By George Grant.
Tripoli, 3 June:
The official launch of the Tebu National Assembly (TNA) took place in Tripoli today, in a move . . .[restrict]Tebu leaders hope will lead to closer relations with the national government, and a greater focus on Tebu affairs.
“Just as the Tebu were effective in the revolution, so we must now be effective in helping to build a new Libya”, organisers said.
The TNA has made it clear that it is not a political body, but exists to promote closer relations between the Tebu community and other Libyans, and to reinforce the sense that the Tebu are an integral part of the Libyan nation.
Tensions between the ethnically-black Tebu and Arab Libyans have long been strained in the south of the country. In the past few months alone, clashes have taken place in several southern towns, including Kufra, Sebha and Ghadames, resulting in a number of fatalities.
In addition to divisions stoked by the Qaddafi regime, the Tebu believe that tensions have resulted from racial discrimination; a problem that has taken on an added dimension in the wake of last year’s revolution.
“We were amongst the first to rise against Qaddafi”, says Hussein Chake, the leader of Libya’s Tebus. “I announced that decision on television on 22 February 2011”. In spite of that, Chake says, Qaddafi’s decision to hire black mercenaries from outside of Libya has led to new problems. “We sought to close the frontier with Niger and Chad”, he says. “We knew that the Arabs would confuse us with the blacks coming in, and put us all in the same category. Unfortunately, that does now seem to be the case”.
Conflicts have also arisen on account of competing commercial interests in the region, in particular over control of the many lucrative smuggling routes running through southern Libya to neighbouring countries.
This issue was not, however, on the TNA’s agenda.
“We want to make sure the Tebu are a full and active part of the new Libya”, says Adam Arami, president of the TNA. “The TNA was founded on 9 February 2012 to promote the Tebu as a minority in Libya. Under Qaddafi, no such organisation was allowed, and the Tebu were badly discriminated against by the regime.
“Tebu areas are in dire need of investment”, he adds, “in everything including housing, sanitation, education, health and infrastructure”.
In addition to securing new investment and promoting improved Tebu-Arab relations, the TNA also says it will work to ensure Tebu’s a fairly represented in Libya’s new political structures. One of the TNA’s seven official goals is to ensure that the Tebu are properly involved in helping to draft the new Libyan constitution.
“We have been viewed as a separate minority for too long”, Arami concludes. “It is time for the Tebu to take a full part in Libya’s future”.