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Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Tribal Gathering of May

May 6 2011
last updates May 9

Yesterday saw an interesting even in Tripoli, Libya. Some rare good news for the embattled regime of Muammar Gaddafi - a large and representative gathering of socially important tribal leaders, said by the government to have voiced total support for the standing government. The one that was supposedly "finished" in Libya a couple months back.

But predictably, the story is being spun and played down as much as possible by the usual suspects. I started with a link Fox News had about it, but they deleted it already. Old news within 24 hours? I don't think so. Can't be hosting it if it ... supports the regime? Score one for Libyan government story.

The Seattle Post Intelligencer has it:
Libyan regime: Tribal meeting is sign of support
KARIN LAUB, Associated Press
Updated 12:12 p.m., Thursday, May 5, 2011
 In Tripoli, meanwhile, foreign reporters were taken by government minders to a large tent where hundreds of tribal elders had gathered. Reporters were told that about 2,000 chiefs were present, that they represent 850 Libyan tribes and that the gathering was organized by the tribes, not the regime. The government also released a list of what it said were the names of the tribes.
"It's another proof that the Libyan people are rallying behind the leadership," Ibrahim said of the gathering. Several speakers at the conference called for national unity, urged rebels to disarm and demanded that the international community halt its bombing campaign, which began in mid-March with the aim of protecting Libyan civilians against Gadhafi's troops.

An interesting contrast with the decision of outsiders the same day in Italy.
In Rome, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the best way to protect Libya's people is to get Gadhafi to leave power. "This is the outcome we are seeking," she told representatives from 22 nations and organizations.
[Libyan spokesman Moussa] Ibrahim said the tribal gathering was a counterpoint to Clinton's call for Gadhafi's ouster. "What voice is more important, Hillary Clinton's voice or the voice of 2,000 tribal leaders of Libya?" he said.
Clinton's way to protect civilians ins't the best one, it's the only one she and her ilk will consider. It's rather suspicious, really. And Mr. Ibrahim's counter-point is a damn good one. But the rebels, always the balanced skeptics, weren't fully convinced. They called on serious discrepancies to suggest the tribal gathering was an inside job.
A rebel spokesman dismissed claims that those attending the Tripoli conference represented all Libyan tribes. "Libya doesn't have 850 tribes," said the head of the political committee of the rebel's Transitional National Council, Fathi Baja, in the eastern city of Benghazi. "Gadhafi is just a big liar. ... He never had any legitimacy. The Libyan people did not choose him."

Na'eem Jeenah, director of the Afro-Middle East Center in Johannesburg, South Africa, has said Libya has about 140 tribes and clans.

Is that it? Someone perhaps confused the words for "clan" and "tribe" and gave a wrong number that anyone could unearth? This is the proof he's a liar about the significance of this gathering? Can anyone name the tribes not involved?

Here's a different take:
Hermes Msafiri: Libyan Turmoil 117 (bis)
The big tribe gathering is a complete success. It's totally live on Libyan TV. Every speaker, maximum 10 minutes and also much shorter, is presented by name and tribe. There is also a list of names in Latin letters.

Still the media claim that they cannot verify, of course since they don't speak a word of Arabic and have no translators, they can always claim they cannot verify. I don't speak Arabic either but I had somebody next to me who translated. It was very revealing, even Eastern tribes were there, it's still going on now. Literally hundreds of tribe and clan chiefs from all over Libya.

The 3 stooges should pay attention, Benghazi cannot bring that tribal gathering, they cannot even reveal the names of 23 Council members of the 31 which are so-called members.
[ed: Most names of the 31 National Transitional Council members are not publicly known because of "security reasons"]

The speeches are all defiant and in favor of Gaddafi, those are the civilians the 3 stooges are talking about.

The 3 stooges agreed to give 250 million euro or dollars or whatever to the rebels during their mafia sessions in Rome, peanuts for their shoestring murder scenario, and they still need Qatar as paymaster.

When are they going to realize how ridiculous they really are?

Now, if in this supposedly democratic millieu, all voices came out for Gaddafi staying, I would find that suspicious. I'd like to learn more. Someone should have by now mentioned the old man might sacrifice himself (to the ICC and Milosevic's lonely fate) to save the system. If no one's allowed to even suggest that, well, that's one reason I could buy the system there does need serious change. I wish they could pull off the coup of doing it on their own terms, but that's not happening yet.

One problem with who attended or didn't is a combination of geography and a farkin' civil war.   As Richard Boudreaux notes in the Wall Street Journal (Via Pan-African News):
TRIPOLI, Libya—Hundreds of tribal leaders from government-controlled areas of Libya gathered under a giant tent here Thursday to call for an end to an armed uprising against Col. Moammar Gadhafi and aerial attacks by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on his forces.

But what the government billed as a nationwide show of support drew only limited participation, with tribal chiefs from three regions of western and central Libya in attendance.
One source says at least some eastern tribes, clans, whatever, did have their representatives there. But by this, it was mostly attended from government-held areas - the western two-thirds, the southern half, the largest city and capitol, and everything around the third largest city, Misrata.

This limited attendance could have different reasons. One, it could mean all the eastern tribes who didn't show are firmly against Gaddafi and just refused to add their voices to a "staged event." Or, of course, they feared arrest on visiting Tripoli. I would.

