Ethnic Tubus fear southern Libya offensive

The self-styled Libyan National Army is carrying out an offensive in the south of the country, leading to fears of persecution within the marginalized Tubu community. (AFP)
Updated 22 February 2019

Ethnic Tubus fear southern Libya offensive

  • The ethnic group fears vengeance by Arab communities that have joined an offensive by Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army
  • Long marginalized, Tubus live in the Tibesti region, which straddles Libya, Chad and Niger, an area long at the mercy of roaming rebel groups, traffickers and extremists

OUBARI: In the southern Libyan city of Oubari, shops are shuttered and tension is palpable, as residents fear an imminent incursion by forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar.

We “dread the repercussions of military operations that are unfolding on the edge of town,” said 22-year-old hospital administrator Ali Senoussi, speaking on behalf of his Tubu community.

Many residents in Oubari — some 900 kilometers (560 miles) south of Tripoli — are Tubu.

The ethnic group fears vengeance by Arab communities that have joined an offensive by Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), which is on the outskirts of the city.

Long marginalized, Tubus live in the Tibesti region, which straddles Libya, Chad and Niger, an area long at the mercy of roaming rebel groups, traffickers and extremists.

“We are residents of this region. Our support and love for it is immense,” said 22-year-old Senoussi, clothed in a traditional head robe to screen desert sun and wind.

“We cannot accept being involved in wars with Arab tribes that fight alongside Haftar,” he insisted, sipping tea in the courtyard of a hospital where he works as an administrator.




Tubus live in the Tibesti region, which straddles Libya, Chad and Niger.

The LNA says it is seeking to purge “terrorist and criminal groups,” and some accuse the Tubus of supporting Chadian rebels.

But Senoussi dismisses the offensive as “a threat to the social peace of the whole region.”

Tubu lawmakers even allege that ethnic cleansing is under way.

The community was among the first to join the 2011 uprising that ousted and killed Muammar Qaddafi.

But the former dictator’s downfall by no means improved Tubus’ standing in Libya.

Despite being home to some of the country’s biggest oilfields, the region is regularly hit by shortages of all kinds — petrol, electricity, gas cylinders and even bread.

Prices have rocketed on the black market.

Senoussi said the lack of fuel had forced him to leave his car at home and walk to work.

“Most public sector workers prefer to walk” to avoid long queues that have become a fixture of daily life at gas stations, he said.

The intensified chaos of recent years means that the southern border areas are more than ever a haven for extremists, traffickers and rebels.

These groups exploit a security vacuum that is exacerbated by an ongoing power struggle between a UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli and a rival administration loyal to Haftar in northeastern Libya.

Tribal and ethnic quarrels between the Tubus, Tuaregs and Arab groups over trafficking have added fuel to the fire.

“We are Muslims, but we have a culture and language that we share with our cousins from Chad, Niger and Sudan,” explained Ali Yahyia, a Tubu expert on his community.

But this does not undermine “our support for the Libyan homeland,” he insisted.

The LNA launched its ongoing military campaign in mid-January and on Wednesday night entered Murzuk, another southern Libyan city home to many Tubus.

Renowned for a fortress that dates back more than seven centuries, much of the historic settlement now resembles a ghost town.

Murzuk’s windswept streets are littered with garbage.

Like Oubari, shops are closed and people are scared to circulate.

Even bakers — hit by a lack of flour — cannot raise their blinds.

“The city faces numerous problems at the service level, particularly at the hospital where we have only one doctor,” deplored municipal councillor Ibrahim Omar.

“With the military operations that are ongoing, the doctors refuse to come, fearing for their lives,” he said.

If the situation persists, “food stocks will in the end be exhausted.”


UN tries to salvage Libya talks after Tripoli govt withdraws

Updated 47 min 32 sec ago

UN tries to salvage Libya talks after Tripoli govt withdraws

  • Salame was trying to convince the Tripoli delegation to stay in Geneva and resume indirect talks

GENEVA/CAIRO: The UN tried to salvage talks over a cease-fire for Libya on Wednesday after the government based in Tripoli said it was pulling out after a single day to protest against the shelling of the capital’s port.

Talks began on Tuesday in Geneva between the internationally recognized Tripoli government and its main rivals, the eastern-based Libya National Army (LNA), which has been trying to take the capital.

Late on Tuesday, the government said it would suspend its participation after the LNA shelled Tripoli port in the latest of several strategic plays by troops loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar that have coincided with attempts to ease tensions.

Delegations in Geneva

UN Libya envoy Ghassan Salame was trying to convince the Tripoli delegation to stay in Geneva and resume indirect talks, a source close to the talks said and the UN confirmed.

“Delegations are still here (in Geneva) and Dr. Salame has a meeting today with the head of the GNA delegation,” said Jean El-Alam, spokesman for the UN Libya mission, referring to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord. 

“The mission leadership is in contact with the GNA in Tripoli and member states to keep the momentum going.”

In a separate statement, the UN mission said it was “expressing its strong and renewed condemnation of the bombing of Tripoli’s seaport yesterday by the Libyan National Army.” 

There was no immediate comment from either side. 

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met with Haftar and they discussed to resolve the conflict in the north African state, the ministry said in a statement.

They agreed a political settlement is the only option for Libya, according to RIA news agency.

Shoigu and Haftar also discussed “the important role of talks” held in Moscow in January as well as “the need to fulfil” terms agreed at an international summit in Berlin later last month, Moscow said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday that outside players should push both sides in Libya to sit down for peace talks.

“All those who in one way or another influence political or other forces in Libya should stimulate them to sit down for talks. The first steps in this direction were taken but now additional difficulties are coming up again,” Lavrov said while meeting his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi in Moscow, RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Nearly nine years after rebel fighters backed by NATO airstrikes overthrew Muammar Qaddafi, Libya still has no central authority. The streets are controlled by armed groups, with rival governments based in Tripoli and the east.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met with Haftar and they agreed a political settlement is the only option for Libya, according to RIA news agency.

• Since the LNA marched on Tripoli nearly a year ago, fighting has displaced 150,000 people.

Since the LNA marched on Tripoli nearly a year ago, fighting has displaced 150,000 people. Both sides have support from an array of foreign governments, with Turkey supporting the Tripoli government.

The Geneva meetings have so far been held in different rooms, with Salame shuttling between the parties. Another round of talks is scheduled next week in Geneva.

The latest attack is part of an emerging pattern amounting to an apparent power play by the commander.

Haftar’s forces last month shut down Libya’s main oil ports as European and Arab powers and the US were meeting with his supporters in Berlin aimed at halting the campaign to capture the capital. 

In 2019, eastern military forces moved to western Libya just as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived.

The LNA initially said its strikes on Tuesday had targeted a Turkish vessel bringing weapons. It later said it had hit an arms depot.

The port is the main entry gate for wheat, fuel and other imports for Tripoli and has also been used by Turkey to send military trucks and other equipment to its government allies.

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