Recent statements by the elders of the Warfalla tribe highlight an underlying challenge to Libyan peace talks—tribalism. Under the umbrellas of the rival Libyan governments lie a host of tribes that are simultaneously competing for influence and power.
The Warfalla are considered Libya’s largest tribe with an estimated 1 to 1.5 million of the total population of 6 million people. The tribe’s elders recently iterated that any UN solution for Libya’s civil war would require the inclusiveness of the Warfalla—considering it comprises a large portion of the population.
“We are represented in all regions. If the U.N. wants a solution for Libya you need to talk (to us) the tribes.”
They claim that the UN has not asked them to be involved in the dialogue, to which a UN official pointed out that at least two Warfalla delegates participated in the latest peace talks in Tunisia. The elders dismissed this claim by noting that they “did not feel represented by them.”
The Warfalla leaders say they do not support the rival governments and would like to see peace talks take place within Libya and led by Libyans.
Considering the size and influence of the Warfalla’s confederation of tribes, we may wonder if the United Nations and other external actors will better recognize the role of tribalism in a political solution. However, more inclusivity may also cause fallout as rival tribes vie for political influence (as we’ve seen occur historically). For example, the Warfalla and Misrata tribes have a historical hostility towards each other, which could flare up if one sees the other as gaining more influence in a peace solution.
As external actors attempt to bring about a unified peace agreement, it will be interesting to see how they will measure success—will an agreement simply between the rival governments constitute success, or will an agreement supported by the rival governments and the majority of Libyan tribes define the peace solution?
BANI WALID, Libya (Reuters) – Elders of a powerful tribe that defended the regime of former leader Muammar Gaddafi have a message for the United Nations as it tries to broker peace in Libya – talk to us or you will fail. The U.N.