Loyalism in a Time of Revolution
This chapter examines loyalist communities in the 17 February Revolution from an ethnographic perspective, using the case study of Bani Walid. It argues that Bani Walid’s decision to stay loyal to Qadhafi in 2011 followed a strong community narrative and identity rooted in the historical tribal confederations against the Ottomans and Italians which on independence formed the bedrock of the Libyan state in the west, and which believed themselves protectors of independent Libyan statehood against foreign incursions. Qadhafi’s manipulation of this narrative and the tribal leadership, following a failed coup by Bani Walid officers in 1993 ensured its loyalism in 2011, and allowed Qadhafi to rapidly expand private militias staffed with loyal tribes and communities, thus creating the security apparatus that defended him during the “17 February Revolution ». Community identity and state security were thus intimately entwined in Qadhafi’s security state, explaining why most in Bani Walid fought to the end to support Qadhafi, while others joined the revolution. Qadhafi’s death created a reversion to this older identity and “political isolation”, the lack of any national reconciliation programme or state control over the justice sector, fostered it, giving Bani Walid a new political direction.
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