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Dec 5, 2012 | 17:38 GMT

Libya's Tribal Conflicts

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Libya's Tribal Conflicts

A delegation from the Toubou tribe, one of several semi-nomadic African tribes in southern Libya, traveled to Tripoli on Nov. 27 for talks to help resolve tensions after a Zuwaya tribesman allegedly killed a Toubou tribesman, Libyan media reported. Violence between the Toubou and Zuwaya tribes around the southeastern town of Kufra has existed since the Gadhafi era, but like southern Libya's other tribal conflicts, it was repressed by the Gadhafi regime. Tribal disputes are just one of many challenges the Libyan provisional government will face in the future. But of these tribal disputes, the Toubou-Zuwaya conflict is particularly important because of the threat it poses to oil and water resources. The Toubou are found along Libya's fluid southern border with Niger and Chad. Due to their cultural and linguistic differences, the Toubou were thoroughly repressed under Gadhafi. Even before Gadhafi took power in 1969, the Kingdom of Libya's citizenship laws (enacted in 1954) made it difficult for non-Arab tribes to assimilate into mainstream Libyan Arab society. Desertification and difficulties associated with their traditional way of life forced many Toubou to move north, putting them at odds with other Arab tribes, particularly the Zuwaya, in the areas of southern Libya surrounding the oasis towns of Sabha and Kufra. During Gadhafi's Arabization campaigns, the regime's interventions typically favored the Zuwaya over the Toubou, supporting local Arab tribal suppression of minority groups that competed for resources and control of Saharan trade routes. This support fueled the Toubou's and other minority groups' anti-government sentiment, which still lingers today. Unless the fledgling government finds a way to deal effectively with the Toubou, Zuwaya, Berbers, Tuaregs and other tribal groups in southern Libya, there is a very real chance that it will foster not just further tribal violence, but also opposition to the central government.

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