The question of centralism vs. federalism in the new Libya, and in particular the question of whether the oil-rich east of the country, called Cyrenaica (or Barqa, in Arabic), should have its own autonomous government, has returned. And this time the pro-home-rule Cyrenaicans seem to really mean it. Separatist militants have even taken over oil-industry facilities, crippling the nation’s power grid.
In March of last year (as reported at the time in this blog), with Libyans still reeling from a quick European-facilitated Arab Spring revolution which eliminated their long-time dictator, Moammar al-Qaddafi, leaders in the Cyrenaica region declared that they were now an autonomous region. The leader of the autonomists, Prince Ahmed al-Zubair al-Senussi, was a great-nephew of King Idris, a member of the Sufist “House of Senussi” which ruled Cyrenaica during its brief period of British-backed independence after the defeat of the old colonial power, Italy, in the Second World War.
|King Idris—once ruler of Cyrenaica, then of Libya|
|Ahmed al-Zubayr al-Senussi at this year’s autonomy declaration|
|The flag of the former Emirate of Cyrenaica|
Nor is eastward the only direction in which Libya is being pulled apart. The southern region, Fezzan, also declared an autonomous government this summer. Fezzan is an ethnic mix of mostly non-Arabs—including Toubous who were dismissed by Qaddafi as “black Chadians” and stripped of their citizenship rights, as well as Tuaregs who were traditionally loyal to Qaddafi and who stoked a separatist Tuareg uprising in northern Mali last year which was co-opted by Algerian-based Islamist radicals and then, early this year, toppled by France’s military. It is very unclear as yet what role Tuareg nationalists—or, even, Islamist radicals—might have in Fezzan’s emerging regionalist movement.
|Berbers initially celebrated the new post-Qaddafi order in Libya|
|Rebels fly a Berber flag at the captured Mellitah oil harbor in western Tripolitania|
[You can read more about these and many other separatist and new-nation movements, both famous and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar. The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon. Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this interview for more information on the book.]