To the casual observer it seems the height of foolishness and desperation for Muammar Gadaffi to promise $400 dollars per family that joins him in fighting “the rebels”, but it actually is sound politicking in the Libyan mindset. Special thanks to Reinhard for forwarding the link to this excellent article from the Swedish press, which really does unravel the politics of the land. Libya is truly a medieval country in the classical sense of the word, with a myriad of clans and sub-clans for which any competing power must struggle for an allegiance with in order to rule the land as a whole. KGS
Gaddafi is losing support among clans
Published: 25 February 2011, 23:00. Last Modified: February 26, 2011, 08:30
SVD: WILTING ALLIANCES. In 40 years the dictator Muammar Gaddafi Libya controlled by manipulating the country’s clans. But his strength is going to be his downfall as more and more of the most powerful clans, leaving his side and turns against him.
In recent days the Libyan embassy officials, pilots and officers left the government side to either seek asylum abroad or turn against Gaddafi. But drop-out rate is no accident, says one expert.
According Abdulhadi Khalaf at the center for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University defections are a sign that Gaddafi’s power over the Libyan clan society has weakened.
-Clans were a tool to maintain power. He bought loyalty with positions within the state apparatus and the army. But when the clan will withdraw their support the officials and officers disappear.
Libya’s clans are ancient political collective, based on blood ties and loyalty. In a brutal dictatorship that Gaddafi in which modern institutions are lacking, they are often the only source of security and livelihood.
But Abdulhadi Khalaf said that the clans in all times have been manipulated by the country’s ruler to form the coalitions and alliances needed to run the country.
-Gaddafi, the divide and rule by buying some tribes with money and positions within the state apparatus. Each clan would have as much influence as possible, and the division has been at the Gaddafi hand.
There are more than 140 different clans and tribes of Libya, all with their own characteristics and different influences. Many of them are split into as many as ten or fifteen sub-clans.
But far from all the Libyan tribes have power necessary to influence policy. According to the newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, published from London is about 30 clans so strong that they can interfere in the country’s governance.
A Libyan expert who Asharq Al-Awsat spoke to said that the two largest clans in the country called the Beni Salim and the Beni Hilal. They are based in the eastern and western Libya and has roots in the Arabic peninsula.
Gaddafi himself from the clan Ghadafa which originated in southern Libya and has historically been a weak grouping. Clan’s strongest asset is that it is said to be descended from the Prophet Mohammed.
But the clan Ghadafas position changed rapidly in 1969 when clan son of Muammar Gaddafi overthrew King Idris of the clan Senussi. From that day the Ghadafa clan took over Libya and the great leader made sure important positions in the air force, army, oil industry and government were distributed among the members of his own clan.
But Gaddafi was also tied to the other clans and let them take part of the country’s vital oil revenues. The clan that has the oldest and strongest ties to Qaddafi’s clan Magariha.
Among other Gaddafi’s closest and former Prime Minister Abdessalam Jalloud belonging Magariha-clan, as do several high-ranking in the mild creditor and the security services.
A clan that used to be allied with Gaddafi, but many important items are the clan Warfalla has now turned against Gaddafi and the opposition leader’s brutal handling of the insurgency, “says Abdulhadi Khalaf.
-When Warfalla withdrew its support, we saw immediately that the officers and embassy officials switched sides. It is Gaddafi punishment because he never built a modern state in which clan loyalties are replaced by a loyalty to the state.
But the clan Warfalla is powerful. For a less influential clan, it is impossible to dispose of foe with Gaddafi and his allies until the wind turned so much that it even became dangerous to support him.
Conflicts between clans often extends far back. There may be conflicts over water and pasture that erupted for several hundred years ago.
-It may be small tribal wars or acts of revenge that is forgotten when it’s good times but that may be developed and exploited by someone who wants to exploit the situation in the negotiations or to mobilize their own.
In eastern Libya where the rebellion started out Gaddafi’s worst enemies. One of the most powerful clan is Misurata who was influential in King Idris and never put themselves on the side of Gaddafi and his rivals for power.
– Fall Gaddafi decided the future when the clans to negotiate the division of power. Everything will be determined by the balance of power between different clans, “said Abdulhadi Khalaf.