Elders negotiating end to southeast Libya clashes: tribe


TRIPOLI – Tribal elders from around Libya are negotiating an end to clashes in the far southeast of the country which have killed dozens of people in the last two weeks, one of the tribes said on Tuesday.

Fighting in the city of Al Kufra between two tribes with a long-standing rivalry has provided a fresh challenge for Libya’s new leadership which is struggling to restore stability after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi last year.

Libyan military forces last week intervened to end the fighting between the Zwai and Tibu tribes, in a rare example of the government in Tripoli imposing its authority over the fractious country.

“Elders from southern and eastern Libya have come to Kufra and are meeting with both sides,” Abubaker Sadeq from the Tibu side said.

“We hope an agreement will be reached in the next few days to sort the problem out once and for all. For now, it is quiet,” he said, referring to a ceasefire brokered a few days ago.

The United Nations said in a statement on Monday that more than 100 people had been killed in the fighting in Kufra, near Libya’s borders with Chad and Sudan, and as much as half of the city’s population had been displaced.

“The (U.N.) assessment mission reported that the ceasefire brokered by local authorities a few days ago is still holding. However, the situation in Kufra remains tense,” it said.

“Based on the information received on the ground from both sides, more than 100 have been killed as a result of fighting, and as much as half of the town’s population has sought refuge elsewhere. Some 200 foreign migrants are still waiting to be moved out from the area.”

The U.N. added it had provided food, medicine, mattresses, blankets and hygiene kits to vulnerable communities whose basic services have been interrupted by fighting.

Members of the Tibu ethnic group are mainly found in Chad but also inhabit parts of southern Libya. The Zwai tribe accused the Tibu of attacking Kufra, backed by mercenaries from Chad.

The Tibu said it was they who came under attack.

The region has a history of violence involving tribes. A tribal rebellion in 2009 was suppressed only after Gaddafi sent in helicopter gunships.