Posts tagged ‘LIFG Jihadists’

2011/02/25

A Guide To Libya’s Tribes

Hanspeter Mattes, deputy director of the Institute of Middle East Studies at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA) is an international expert on Libya predicts a return to an era of traditional strongmen. Excerpts from a recent interview conducted by Spiegel As an introduction to this overview of the tribes of Libya.

Spiegel: The military played a key role in the overthrow of the government in Egypt. Why is it different in Libya?
Mattes: The different role of the Libyan military reflects its different social structures. Libya, together with Yemen and Jordan, is among the nations in which tribes have played a central social and political role for centuries. In Libya, which is largely covered by deserts, the importance of tribes is largely due to the Bedouin way of life, which is based on livestock farming and the caravan trade and was dominant into the 20th century. Their survival hinged on tribal solidarity.

Spiegel: How does this tribal structure affect Libyan politics?
Mattes: Muammar Gaddafi’s assumption of power in 1969 resulted in members of Gaddafi’s Qadhadhifa tribe and the allied Maqarha and Warfalla tribes taking over all key positions in the security arena, that is, in the armed forces, police and intelligence service, thereby guaranteeing their control. For this reason, it was never to be expected, in the event of open political opposition questioning the dominance of the three tribes, that the members of the tribes would renounce their own tribes and defect to the opposition. This sort of situation has only materialized now, because the Warfalla tribe was opposed to the Gaddafi’s tribe’s harsh treatment of the opposition and therefore distanced itself from the Gaddafi tribe. The Warfalla tribe can afford to change course, because it’s a powerful tribe. Smaller tribes are less likely to have this choice.

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