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The unheard voice of Libya's Amazigh people
samedi 16 avril 2016
par Masin
Is it possible to say that the world powers who pretend to seek a solution to the Libyan problem are not aware of the particularity of the Amazigh people and their message of peace ? It is hard to believe that is the case. These powers are well aware of the fact that the Amazigh people are the only alternative to the chaotic situation which Libya has been experiencing since the overthrow and death of Muammar Gaddafi. They are equally aware of the influence , including military might, of the Amazigh people. Nonetheless, these powers overlook Libyan Amazigh people thereby suffocating their voice. The international community has opted to deal with those who sow terror and display outright barbarity. The following assessment is by Fathi N Khalifah, a Libyan Amazigh activist, who reviews the main developments in Libya since the 2011 uprising as well as the stance adopted by the Amazigh people. It is an appeal to the international community, but also a warning that there is a limit to the patience of the Amazigh people.

I shall not elaborate on who are the Amazigh in Libya or about their active role in the 17 February uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. Every Libyan observer should be familiar with these two key issues.

Rather, I am writing today wondering why no one is listening to us. Almost all the things we have been saying since the time of the Transitional Council have proved to be an illuminating analysis of the situation in Libya.

In August 2011, the Amazigh people warned about the weakness of the Interim Constitutional Declaration. They drew attention to very serious and dangerous aspects, such as the fact that not a single article mentioned the role of the National Army and the security services in the new state. They warned that in such situation, all armed groups would later turn into lawless militias, each claiming legitimacy.

That constitutional document did not address the judiciary system, the transitional justice and national reconciliation, which continue to be very important and sensitive issues. That document came to exacerbate the ethnic, cultural and linguistic discrimination while creating a rift among Libyans as a result of glaring inequality among languages and cultures of various ethnic groups. So all these remarks, as well as many other constitutional loopholes and lapses, are behind today’s explosive political situation, something that has repeatedly been underlined by the Amazigh people but to which nobody bothered to listen.

In 2012, some Amazigh voices, including myself, warned that the election of the General National Congress (GNC) would obstruct the state-building process. We were not ready to take this step ; we needed more time as the transition to democracy starts with awareness and enlightenment, and not by focusing on election funds and propaganda. “Why do we have to hurry ?” I put forward this question in my 2012 articles. But, again, nobody bothered to listen. Some months later, when the situation became complicated and the civil war broke out between Libya Dawn militias and Lt-Gen Khalifah Haftar’s Operation Dignity, UN special envoy to Libya (2012-2014) Mr Tarek Mitri wrote in his book on Libya (Difficult paths, 2015) that the GNC election was “one of the biggest mistakes in Libya, an error of haste and urgency”.

In 2014, the Amazigh people boycotted the election of the Constitution Drafting Committee as a result of the raging conflict and the espousing of the narrow concept of the domination of the majority instead of the concept of consensus among Libyans. Here too, time has proven the clear vision of the Amazigh people. The sad part of this story is that many so-called "democratic" international parties tried to put the pressure on the Amazigh people to change their position instead of understanding our point of view.

Also in 2014, the Amazigh people boycotted the parliamentary election in order to avoid making the same mistakes. We would not take part in providing ammunition for power struggle, money and influence. However, no one supported us despite the fact that Gulf states and the European governments provided strong support to other Libyan groups.

At the end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, a political dialogue started under the auspices of the United Nations. Did the UN invite the Amazigh people ? Of course not ! The dialogue process was limited to the parties that had taken up arms ; those who had been involved in the destruction of Libya, the killing of its youth and the squandering of its resources. What they called "dialogue" was no more than a clear proof of the rush to take their slices of the cake. It was not a dialogue that meant to foster an understanding that would eventually bring peace to the country. Just steal a glance at the outcome of this “dialogue” and you will understand what I mean.

So why is the plight of the Amazigh people totally ignored ? The answer is because they are peace-loving people who do not rush to taking up arms and seizing oilfield. So what is the message which the international community convey to us ? Do we have to resort to the language of arms in order to be recognized as a political force ?

The Amazigh have a legitimate representative body, the Libyan Amazigh Supreme Council (LASC), which was established in 2013 and whose members were democratically elected in September 2015. The LASC has neither been consulted nor invited to the dialogue by any international or local organization. why ? I can tell the international community that the refusal of local organizations to deal with the Amazigh people can easily be understood. We, the Amazigh people, do not adhere to any political or Islamist group supporting the agenda of an Islamic "Caliphate.” The Amazigh people are moderate and open-minded Muslims. They adhere to Ibadi branch of Islam, which predates the Shi’i-Sunni conflict. The Amazigh don’t side with the Tobruk parliament, which espouses an Arab nationalist ideology and is supported by Arab families, tribal and military regimes. We have nothing to do with the “Libyan Arab Army” in east or the “Arab tribes´ army” in the west.

Our patience is not an indication of weakness or the inability to act. In addition to a solid ideology and strong convictions, we also rely on our own armed forces. If our message for peace continues to be ignored, are we going to resort to armed struggle so that our voice can be heard as everyone else is doing in Libya ?

Fathi N Khalifa

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