Libya

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Libya: The tribal question

To build a new state, Libya will have to bring together the one hundred and forty or so tribes that make up the country. Throughout Muammar Gaddafi’s reign, the country was run by a coalition of clans. An alliance between three large tribes – the Warfalla in the east, the Qadhadhfa in the centre and the Magariha in the west – structured the political landscape.

Libya has never been a true “state”, and Gaddafi claimed not to be “President” when the protestors called for his resignation. Everything has to be rebuilt in this country with no constitution or working political institutions. To ensure a democratic transition, the NTC will need to include the tribes that supported the old regime and protect them in case of reprisals by the winning clans.

The new government could be faced with political instability and a breakdown in law and order if certain tribes feel they’ve lost out. The biggest fear is a situation like that in Iraq, where the leaders from the old regime were systematically excluded from the new structure.