| Jan-Mar 09 | Apr-Jun 09 | Jul-Sept 09 | Oct-Dec 09 | Jan-May 10 | Jun-Dec 10 | Jan-May 11 | Jun-Dec 11 |

[Dehai-WN] Foreignpolicyjournal.com: Will 2012 Bring Tribal War to Libya?

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Tue, 3 Jan 2012 19:41:40 +0100

Will 2012 Bring Tribal War to Libya?

by Franklin Lamb

January 3, 2012

TRIPOLI - The weather in Tripoli this New Year's weekend is unseasonably
bone chilling, with heavy rains flooding the streets reminding this observer
more of dreary London this time of year than the southern Maghreb coast of
the Mediterranean. My modest family-run neighborhood hotel off Omar Muktar
Street is clean and cheap, but my room has no heat except what eventually
builds up under a stack of velour Turkish blankets.

Much valued by me and the only other registered guest, a Libyan engineer
from Sirte whose home was torched by rebels in early October, is the hotel
proprietor, who reopened in early November following closure since last
March. He is an encyclopedia of knowledge and opinion on "the current
situation" here. But the hotel owner and his two English speaking sons are
not the only ones who are increasingly speaking out about realities in the
"new Libya" nearly two months after NATO declared another victory and
stopped systematically and seemingly indiscriminately reducing to rubble
this essentially defenseless and, militarily speaking, Third World country,
with the First World's most advanced arsenal.

My good luck this trip was to find my best friend from the months I was in
Libya last summer, "Ahmad", who, like most contacts, disappeared without a
trace on August 22nd following the fall of Tripoli to NATO forces. As so
many of us have learned, those we knew this summer either fled fast, were
jailed, or were killed. "Ahmad" resurfaced in September via email to explain
that he was in hiding. He went deep down in South Libya in a small Sahara
town, the name of which he told me has never even made it on a map, much
less Google Earth. Then, a few weeks later, Ahmad disappeared again when he
ventured out to see his family near Tripoli. He was betrayed by friends for
militia cash, was arrested, tortured, and jailed without charges simply
because his family members were known to be Gadhafi supporters. The last
week of Ahmad's incarceration, which ended only because one of the guards
recognized him as a former classmate, he and the other more than 100,
including Sheik Khaled Fantouch, all held in a large room in a makeshift
Misrata militia prison, were given nothing at all to eat and shared bottles
of water to stay alive.

Life has become more complicated in Libya for about everyone, it seems,
including foreign visitors. One example: Back in the summer, before August
21st, if one found himself on a side street somewhere face to face with some
heavily armed and scowling types, it was a good idea to whisper, "Allah,
Muammar, Libya, al bas ('that all we need!')", and chances were quite good
that you would be warmly received. Now it's much more complicated. More than
55 rebel militia, totaling more than 30,000 armed fighters control parts of
Tripoli, some of them loosely under the protection and direction of the TNC,
Tripoli Military Commander Belhaj. Belhaj, formerly with Al Qaeda, spent
seven years in prison here when the US and UK sent him to the Gadhafi
regimes as part of its rendition program. His party, now being formed into
the Muslim Brotherhood, will likely win next June's election. His in the
third largest militia in Tripoli. The largest is run by Salh Gait, from
Tripoli, which according to his deputy has 5,000 fighters and is adding

These days in Libya, it is a good idea to memorize the name of the largest
of the local militias and the name of its leader so when approached by the
heavily armed unfriendly types one can rub two index fingers together and
say the leader's name while adding "mieh, mieh", "good, good." One wants to
avoid saying the wrong militia and leader name because there is today an
uneasy calm among militias in Tripoli after a few weeks of largely
unreported skirmishes.

Largely unreported for the following reason: The transitional government
daily touts the new freedom of the press here and they claim that there are
43 new newspapers or magazines. That on the surface sounds pretty good and
there are more or fewer each week as local and foreign funders fail to
deliver on funding promises or others start publishing a newspaper or

What is remarkable about the "new free Libya, new free media" is that it is
100 percent pro "new government". I am advised that it's only partly out of
fear of consequences for failing to toe the line that accounts for this
apparent universal support for the TNC. Another reason, according to a
western ambassador who has returned to his post here, is that the new media
sprang from the myriad militia and they simply have a psychological issue
with criticizing any of the obvious problems which seem to be swelling by
the day. Ahmad agrees. "They were so involved with NATO and its rebels that
they do not want to admit that they were wrong in many ways, so they ignore
what is really happening in front of their eyes".

This observer witnessed one example yesterday at "Green Square". "Almost
everyone still calls it Green Square rather than its TNC re-name of Martyrs
Square" the hotel proprietor explained, "because it's been Green Square for
decades and what's wrong with that name? If you tell someone to meet you at
'Martyrs Square' its sounds silly to most of us. What if the new Egyptian
government renames Tahrir Square? Will people in Egypt accept it?"

What surprised me yesterday is that there were two well attended
anti-government demonstrations being held at opposite ends of this large
space. One was led by two women I knew during the summer who were and openly
say they remain, Gadhafi regime supporters. One ran a women's lawyers' group
last summer and the other a women's group. The one demonstration was
demanding that the husbands and children of Libyan wives and mothers be
granted Libyan citizenship. The same struggle that continues decade after
decade in Lebanon.

