Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

ENCORE!

Contemporary art takes over the French capital and the countryside

Read more

FOCUS

'China's Silicon Valley' symbolises high tech, prosperity and social inequality

Read more

REVISITED

Video: In St. Petersburg, legacy of Nazi siege lives on

Read more

ACROSS AFRICA

30 years on, FRANCE 24 meets sole survivor of Burkina Faso's counter-coup

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Paris, the city of love, lights and... traffic jams

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

French lawmakers approve tax on sugary drinks

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Lulu the labrador flunks out of CIA K-9 academy, becomes internet sensation

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Protests continue in Togo despite ban on weekday demonstrations

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'The fall of the comedy king': Canada hit by sexual harassment scandal

Read more

REPORTERS

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 9.10 pm Paris time. Or you can catch it online from Friday.

Latest update : 2012-12-17

Battle for control of southern Libya

Oil wells, water supplies, border checks and illegal alien smuggling… Deep in southern Libya, the Tubus are masters of all they survey. Marginalized under Gaddafi, the Tubus helped bring him down. Now their plight is battling with neighboring Arab tribes to maintain control in the region. Their violent clashes have already claimed hundreds of lives. On the eve of elections, the situation is still a powder keg.

In the newsroom, we’d been receiving reports of deadly violence in southern Libya, first from Sabha and then from the town of Kufra. After making contact with the communities there, we decided to head to the region to investigate first-hand.

Members of the Tubu tribe, the black population living in southern Libya (as well as in neighbouring Chad and Niger), told us that fresh violence was breaking out in Kufra. They described shelling on civilian areas, and a conflict pitting the Tubus against the local Arab tribe, the Zwei, and with militias who had travelled south from Benghazi.

Kufra is deep in the south east of the country, an oasis in the Sahara. Heading down there involved a drive of more than 24 hours across the desert. Very little of the journey is on marked roads; the Tubus drive in pick-up trucks across the dunes, and know the sands of the Sahara by heart.



We arrived in the nearest village to Kufra, Rabyana. Piecemeal information about the conflict in Kufra was filtering through, via satellite phone. We were told that the two Tubu neighbourhoods of the town were under siege, with electricity and water supplies cut off. The situation remained confused, with very contradictory reports about the security conditions in town. Armed men and boys set off from the village to try and enter Kufra by force to evacuate injured civilians. Very little news filtered back of their perilous mission. After trying to arrange a safe passageway into the town for several days, we were informed the only way in was on foot across the desert, or by force.

But we still wanted to find out about the accounts of ethnic violence. In Sabha, a city in the south west of Libya, doctors had reported that some 50 people were killed in clashes dating back to March and April. Again, we were told that Tubu neighbourhoods there had come under fire. In Tayun, a large Tubu and Tuareg area, gunshot marks and shell damage is peppered through the streets. We met with residents who showed us rocket damage to their homes, and told us of relatives killed and injured. Hawa, a nurse, showed us mobile phone video footage of a devastated house, where she said her mother had been killed by shrapnel following a mortar attack.

Arab residents of Sabha we spoke to didn’t deny there’d been deadly violence. They told us they wanted to live in peace with their Tubu neighbours, as they had for most of the past 30 or 40 years. They said they didn’t know how or why the attacks and fighting had started. But it became clear that tensions between the different ethnic communities of Sabha have been brewing under the surface for years.

The difference between the Tubu areas of Sabha (or “Tubu villages”, as they’re known) is clear to see. The Khajera village, in particular, is extremely run down. It’s a dense slum of crumbling stone buildings and unpaved roads. A stark contrast to the modern, built-up parts of central Sabha, which are populated by Arabs or ethnically mixed. The leader of the Khajera village told us that the Tubus had been discriminated against under the Gaddafi regime, marginalized from public life. Many Tubus we met are bracing themselves to fight hard for their rights in this new, post-Gaddafi era.

In the south of Libya, as in the rest of the country, heavily-armed militias roam the streets. The Tubus have 7 separate militia brigades, still not incorporated into the national security forces. They fought as rebels against Gaddafi during the revolution and seized stocks of weapons and important military bases, still under their control. They’ve mounted checkpoints, they say, to ensure the security of this part of the country, which they  basically consider as their own.

At a base near the Niger border, militia members proudly explain that it’s they, not the interim central government in Tripoli, who control the country’s southern frontiers. The militia members show us a haul of cannabis resin seized from smugglers. The trafficking of drugs, weapons, goods and even people is rife across this zone. It’s a passageway linking Mediterranean north Africa with the lawless Sahel (home to al Qaeda’s local wing), and then Sub-Saharan Africa beyond that. The Tubus themselves are seasoned smugglers; in our drives across the desert we came across their pick-up trucks crammed almost to bursting with parcels, goats and immigrants.

The porous borders and natural resources (water, petrol) of southern Libya make it strategically vital. Many Tubus say they are prepared to work with Libyan authorities, to co-operate in forging a post-Gaddafi state. But they’re also demanding their rights, and an end to discrimination and violence, if they’re going to hand over some of their control of the south.

By James ANDRE , Catherine NORRIS TRENT

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2017-10-13 Europe

Video: Ghosts of 1917 revolution still haunt Russians

What remains of the 1917 October Revolution in Russia? FRANCE 24 brings you a special documentary on how Russians are living with this cumbersome legacy, as the Kremlin keeps a...

Read more

2017-10-06 Middle East

Video: After the war, life slowly returns to Mosul

FRANCE 24's reporters went back to Mosul, almost three months after Iraqi forces liberated the country’s second city from the grip of the Islamic State (IS) group. The scene of...

Read more

2017-09-29 Africa

Video: Beauty queens to the rescue in Sierra Leone

In January 2016, Sierra Leone, a small West African country torn apart by war and ranked among the poorest in the world, created a sensation at the Miss Universe event. For the...

Read more

2017-06-30 Saudi Arabia

Women in Saudi Arabia: A long road to equality

In Saudi Arabia, women are considered second-class citizens. They cannot drive or travel without the authorisation of a male guardian: a brother, father, cousin or even a son....

Read more

2017-09-22 Middle East

The torment of Christians living in Syria’s Khabur valley

In the last few years, Syria’s Christians have been subjected to violent attacks and kidnappings by the Islamic State group. Churches have been burnt and entire villages in the...

Read more