Libya: Will Cyrenaica (or what’s left of it) secede?

If the world switches its recognition from the newly-unconstitutional but 2014-elected and eastern-based House of Representatives (HOR) government to the rump, western-based, Islamist-aligned, 2012-elected transitional “General National Congress” (the GNC, which should have ended already), tribal authorities in the vast, eastern Cyrenaica territory say they will secede from Libya.

I doubt the international community at large is likely to make such a switch, but if things keep deteriorating that might not be needed to trigger the threatened separation…

A council representing the tribes of the eastern coastal region of Barqa [the Arabic name for Cyrenaica] said that it would be obliged to declare the independence of the region in case the international community and the residents of the Libyan capital Tripoli had recognised the congress, instead of the recently-elected House of Representatives.

“We will have to return to the 1949 constitution,” the council added in a statement. Before 1949, Libya was divided into three autonomous regions, including the eastern region of Barqa [Cyrenaica].

Although Tobruk, the current refuge of the “House of Representatives” government, was previously outfitted (decades ago) the royal capital of Libya and could probably stand in again in a pinch if necessary, it’s pretty hard for me to imagine an independent Cyrenaica that doesn’t include Benghazi, its biggest city.

On the military side, the three biggest cities in Libya as a whole — Tripoli, Benghazi, and Misrata respectively — are under full or partial control of the pro-GNC faction and their various aligned Islamist-leaning militias. And the pro-HOR/Hifter forces in Benghazi are reportedly being utterly wrecked by the pro-GNC forces, even while armed with fighter jets and supported by the Egyptian military: In the past month, eighty percent of all deaths (military, Islamist, and civilians) in Benghazi have been from the military or Hifterite militias, according to Agence France Presse, based on Red Crescent and hospital accounts.

Even Tobruk’s calm has been punctured by bombing attacks on temporary government facilities, which began on October 29. (And nearby Derna has reportedly officially fallen this week to a newly recognized ISIS affiliate led by several hundred Libyan combat veterans of ISIS’s Syria/Iraq war.) Perhaps they want to secede, but the pro-HOR tribal authorities of Cyrenaica might not have much territorial control left soon, without a full-scale foreign intervention. And nobody really has the energy or time for that at the moment, including the governments strongly opposed to the GNC backers.

Map of the three pre-1963 Libyan provinces approximated over a map of present-day subdivisions. (Credit: Spesh531 - Wikimedia)

Map of the three pre-1963 Libyan provinces approximated over a map of present-day subdivisions. (Credit: Spesh531 – Wikimedia)

Bill Humphrey

About Bill Humphrey

Bill Humphrey is the primary host of WVUD's Arsenal For Democracy talk radio show and a local elected official.
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