The other demonstration, led by the lady lawyer who I last saw giving a
speech at a conference at the Corinthia Hotel a few days before Tripoli
fell, was organized by a group demanding accountability for those who have
disappeared and are being held in scores of secret militia prisons around
the country. According to her committee's research, in addition to the 7,000
plus pro-Gadhafi loyalists acknowledged as imprisoned by the TTC, 80%
identified by name, the Committee for Justice for the Disappeared claim that
there are more than 35,000 Libyans being held secretly by militia that are
outside the control and sometimes even the knowledge of the essentially
powerless TNC. Ahmad agrees with this figure from what he learned in prison
and explained that he would take me to a school near my hotel before classes
open on January 7th, and if we walk by at night without traffic noise, we
can hear the shouting of guards and screams of prisoners being held.

It does appear that at least for now, demonstrations are being allowed,
although there were plenty of observers watching, and which ones are from
the TNC and militia security forces is anyone's guess.

Ahmad just arrived to pick me up and informed me that neither demonstration
was reported in this morning's papers, thanks to the new Libyan feel good
media who don't criticize the new government.

The lady who heads the woman's group has several issues her group plans to
raise. One is the fact that Libyan women have been disappearing from public
places and not heard from again. One of her suspicions is that some are
ending up in the homes of former Gadhafi relatives and supporters of the
regime. She estimates that just in Tripoli more than 90 such homes, all of
them in desired areas, often on the sea, were ransacked by various rebels
gangs, stripped of possessions, some appearing now in various street souks
for sale. Following the trashing of some of the properties, many militia
members got a better idea. Why return to, say, Benghazi, Misrata, or
wherever they came from when they can just live here in Tripoli and in
relative luxury? Militiamen are now doing this by the hundreds, "Mara", the
women advocate, claims. "They are well-armed, living off a little militia
pay, but mainly from various crimes, these groups are repairing some of the
damage they caused and have moved in long-term, even charging rent to some
new arrivals." Mara added, "If they see an empty house, especially if it's a
really nice one, they assume, often correctly, that it belonged to a Gadhafi
relative, official or supporter, and they think it's theirs for the
grabbing. And they are grabbing. They dare anyone or even another militia or
the non-existent new government to try to remove them. They have no
intention of returning to where they came from and less on given up their
arms. Actually they are stockpiling more weapons and explosives both as
security and to increase their political bargaining power. It appears that
Libya is up for grabs for so many, local and foreign operations." The same
lady said the population of Tripoli has risen by one million and the locals
want the "outsiders" to return to their towns and leave Tripoli's real
residents to take care of their city. The outsiders are said to add to
traffic problems and a decline in security so people stay inside at night.

Some of the home invaders have moved in their families from other parts of
Libya and some are accused of holding kidnapped female foreign domestic
workers and are suspected by the women advocacy groups, kidnapping women off
the streets and enslaving them within their sanctuaries.

What outrages many here is that the new "government" will not even
acknowledge that these problems exist. Just as the new government has no
desire for the International Criminal Court to investigate any crimes from
either side because they don't want investigators snooping around asking

Libyans inside the country and those seeking safety in nearby countries are
increasingly turning to the ten largest Libyan tribes to put an end to this
situation and many other problems.

One situation that is said to be ready to explode in violence is from areas
like Bani Wallid and Serte, where NATO and its local forces killed many
civilians that no human right group even knows about. One local militia
commander explained to me and my two colleagues some of what he learned
while helping run a secret prison: "Whatever intra-tribal or geographical
divisions existed a year ago, they are 500 times worse today. The tribes are
arming and have given the new government several deadlines for committing to
rebuild destroyed homes and businesses, helping homeless families, and
getting the guns off the streets and sending the armed gangs back to where
they came from. To date nothing has been achieved by the new government and
people are growing very angry."

Other current problems causing strife here are the rising prices on
everything except electricity, which no one has paid in the whole country
according to my sources since last February. But the electricity cuts are
similar to during the NATO bombing. Lack of money is a problem with citizens
not being allowed to withdraw more than 750 dinars each month. Money is
still relatively scarce and if one accepts that 7 billion was taken out of
Libyan banks by former Libyan officials and businessmen early last spring,
more than 8 billion was withdrawn by citizens in a panic last summer before
a limit of 500 dinars per month was imposed by the Gadhafi government.

This observer has been advised both in neighboring countries and inside
Libya by Tribal officials that war in coming maybe as soon as March 1. "Our
history, our culture, our dignity, is at stake. It is the responsibility of
the tribes to cleanse the country of these outlaws just as we did against
the Italian colonizers."

During a meeting in a nearby country, one Gadhafi loyalist explained: "We
know which tribes worked with NATO and sold out their birthrights. Some did
the same thing with the Italians and over the years with foreign oil
companies. We will fight to restore a path for the Libyan people knowing
that mistakes were made by the Gadhafi regime, but also that his support
today ranges from 90% in Wafala Tribe areas like Bani Walid to close to 60%
in Tripoli. He is not coming back, but many of his good policies will
return, inshallah."


      ------------[ Sent via the dehai-wn mailing list by dehai.org]--------------
Received on Tue Jan 03 2012 - 13:41:50 EST
Dehai Admin
© Copyright DEHAI-Eritrea OnLine, 1993-2012
All rights reserved