Another possibility is the few loyalist tribal leaders still in the east might be known and stopped by rebel security before getting there. There are only about two roads you can really take to get anywhere in Libya, after all. Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim did say the "security situation" in eastern Libya limited attendance at the conference.

But here's the thing about the one who did attend - these are the people, leaders of the socially-important tribes, of at least half of Libya. Their fate is in the balance here. The West, Secretary Clinton and the rest, intend to subject these people and those they represent to rule by the "pro-democracy" rebel forces that the WEST, not Libya, has adopted. They control parts of Libya, by the sole grace of NATO air power and other slimy neo-imperialist support. But they are not "the people of Libya."

A better answer to that description, if still imperfect, met yesterday in a democratic congress on their future. They may still come around to change, but a solid majority, it sounds like, are firm that it shouldn't happen now, not like this. Not like this. Not if their voices matter. (To Fox News at least, they don't). This "humanitarian" campaign is demonstratably anti-democratic. 

So, let's continue with Boudreaux. He passes on a critique by George Joffee, a Cambridge University professor, who is clearly an anti-Gaddafi activist and thus dismisses the whole event as a Gaddafi stunt with "coerced" tribal leaders. The usual crap. Again, but with some useful detail, he focuses on which tribes were and weren't there and what areas they represent. It doesn't seem to matter what the ones who were there said:
"We reject the fighting in Libya...we strongly reject foreign intervention," declared Abed Abu Hamada , leader of the Megharbah tribe, in a speech to the televised gathering of white-robed elders. "We call on our brothers in the eastern regions – the armed ones, the misled ones – we call them to peaceful dialogue."
Even among the tribal leaders present, backing for the government was limited.
[Plus one then for credibility] ... Nearly every speaker pledged allegiance to Col. Gadhafi. [plus five for relevance] 
Mansour Khalaf, who heads Libya's largest tribe, the Warfalla, told reporters during the conference that although he denounces the uprising and supports Col. Gadhafi's leadership, he would not send armed followers to join the Libyan army's fight against the rebels, as some other tribes have vowed to do.

Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said the "security situation" in eastern Libya limited attendance at the conference. But he insisted that it was broadly representative and urged Western leaders who have called for Col. Gadhafi's departure to take note.

"Their message is national unity and no to foreign intervention," he said. "They are not siding with someone against someone else. Of course, they're rallying behind the leadership of the country, but they're saying, we want our brothers in the east to come talk to us so we can find a peaceful solution to this crisis."
Rebel leaders [say] there's nothing to discuss as long as the Libyan leader remains in power.

Update May 7: There's a video on Youtube:

And at least one more:

Update May 7: And at conference's end, a call for a peaceful surrender of the Western-backed winners. Tribal Chiefs Call for Amnesty.
In a meeting that ended in Tripoli late on Friday evening, the National Conference for Libyan Tribes called for a "general amnesty law which will include all those who were involved in the crisis and took up arms".

"The general amnesty law is a means of laying the path ahead for a new era of peace and forgiveness," it said in a statement. No timetable for, nor details on, the proposed law were mentioned.

The statement also referred to opposition fighters as "traitors" and pledged that tribal leaders would not "forsake" or "abandon" Gaddafi. The statement goes on to call for towns "hijacked" by opposition fighters to be "liberated". "The conference also calls all Libyan tribes neighbouring the towns and cities hijacked by armed groups to move peacefully in popular marches to liberate those hijacked towns, disarming the armed rebels," it said.
I have to say, this might not be very realistic.

And, if any journalists or anyone has copies of the list handed out, the statements given, or any primary source materials like that, I'd be delighted to be sent copies at caustic_logic@yahoo.com for publication here.

Update: On the confusion over what "850 tribes" refers to when there are only 140 or so:
Auto-translated from Italian:
I have explained that each major tribe includes several tribes such as the tribe has 4 Zwayer ie tribes within that branch of the tribe who lives in a particular area take a different name and in colloquial language we would say that they are sub-tribes.

Thus each branch of the tribe has sent his own name several people at the big meeting.
The scale would be the major tribes, then the subtribes and then comes the family.

Subtribes word is invented because they call me as well but tribes that belong to a large tribe.
Otherwise, clans. The mammoth Warfalla tribe has 55 clans, for example.

Also, on Eastern representation. WSJ, May 8:

Moussa Ibrahim, a Libyan government spokesman, said about 200 elders from the rebel-held east took part in the conference and would exert their influence back home. But in interviews, two of those elders said they had fled the region weeks ago, after the rebel takeover, and didn’t plan to return anytime soon. [source]


  1. Don't forget that removing Gaddafi is equal to starting a civil war between tribes for the spoils, since many tribes can claim a piece of land on which is a piece of an oil field.
    And since the happenings of the last 2 months the tribes will not trust anybody, except for Gaddafi, and secure what they can.
    Gaddafi is ready to turn over power but in a secure way which wouldn't lead to a major bloodbath.

  2. Hey, thanks! Sorry for the boring message at your blog - I was tired by then.

    I found it troubling when someone at the outset said that by not getting involved and bombing, we ran the risk of "starting a civil war." !!! What to do when 95% of the public and 100% of the relevant leaders over here are living a giant self-imposed lie?

    The excuses and euphemisms are wearng thin.


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