Ali Senussi, a grandfatherly leader of Libya’s Obeidi tribe, is a warning of what can go wrong. He’s elated – and angry.
But he’s not focused on the massacres Qaddafi’s men allegedly carried out as they sought to contain the uprising, which Mr. Senussi supported. Instead he’s demanding justice for the murder of rebel commander Gen. Abdel Fatah Younes, a member of his tribe who was assassinated in late July while – ironically – in rebel custody.
He’s demanding that the killers, whom he suspects were Islamist rebels angry at Younes’s past involvement with the Qaddafi regime, be brought to justice by the National Transitional Council (NTC) setting up camp in Tripoli. But he warns that his patience is limited.
“If we [need] to take our justice by ourselves, we will do it,” he says in a tent surrounded by fellow tribesmen in Benghazi, after breaking the Ramadan fast. A nearby tribal leader adds: “Tribal law is stronger than government law.”
Younes’s murder was a reminder that the rebellion is composed of disparate factions and agendas. Raw wounds remain after 42 years in which tribal rivalries were exploited and a whispered denunciation could land one man a coveted government job and another a trip to a government torture chamber.
There are also divisions between east and west, which were historically divided into Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, maintaining different trading relationships and outside ties. The increasing centralizing of money and power in Tripoli during Qaddafi’s rule bred resentment, and the eastern city of Benghazi – Libya’s second-largest – became a focal point for resistance to the regime.