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[Dehai-WN] Middle East Online: Stability in Libya Threatened Amid Struggle for Power

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2012 23:49:02 +0200

Stability in Libya Threatened Amid Struggle for Power


Despite the vital role tribes played in the fall of Gaddafi's regime in
eastern Libya there is clear move towards reducing the tribal influence in
the Libyan society by the new authorities and some of the established
political parties; says Mohamed Eljarh.

 First Published: 2012-04-03

Following the announcement of the Barqa council by thousands of tribal and
political leaders in eastern Libya, and as expected Tripoli strongly
condemned the move and employed all possible resources and means to mobilise
the public against the Barqa council. There has been a fierce exchange of
allegations and accusations by both sides.

A date was set for an anti-federalism demonstration on Friday 09-03-2012,
and throughout Libya thousands have come out on the streets especially in
western Libya to show their opposition to the unilateral announcement of
autonomy by the leaders in Barqa. However, Ahmed Elzoubair Elsenousi leader
of the newly established Barqa council said citizens have the right to
protest and oppose federalism calls in the country, but insisted that their
decision is final and there is no going back and he called for a referendum
on the issue in the region of Barqa in collaboration with the NTC and under
UN supervision.

The situation is further complicated by the support of the tribal leaders to
the Barqa council, as Mustafa Abduljalil and the new government are aware
that these people have huge societal influence in the region. These tribal
leaders feel the need to make their presence felt in the new Libya
especially after the formation of the interim government where they claim
favouritism was exercised in the allocation of important government posts
such as Defence and Interior and tribes from western Libya landed those

Tribal leaders were an important pillar for Gaddafi's rule. Gaddafi knew the
importance of the tribal support for his rule, and ensured at all times that
this support was maintained. When the uprising started in eastern Libya
anonymous support by tribal leaders for the uprising was vital to dismantle
Gaddafi's presence in the Barqa region. However, there was no anonymous
support by tribal leaders in western or southern regions of Libya, and that
was one of the main reasons why Gaddafi managed to stand grounds for few
months despite the continuous air strikes and attacks on the ground from the

Despite the vital role tribes played in the fall of Gaddafi's regime in
eastern Libya there is clear move towards reducing the tribal influence in
the Libyan society by the new authorities and some of the established
political parties. The recently announced elections law proposes 120 seats
for party lists and 80 seats for individual candidates and that clearly
favours political parties, as most individual candidates will rely on the
tribal support to win their nomination to the National Assembly. The Muslim
Brotherhood campaigned heavily and ensured allocation of seats favoured
party candidate lists and that gives them a clear advantage, due to the fact
that they are the best organised political movement in the country.
Naturally, the Muslim Brotherhood and other political parties were strongly
opposed to the idea of federalism in the country because it would ensure
power is concentrated in the hands of tribal leaders instead of political

It has also been reported that tribal leaders from Werfalla the second
largest tribe in Libya were arrested in Benghazi after receiving a formal
invite to join the Barqa council meeting. It was also reported that
government personnel were behind the arrest in a bid to distort the
significance of the Barqa council announcement. This indicates consensus
between tribal leaders throughout Libya that their role in the new Libya has
to be protected especially with the NTC and the interim government crowded
by Muslim Brotherhood affiliates and advocates, as well as, other interest
groups and power brokers.

It is not yet clear how will the Barqa council react to the demonstrations
that have taken place throughout Libya. However, it is expected that the
tribal leaders will not give up that easily and will instead start to play a
political game with the new authorities and try to influence the decision
making and the writing of the new constitution. The tribal leaders will need
to be assured that their role in Libya will still be vital, and only then
consensus can be reached to get on with building the new Libya. If the
tribal leaders are excluded from the political process, they will
destabilise any new government in Libya by relying on their societal and
popular influence. Such divisions will only prolong the road to democracy in
the country and cause unnecessary confrontations that could result in
catastrophic scenarios for the stability of Libya. The Barqa council has
recently announced that the second assembly of its leaders will be in
mid-April to discuss the upcoming elections, and it is expected that they
would refuse to participate in the elections unless safeguards are given for
the Federal governing system to be adopted in the constitution as was the
case in 1951.

It is also safe to say that the Federalism Movement in Eastern Libya is the
most organised political movement in the region, due to the fact that all
the political parties and activities are based in Tripoli. This arrangement
leaves Federalists and their advocates an excellent space and environment to
operate in. The gathering of over 3000 delegates is the biggest and first of
its kind in the region of Barqa by all accounts. The authorities in Tripoli
have to address and fill this political vacuum created in the region by
their complete re-location to Tripoli.

There has to be mutual dialogue between all the power brokers involved in
the new Libya to come up with a satisfactory deal for all.

Mohamed Eljarh is a UK based Libyan academic researcher and political,
social development activist. He is from the city of Tobruk in Eastern Libya.
[Email: m.eljarh_at_yahoo.co.uk ] follow on Twitter: _at_Eljarh


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