Will Libya Return To Monarchy Or Install Republic?
As the conflict in Libya is drawing to the end, and it would seem that the governmental forces will have no choice but to lay down weapons at certain point, there are many questions that concern the future of this state. And not necessarily its economic future, which seems secured by the impressive amounts of oil in the soil of this great northern African country.
For decades, Muammar al Qaddafi considered himself the man who actually kept the Libyans together under the same state, called by his people, the Jamahiriya, some sort of representative democracy filled with Muslim ideas.
The state Qaddafi created was like no other state in the world, and his rule itself was not like any other in the world, given that he held no official office recognizable by the democratic world.
From the official documents he signed to the page on Wikipedia, Muammar al Qaddafi was descried as “leader and guide of the revolution in Libya,” an office that could be assimilated remotely to the reverence title Turk bestowed upon the founder of the Turkish state, Mustafa Kemal Attaturk, after he was dead.
With no recognizable office, Qaddafi ruled the country as some sort of spiritual father, over an immense country of 1,759,541 square kilometers, with a population of only 6 million, most of them tribal populations of Berbers. He also ruled over immense quantities of oil, which kept the country united.
He reigned with an iron fist, to say the least, that made sure all tribal disputes ended before they began, and that the entire country was under his very elaborate scrutiny. Besides, the people living under his rule had the same “enemy:” the leader and the protector of the state.
It is considered that as soon as Qaddafi’s state structures, mainly based on an “over tribal” mentality, with family members in all key offices, have been dismantled, the state will collapse into chaos, and the fighting will be resumed between the provinces. The prospect of civil war is considered by many too remote, but that of confrontation between rival tribes is not.
To understand what is likely to happen to Libya, one must take a look at the ethnic fabric of this country.
What we call now Libya is a country formed of three large provinces, Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan. These provinces were first brought under the same rule in the times of the Ottoman sultans, who created a Tripolitania province.
Cyrenainca, which was the eastern province, had a pasha, even though there were now Turkish troops stationed there. The main tribe in Cyrenaica was called Libu, and they are also mentioned in the Bible under the Hebrew term Lehabim, which described both the people in the region and the territory, that is the country. The Romans called them Leguatan, and the Arabs, Lewata. That is where the country got her name.
The three provinces were first united under Italian rule, after the Italian army occupied Cyrenaica in 1911, and declared it protectorate in 1912. Three days after the declaration of protectorate, Cyrenaica was officially handed by Turks to Italians.
They made it an Italian colony and recognized Sheikh Sidi Idris as first ruler of the new colony. He was rejected the same year by the Italians.
On January 1, 1929, Cyrenaica, Fezzan and Tripolitania were united under the name of Libya, and under the rule of Italy.
British army occupied Cyrenaica during the WWII and held it until 1951. In 1949, Idris al-Senussi proclaimed the Emirate of Cyrenaica, which was the nucleus on which the Kingdom of Libya was built. Idris was proclaimed King of Libya on December 24, 1951.
Idris was the first King of Libya, and so far he was the only king of Libya, because he was overthrown by Muammar al-Qaddafi in 1969.
That is why, Libya runs the danger of not having a very serious solidity as a state, given that it went from colony to a decade of monarchy and then to forty-three years of despotic rule.
When he came to power in 1969, Qaddafi was construed as the representative of Tripolitania. When they advanced westward, the leaders of the Libyan rebellion were very careful not to make it look like an invasion from Cyrenaica to Tripolitania.
The tribe, called in Libyan Arabic qabilah, was for centuries the basis of their society’s organization. The majority of the Libyans that first lived in these territories are Berber tribes, with the main groups: the Luata, the Nefusa, the Adassa.
They speak their own Hamitic language, and most of them kept it even after the assimilation into the Arabic society, being bilingual people who speak both Berber and Arabic.
The most important Arab tribe that migrated into Libyan territory were the Banu Hebib, most of them settling in Cyrenaica, and some in Tripolitania. Another serious group of tribes were the Debbab, which took control of most part of Tripolitania.
97% of the Libyan people were in the 20th century Arabic-speaking Muslims most of them being a mixed Arab and Berber population.
