7 – 13 Mar: Clashes continue in Sebha as LNA and GNA compete to ‘solve’ crisis in the South

Mar 13, 2018 | Libyan actors

On 13 March, as clashes continue in Sebha between Tebu and Awlad Suliman militias, local media reported that the Government of National Accord’s (GNA) Presidential Council appointed Brigadier General Hameed al-Ataibi Sulaimani as the Governor of the South. Sulaimani is a commander of the Awlad Suliman’s 6th Brigade that was formerly associated with the now-defunct Government of National Congress (GNC) and is currently fighting against the Tebu militias in Sebha.

On 12 March, UN envoy Ghassan Salame met with a delegation from southern Libya, which included the Mayor of Sebha, in Tripoli to explore ways of resolving the violence in southern Libya and enhancing the safety of civilians caught in the midst of the conflict. Likewise on 10 March, a pro GNA delegation from Zintan attempted to negotiated a peace deal between the Awlad Suliman and the Tebu groups. This allegedly involved the GNA wanting to dispatch its forces to assume control over both key stronghold and checkpoints but this was ultimately unsuccessful.

On 11 March, Libyan National Army (LNA) spokesperson Brigadier General Ahmed al-Mismari said that their operation to “impose the law” in Sebha would not support any group at the expense of another. Al-Mismari claimed the LNA had eased clashes in Sebha and stopped the flow of armed groups into the city. This follows the ultimatum given on 9 March by the LNA that declared that all “Africans from neighbouring countries” had to leave Libya by 17 March or they would be expelled by force. Prior to this, local LNA commander Mohammed Bin Nayel had tried to reach a ceasefire between the clashing groups but failed.

The Awlad Suliman is an Arab tribe while the Tebu are a traditionally nomadic non-Arab tribe, with members spread across southern Libya, Niger, and Chad. Both have a presence in Sebha, along with the Tuareg, an Amazigh (Berber) tribe. The clashes between Awlad Suliman’s 6th Brigade and Tebu militias in Sebha are said to be due to the non-payment of the reparations agreed upon in a peace agreement negotiated between the two tribes in Rome last year. However, it has been suggested that a family in the Awlad Suliman tribe, Seif al-Naser, is intent on restoring their dominion over the Fezzan area and is unwilling to reach any accommodation.