Libya: Tribal Warfare

Despite the death of Moammar Qaddafi half a year ago, the humanitarian violence perpetuates under Libyan militias with hundreds of tribal militias extorting money and killing their enemies.

Libya's Militias Are Out Of Control

Amnesty International has reported that Libya’s tribal militias are out of control, with the torture and murder of former Qaddafi loyalist (or suspected loyalists) remaining widespread.  During and immediately after the civil war, the militias after the civil war, the militias murdered countless numbers of Qaddafi supporters in captivity, tortured many others, and razed the homes of other to punish them for their political beliefs.  Without a central authority demanding control over the countryside, the militias are quickly turning Libya into a regional warzone, divided by tribes.  According to the Amnesty International report, 16% of Libyans sad they were ready to resort to violence for political end, clearly threatening hopes for a new Libya.  During Libya’s civil war, many of the revel leaders and supporters spoke confidently and often about a new era of respect for human rights that would be ushered in.  Nevertheless, the scenes coming out of Libya illustrate quite a different scenario, regional warfare that has already claimed over 30 lives in the last 4 days.

“Militias in Libya are largely out of control and the blanket impunity they enjoy only encouraged further abuses and perpetuates instability and insecurity.  Militias with a record of abuse of detainees should simply not be allowed to hold anyone and all detainees should be immediately transferred to authorized detention facilities under the control of the National Transitional Council.” – Donatella Rovera, spokesperson for Amnesty International

With Libya elections planned in June, the violence and anarchic scenes do not bode well for a fair and accountable process, unless the militias are brought under some kind of control.  There has been no investigation into the murder of 65 people In Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte last October, nor has there been any response to the 30,000 people from Tawargha whom were expelled from their homes and have not been allowed to return for supposedly having supported Qaddafi.  The news vindicates a study published by the Institute of Human Sciences at the University of Oxford, which suggests that more than a third of Libya’s citizens would rather return to being ruled by a strongman authoritarian than embrace any democracy.  The threat of tribal warfare encompassing the entire country becomes all too real when taken into account the large stockpiles of weapons that lay strewn about after the collapse of the Qaddafi regimes.  For decades, the Libyan dictator stockpiled thousands of Man-Portable-Air-Defense Systems, or MANPADS.  By the time his regime collapses in October 2011, Libya had accumulated the largest stockpile of MANPADS of any non-MANPADS producing country in the world.  The US is assisting with MANPAD control and destruction program through the deployment of a State Department expert from the MANPADS Task Force.  Thus far, they have been able to identify, recover and secure approximately 5,000 MANPADS and components.  Nevertheless, the chaos in the regions does stunt proliferation efforts, and the possibility that tribal militias have already secure their own stockpiles is a very real threat.

“Looking for the future, the leadership in Libya will need to ensure a comprehensive overhaul of laws and practices that facilitated the systemic perpetration over decades of human rights abuses in a climate of total impunity, and that triggered the anti-government movement in the first place.  Only then will the hopes of Libyans for a better future – one of equality before the law, social justice, and the respect for human rights – be realized.” – Amnesty International, The Battle for Libya: Killings, Disappearances and Torture

The most hostile of tribal wars, is taking place in the southeast, near the border of Egypt, Chad and Sudan.  There, the dark-skinned Toubo tribe, which was persecuted under Qaddafi, is under attack by the larger and lighter-skinned Zwai.  The Toubo tribe accuses the NTC of backing the Zwai, already demonstrating dissent and the nigh impossibility of appeasing cultural rifts among these tribes.  There has been a long racial and ethnic conflict along the southern border of the Sahara Desert, where light-skinned Arabs, Tuaregs and Berbers come into conflict with the darker-skinned Africans.  Many of the Tuaregs and Berbers were used a mercenaries and troops by Qaddafi’s regime. Many of them were killed during the uprising, but the survivors have returned to Mali with their own ideas of a rebellion, as well as hopes for retribution for their lost brothers at the hand of the NTC.  Moreover, tribal and local militias contain over 100,000 armed men organized into several hundred separate groups.  Many are only a few dozen local men with some weapons and a leader.  Some militias have over a thousand armed men, heavy weapons and an agenda.  While some 5,000 militiamen have joined the new Libyan Army, nearly a hundred militias in Western Libya have formed their own separate organization.

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