Role of Tribes in Current Libyan Conflict


Dmitry Petrov


The article explores tribal aspect of Libyan policy. Cases of Warfalla and Tuareg tribal groups show an important role of tribal entities in modern Libya. In focus are activity of Social Council of Warfalla Tribes as an influential political actor with its own armed force and successful fight of Tuareg militias over control of huge El Sharara oilfield as well as their confrontation with Tubu tribal militias.

The main sources for the research are information from such Internet-journals as Reuters, The Economist, Al-Monitor, The Libya Observer, etc. as well as reports from expert groups such as Country of Origin Information (COI) and Global Security.

The research led to the conclusion that tribal political actors play an independent role in the process of civil confrontation in Libya. By the manipulation of loyalties and maneuvering among official political actors they protect their own kind of “hidden sovereignty” over territories and resources. Main political leaders of the country, Khalifa Haftar and Fayez al-Sarraj, are actually dependent on complicated mosaic of tribal interests which determines changing loyalties of tribal actors.

At the same time tribal actors often have links over the borders of the state. Tuareg are fine example of this phenomenon, while Tuareg tribal militias are allied with armed tribal movements of their kinsmen in Mali and Niger.

The case of Social Council of Warfalla Tribes appears to be very helpful example. The institutions of governance as well as network of alliances developed by tribal actors in fact create a spontaneous institutional alternative to a project of centralized nation-state in Libya. Representatives of these unofficial non-state institutions work in different social spheres on a grassroots level.


tribal politics, tribes, ethnic conflict, Libya, Khalifa Haftar, Fayez al-Sarraj, Muammar Gaddafi, Tuareg, Warfalla




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