayani and his ‘Supreme Council of Libyan Revolutionaries’ may be emboldened to intervene and intimidate the GNC again. I take the liberty of adding this piece from The Libya Herald by Ahmed Elumami. dated Tripoli, 21 May 2013.

Finishing touches are being put to the draft law on the elections for the “Commission of 60” which will draw up the new constitution.  It should be ready for submission to Congress next week according to Constitution Election Committee member Wissam Suqair. The Committee was set up on 10 April under the chairmanship of Benghazi Congressman Suleiman Zubi andt given 45 days to submit its proposals to Congress. That gives it until Saturday.

According to Shaban Abu Seta, one of the three congressmen on the committee, the draft is ready but there are some details to be ironed out regarding seats allocations for women and other groups.

The Commission will be elected on the basis of 20 members each from Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan – Libya’s historic regions – and deliberately follows the structure of the Commission of 60 that drew up Libya’s 1951 independence constitution.

The emergence on the streets of Benghazi of Federalists and their black flag may be a flash in the pan but is none the less interesting. In this context it is important to read part of a report in Al Jazeera dated 8th May 2013:

‘The growing tension between the groups and the government has alarmed federalists and other factions in the east, prompting their leaders to unite to defend their territory from a similar assault. Representatives from these groups pledged on Saturday to revive the Cyrenaica Congress. Formed about a year ago to demand greater autonomy for the east, it sets out a manifesto for a federal Libya.

“We will not let Cyrenaica be ruled by the power of force,” said Ahmed Zubair al-Senussi, a distant relative of King Idris, who was deposed in a military coup led by Gaddafi in 1969.

Senussi will remain the symbolic head of the congress. In addition to selecting a head and combining military forces, the leaders moved to start a television channel for the region. The eastern congress agreed to start work on June 1, when it will hold its first assembly in the city of Al Baida. For about 10 years after Libya became an independent state in 1951, the country was run along federal lines with three regions. Power was devolved to Cyrenaica, to the southern province of Fezzan and to Tripolitania in the west.’
Update 9th June 2013
Reports of a very serious incident in Benghazi in the Libya Herald today will need further thought. It seems that the Libya Shield militia was involved in fighting with 200 or so protestors who may have had a number of federalists amongst them but there may have ben others involved.

See this report from Benghazi
http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/06/09/benghazi-libya-shield-protests-at-least-27-dead/
….and these interesting pieces on the failure of the army to establish control over the militias;
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/10/world/africa/libyan-violence-threatens-to-undercut-power-of-militias.html?ref=opinion
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/11/opinion/libya-doesnt-need-more-militias.html?_r=0

The independence and integrity of the ‘High Committee to Implement the Criteria for Occupying Public Positions’ will be particularly interesting. The mistakes made in the Iraqi de Ba’athification Council are only too obvious in hindsight.

Read the ‘Political Isolation Law’ in full here:

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/05/14/political-isolation-law-the-full-text/

Update 26th June 2013

Note – A new Congressional President elected……

http://www.libyaherald.com/2013/06/25/nuri-ali-abu-sahmain-elected-congress-president/

Update 30th July 2013

This small piece in Al Jazeera sums up the situation in LIbya at the end of July.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/07/2013729163050948443.html

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