Tribal warfare continues for the fifth day straight in Libya, with 47 killed in the last three days alone and over 100 reportedly wounded. Ethnic strife in Libya has cost hundreds of lives since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime last October.
The Toubou and Zawiya ethnic groups are locked in a bitter conflict to control smuggling in the Saharan oasis Kufra, a town with population of around 40,000 conveniently located in a triangle where the borders of Chad, Egypt and Sudan converge.
The fighting erupted on Wednesday. Both sides are using heavy weapons, including armored vehicles. The Toubou people claim that Zawia are shelling Toubou neighborhoods with mortars, forcing them to strike back. The Daraa Shield brigade of the Libyan army deployed in the area has not intervened in the conflict.
Wissam Ben Hamid, commander of the brigade, told AFP that "negotiations are now underway to calm tensions."
Women and children have found themselves in the crosshairs of the conflict, constituting over 50 per cent of the wounded.
The Saharan Toubou tribe and the Arab Zawiya tribe previously had a dust-up in February. Those clashes resulted in the deaths of over 100 people, with the violence only ceasing after the Libyan government dispatched troops to pacify the bellicose nomads. More than half of the population has been displaced according to the UN.
In April there were skirmishes between Toubou tribesmen and the Daraa Shield brigade.
The dark-skinned Toubou claim they faced discrimination during the Gaddafi era and that the new Libyan authorities continue a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the tribe.
Besides Libya, Toubou tribesmen also inhabit Chad, Niger and Sudan.
The tribal conflict is flaring up on the eve of the national assembly elections in Libya, which are to be held on July 7.
The tribal violence is the result of the absence of national unity in the country, London-based activist and journalist Sukant Chandan told RT.
“All those tensions all those divisions that the Gadaffi era had kind of united and kind of managed successfully have come out in the open and everyone is fighting everyone for the bit of the crumbs that NATO is throwing at them,” he explained.
Chandan also said that the demise of Gadaffi’s Libya had left the African continent defenseless against Western hegemony.
“Libya was the veritable shield of Africa and now it has dropped and imperialism of the West is rolling on Africa.”