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LIBYA - Tribal Rivalries.

The rivalries among the tribes of Libya extend to an era well before the formation of the modern Libyan state. Such rivalries are most pronounced in the armed forces. Each of the main tribes is represented in the military establishment and the various popular and revolutionary committees. For instance, Qadhafi's Qadhadfa tribe has an ongoing rivalry with the Magariha tribe of Abdel Sallam Jalloud, the man who was second-in-command in the country for decades until he fell out of favour. Currently, Jalloud is said to be under house arrest.

These rivalries are manifested among factions within the armed forces. Although these rivalries usually stay latent within the military establishment, they occasionally surface via reported clashes between different groups or coup attempts. For example, Qadhafi's opponents within the armed forces staged a coup attempt in October 1993. The eight alleged leaders of that attempt, including colonels and majors, were executed on Jan. 2, 1997. In the period leading to the execution, in late 1996, an anti-Qadhafi alliance between the military opponents of the regime and Islamic militants was proposed by a militant shaikh. This could have been dangerous, but it did not materialise.

The Warfalla tribe, which turned against Qadhafi during the coup attempt in 1993, is numerous and is closest to Jalloud's Magariha tribe. The Al Zintan tribe backed the Warfalla as well. The coup attempt was spearheaded by Warfalla officers in the Bani Walid region, 120 km south-east of Tripoli. The main reason for the coup attempt was that, despite its size, this tribe was poorly represented in the regime and only occupied second-echelon posts in the officers' corps.

Moreover, Warfalla tribal officers have been excluded from the air force. The air force is reserved almost exclusively to the Qadhadfa tribe, to which Qadhafi belongs. It was the air force which crushed the coup attempt in October 1993. Jalloud's Magariha tribe comes next to the Warfalla in terms of numerical strength and is bigger than the Qadhadfa. One of the two suspects extradited to the Netherlands in the Lockerbie bombing case, Abdel Baset Al Migrahi, belongs to an important branch of this tribe. Allegations that the Magariha backed the Warfalla during the coup attempt led to Qadhafi's order to place Jalloud under house arrest.

Despite the crushing of the coup attempt, the Warfalla remain strong, numerous and represented in the armed forces as well as the civil service. Only 12 key figures from this tribe were arrested and eight of them were executed. The rest of the officers and troops involved in the attempt are said to be kept in hiding by the tribe. If Jalloud's Magariha, the Warfalla and Islamic militant groups unite against Qadhafi in an all-out confrontation involving the military, they could take over power. But that would soon be followed by challenges from other tribes. Ultimately, if Qadhafi is overthrown, these tribes could fight each other and Libya could be split into several regions.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Redrawing the Islamic Map
Geographic Code:6LIBY
Date:Oct 14, 2002
Previous Article:LIBYA - The Islamist Factor.
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