Libyan tribes declare autonomy in southern Fezzan region

Libya’s south-western region of Fezzan declared itself an autonomous federal province on September 27th. The move came a month after Cyrenaica, in eastern Libya, took a similar step.

Nouri Mohammad al-Qouizi was named as the president of Fezzan province, according to Libyan media reports. Local tribal leaders said a military chief would later be appointed to protect the region’s borders and its natural resources

Frustration about lacking public services
The decision was taken due to “the weak performance of the General National Congress and the lack of response to the demands of the Libyan people, especially in Fezzan,” said a written statement released after a forum which brought tribal leaders together. The feeling of being forgotten by Tripoli, which is very strong in southern Libya, is bringing the three ethnic groups – the Arabs, Toubous and Tuaregs – from the Fezzan region together against the Libyan state. “The government doesn’t care about us because we are from the south,” Mohamed Salah Lichekh said, head of the Oubari local council in southern Libya, expressing the sentiment in this part of the country. Ibrahim Ahmed, the chief of Agar, a small Arab village in the south said: “We don’t have anything: no army, and no functional police force. Our police station doesn’t have cars, or radio communication – there is no support from Tripoli. In fact, all public services are suffering.”

Ideas of a Libyan federation
Faced with these shortages, Libyans in the south have learned to manage themselves by developing parallel systems based on tribal ways of life. For example in Sebha, a poor village in south-western Libya: “a group of 60 people made up of revolutionaries and resident volunteers” provides security, according to the Toubou head of this slum, Adam Ahmed. “They patrol the area and use their own arms. When there is a problem, the tribal leaders come together,” he added. This system has given certain sections of the population in the south ideas of a Libyan federation system.

Semi-autonomous region Cyrenaica
Cyrenaica had been declared an autonomous region twice by tribal and military leaders since the deposition of Muammar Gaddafi , and gained the status of a semi-autonomous region in March 2012. The oil-rich eastern region declared itself a federal province with Benghazi as its capital on August 17th. Member of the General National Congress Fatima Abbasi described the step as a "pre-emptive unilateral move". She added that this did not take people's needs into account and represented "the kind of dictatorship we fought against during the former regime". "I did not wish to see it end this way. The state is on the verge of electing a Constituent Committee. We in the Congress have made a commitment to citizens that this would be accomplished through elections and not appointments, despite the delays that affected the transitional period," she said.

The Libyan authorities haven’t responded yet to Fezzan’s tribal leader’s declaration of autonomy.

Resources: AlArabiya, IPSnews, Comesa

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