Libya: The Horrific Explosion of Fuel Tank is Another State Crime Against the People of Fezzan

Habib Lassoued

Fezzan province is one of the most important oil production centers, especially from the fields in the Murzuq Basin, where about 500 thousand barrels are produced per day with huge untapped reserves of shale gas.

It is not the first state crime committed against the people of Fezzan

The horrific explosion of a fuel tank in the Zawiya area of Bint Bey municipality, which killed and injured dozens, embodies the tragedy of Fezzan and the entire marginalized, oppressed and deprived Libyan South in all epochs, and reveals the nature of social and economic injustice in a country that, if the intentions of its decision-makers were true, could have provided sufficiency and prosperity for all its children, and turned it into one of the richest and most luxurious countries in the region and the world.

The people of Fezzan will remember the incident of the tank explosion on the first of August 2022 as a heinous state crime against them.

The oil-and gas-rich region is still suffering from a shortage of fuel after its routes and supplies were controlled by smuggling networks connected to corruption circles in government institutions. The complete collapse of the services system increased the suffering of the local population, which has pushed those with burns from the explosion into a tragic situation difficult to bear and the health care  into further crisis in the absence of fire, ambulance and rapid transport to medical centers.

Government agencies compete to exploit the incident politically while looking for an external alternative to actually saving the injured.  The bids were coming from more than one party and more than one level, indicating the nature of the fiasco that Libya has been subjected to  during the past ten years. Since the establishment of its national state 70 years ago, the Fezzan region was subject to neglect and marginalization.

The area of the territory is 551,170 square kilometers, and the population does not exceed 500 thousand Arabs, Tabu and Tuareg, and the population density barely reaches 0.80 square kilometers. Whoever enters Fezzan will find himself dazed before  the natural richness, cultural diversity and the uniqueness of the monuments that tell the history of the region over thousands of years, such as the rock paintings on the Acacus mountains, which are on the World Heritage List, the oldest of which dates back to about 21 thousand years, and fauna and flora, as well as the diverse lifestyles of the peoples who cascaded through the Sahara Desert.

The fuel tank explosion incident is not the first state crime committed against the people of Fezzan, and the local residents will have to pay attention to the reality imposed on them and work to change it and restore consideration to themselves and their wasted rights.

The territory is also characterized by the pyramids that still stand in the Hatia area, which were built 3000 years ago with clay, salt and a little stone, and are still the same today. They were discovered in the 1950’s,  buried in the sand,. In 1958, the Mummy “Wan mohaj”, or the black mummy, was discovered, and 50 years later, an excavation expedition found a second mummy 2.25 meters long, while specialists say other mummies are of interest in this important ancient historical heritage in a region that is still unknown even to its people.

From the “lake of blood “to the” fairy cave “to the” valley of the planets” and other sites that have no analogues on the planet, which can turn into an important tourist destination, and a natural studio for world cinema, there are many and varied sources of fascination in Fezzan, which stretches towards the common borders with Algeria, Niger and Chad, and represents the bridge of communication between North and Central Africa.

Historically, Fezzan was associated with its African surroundings, settled by the germanites and annexed by the Phoenicians to their Carthaginian Empire, occupied by the Romans, then entered by the Muslim Arabs, and in the tenth century AD, the state of Bani Khattab was formed in the Zuweila region, which belonged to the Fatimid state and its capital Mahdia in Tunisia, during the 13th and 14th centuries AD, Fezzan was part of the Kanem empire, which stretched over an area including Chad, Nigeria, eastern Niger, northeastern Nigeria and northern Cameroon, and in the in 1550, the state of the Sons of Muhammad was formed, relative to its founder, Sheikh Muhammad al-Fassi, who belongs to the Idrisid family in Al-Aqsa, and took the city of Murzuq as its capital. That rule lasted until 1813, when the Ottomans took control of it after several wars, and in 1911 Fezzan was occupied by Italy, but its control over the region was not stable until 1923, when fascism rose to power in Italy. The Italians faced resistance in their first attempts during the invasion by the tribes and forces of the Senussi movement, and during the Second World War the Free French forces expelled the Italian forces and occupied Murzuq in Fezzan on the sixteenth of January 1943, and the region remained under French control until 1951, when the state of Fezzan then became part of the United Kingdom of Libya after a referendum, after which King Idris changed the capital is from Murzuq to Sabha and that situation lasted until 1963 when the federal system was abolished.

An important percentage of the people of Fezzan, especially from the Arab and Tuareg tribes, are still loyal to the former regime and strongly defend it, and when Saif al-Islam Qaddafi decided to run for the presidential race in 2021, he chose to submit his candidacy file from the city of Sabha, the capital of the region, but that does not mean that the south was a beneficiary of the period of Qaddafi’s rule, as some believe. All indicators confirm that the real beneficiaries are those who rose up against his regime and implemented the plan to overthrow him, but the loyalty of the South is mainly related to tribal, cultural and ethnic balances in the region and through its extensions in neighboring countries.

The province of Fezzan is one of the most important centers of oil production, especially from the Sharara and elephant fields in the Murzuq Basin, where about 500 thousand barrels are produced per day, with a huge untapped stock of shale gas, and from its desert, fresh water springs explode to run in pipes heading north through the artificial river system, in addition to a huge reserve of iron up to 3.5 billion tons, especially in the Tarout area of Barak Al-Shati north of Sabha.

Fezzan region is qualified to be the address of the future of Libya, as everything in it gives it exceptional value and enables it to devote its distinguished existence as a wealth factor within a single or unified Libya.

The region contains uranium material in the Western ouinat near Ghat, the border with Algeria, with gold and manganese deposits in the Tibesti Mountains on the border with Chad, and over the past years, gold mines have turned into looting of cross-border networks, and there are also rare elements, which are included in the advanced electronic industry such as smartphones, loudspeakers and cells used in the manufacture of solar panels.

Even scorpions, which pose a daily danger due to their abundance and ferocity, can be considered a neglected important resource, as the deadly scorpion poison is the most expensive liquid substance in the world, and the price per gallon of it is 3 39 million.

The importance of the location and wealth made the Fezzan region at the heart of an international and regional struggle to impose hegemony, a conflict in which the United States, Russia and China participate, mainly France, which considers it one of the pillars of its threatened presence in the Sahel and Sahara region, as well as Italy, which knows the value of the region and seeks to take advantage of its wealth, and most importantly, to cut off the transit route that migrants from Central and South Africa use to land in Italy.

At home, the region suffers from political, economic and social marginalization and is always placed at the bottom of the concerns and at the bottom of the regulations for the distribution of government responsibilities due to the fact that it is the least populous, and therefore it is the most vulnerable to injustice through the federal division system as long as its people are not able to benefit from their vast wealth with full respect for their cultural and civilizational diversity.

Fezzan region is qualified to be a title for the future of Libya, everything in it gives it exceptional value and enables it to devote its distinguished existence as a wealth factor within a single or unified Libya, and its disposal of its wealth can make it an area of prosperity and sufficiency, and thus to get out of its current dire situation and from the state of deliberate marginalization from the central decision circles.

The incident of the fuel tank explosion is not the first state crime committed against the people of Fezzan, but it is an episode of the ongoing tragedy, and the local population will have to pay attention to the reality imposed on them and work to change it and restore consideration for themselves and their wasted rights, relying on their competencies and capabilities. And before that, they must take advantage of the failure of the central authorities in Tripoli, and  build the foundations of Fezzan as a rich, strong and rising region capable of protecting itself and building its entity above ground and under the sun.

Translation by Internationalist 360°

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