In Fezzan reside the Sharifs, considered holy tribes related closely to the prophet of Islam. The Sharif have a very important standing in the entire Muslim society. They are seen as wise men with vision and the capacity of foresight, and the many tracts of lands are being granted to them in sign of respect.
Marabout tribes are also holy tribes that claim relationship with the Prophet. They teach a pure way of life and are also revered by the Muslim people.
There is a class of tribes called the Koulouglis, people who have served under the Turkish rule as secretarial class. They also speak Arabic and practice Islam.
Apart from these, there are African tribes introduced in Libya by the slave trade that continued including in the days of the Turkish rule. The slaves were from Sudan, they have the features of the Sudanese but they speak Arabic and practice Islam.
In the southeast, there are small groups of Tuaregs, nomadic people who have adopted a sedentary life style. In the north there are isolated Teda communities.
So far the east-against-west ideology that was so well cultivated by Qaddafi hasn’t stopped the rebels from freeing the entire region of Libya, but the question whether Libya will remain an unified state or will break into its constituent provinces lies with the Libyan people themselves.
Against this idea there is the lack of democratic exercise. As soon as the leader and guide of the Libyan revolution is out of the picture, the Libyan society may follow into the path of the Egyptians and Tunisians. Or even worse.
Another key player in this game is the international community. It is not yet known whether the leaders of the world will want an unified Libya or three smaller countries that would divide both power and the oil resources.
The main advantage in breaking the state into smaller parts is that if one of them falls under another dictator, which is very much possible, there are two left to built a new country on.
Libyan rebels seem to have unity in mind, otherwise they wouldn’t have called their political body the National Transitional Council. The mere name seems to indicate that they are committed to creating a nation, or better said, to fortifying a nation, out of these tribes, who still have in common a language and a religion, fundamental factors on which it can be built.
A very important factor of the future of Libya is te commitment to monarchy. One must not forget the fact that since the beginning of the revolution the insurgents were carrying the red, black and green with star and crescent, the flag of the Kingdom of Libya, and they claimed the anthem of that period. In fact this flag is the flag of the revolution.
Libyan people wake up from a dream, or a nightmare, and they need a national identity. They complain that Qaddafi took their national identity and that they are unaware of the great figures of their country.
In the streets of Libya one can now buy the pictures of King Idris and of Crown Prince Hassan, but the people know little about them, because they were removed from the history books of the Qaddafi regime.
When people speak now of the future, most of them are focusing on two things: the fall of Qaddafi family, and the restoration of the monarchy in Libya.
Some of the people in Benghazi already presented the National Transitional Council with the idea of restoring monarchy, not an absolutist monarchy, like the ones in the other Arab countries, but a democratic and constitutional monarchy.
There is a prince from the house of al-Senussi, Crown Prince Mohammed Al-Rida al Senussi, who also proposed the restoration of the monarchy. At the first stages of the revolution, Prince Mohammed was very convincing in advocating the revolution and the bombing of Qaddafi’s regime.
Then he talked to the people in charge at the European Parliament and since then he became more reserved, as if someone had told him to keep a low profile.
TNC has published a document called “A Vision of Democratic Libya,” in which he said that democratic parliamentary and presidential elections would be held, by that alluding that the country will become a republic, for the first time in history, one may add, since Qaddafi’s Jamahiriya was not officially a republic.
Still, Mahmoud Jibril said that in the end it would be up to the people in Libya to decide whether they want to revert to monarchy or establish republic.
Others leaders fear that Senussi house has the loyalty of the people in Cyrenaica, who are thought to be in favor of restoring the kingdom by some 80%, but that in the west the idea is not cherished by the people, and that could cause an immense problem, which could definitely lead to a separation if things would go as far as making a referendum.
The fact that the NTC leader who said these words refers to the people in the west as “them,” as compared to “us,” the people in Cyrenaica, demonstrates that the society is divided ven mentally.
The referendum seems however to be unavoidable since the people in Cyrenaica strongly demand it, even though their numbers are smaller than those of the people in the western part of the country.
Until the people express their will, the flag of the Kingdom of Libya is now being planted on the embassies throughout the world, and is now the official flag of the new state, whatever it will be.
In fact what better historical triomph over Qaddafi’s coup than the restoration of the monarchy he overthrew 43 years ago?11