Libya's Liberation Front Organizing in the Sahel
by FRANKLIN LAMB
On the edge of the Sahel, Niger
"Sahel" in Arabic means "coast" or "shoreline." Unless one was present 5000 years ago when, according to anthropologists, our planets first cultivation of crops began in this then plush, but now semiarid region where temperatures reach 125 degrees F, and only camels and an assortment of creatures can sniff out water sources, it seems an odd geographical name place for this up 450 miles wide swatch of baked sand that runs from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.
Yet, when standing along its edge, the Sahel does have the appearance of a sort of dividing shoreline between the endless sands of the Sahara and the Savanna grasses to the south. Parts of Mali, Algeria, Niger, Chad, and Sudan, all along the Libyan border fall within this supposed no man's land.
Today the Sahel is providing protection, weapons gathering and storage facilities, sites for training camps, and hideouts as well as a generally formidable base for those working to organize the growing Libyan Liberation Front (LLF). The aim of the LLF is to liberate Libya from what it considers NATO installed colonial puppets. The Sahel region is only one of multiple locations which are becoming active as the Libyan counter revolution, led by members of the Gadahfi and Wafalla, make preparations for the next phase of resistance.
When I entered an office conference room in Niger recently to meet with some recent evacuees from Libya who I was advised were preparing to launch a "people's struggle employing the Maoist tactic of 1000 cuts "against the current group claiming to represent Libya," two facts struck me.
One was how many were present and did not appear to be scruffy, intensely zealous or desperate but who were obviously rested, calm, organized and methodical in their demeanor.
My colleague, a member of the Gadhafi tribe from Sirte explained "More than 800 organizers have arrived from Libya just to Niger and more come every day". An officer in uniform added, "It is not like your western media presents the situation, of desperate Gadhafi loyalists frantically handing out bundles of cash and gold bars to buy their safety from the NATO death squads now swarming around the northern areas of our motherland. Our brothers have controlled the borderless routes in this region for thousands of years and they know how not to be detected even by NATO satellites and drones."
The other subject I thought about as I sat in an initial meeting was what a difference three decades can make. As I sat there I recalled my visit with former Fatah youth leader Salah Tamari, who did good work at the Israeli prison camp at Ansar, south Lebanon during the 1982 aggression, as the elected negotiator for his fellow inmates.
Tamari insisted on joining some of them at a new PLO base at Tabessa, Algeria and invited me for a visit.
This was shortly after the PLO leadership, wrongly in my judgment agreed to evacuate Lebanon in August of 1982 rather than wage a Stalingrad defense (admittedly minus the nonexistent expected Red Army) and the PLO leadership apparently credited Reagan administration promises of "an American guaranteed Palestinian state within a year. You can take that to the bank" in the words of US envoy Philip Habib.
Seemingly ever trustful of Ronald Reagan for some reason, PLO leader Arafat kept Habib's written promise in his shirt pocket to show doubters, including his Deputy, Khalil al Wazir (Abu Jihad) and the womenfolk among others in Shatila Camp who had grave misgivings about their loved ones and protectors leaving them.
At Tabessa, somewhere in the vast Algerian desert, the formerly proud PLO defenders were essentially idle and caged inside their camp and apart from some physical training sessions appeared to spend their days drinking coffee and smoking and worrying about their loved ones in Lebanon as news of the September 1982 Israeli organized massacre at Sabra-Shatila fell on Tabessa Camp like a huge bomb and many fighters rejected Tamari's orders and left for Shatila Camp.
This is not the case with Libyan evacuees in Niger. They have the latest model satellite phones, laptops and better equipment than most of the rich news outlets that showed up with fancy equipment at Tripoli's media hotels over the past nine months.
This observers, "how did you all get here and where did you secure all this new electronic equipment so fast?" question was answered with a mute smile and wink" from a hijabed young lady who I last saw in August handing out press releases at Tripoli's Rixos Hotel for Libyan spokesman Dr. Musa Ibrahim late last august. On that particular day, Musa was telling the media as he stood next to Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Kaim, a friend to many Americans and human rights activists, that Tripoli would not fall to NATO rebels and "we have 6,500 well trained soldiers who are waiting for them." As it turned out, the commander of the 6,500 was owned by NATO and he instructed his men not to oppose the entering rebel forces. Tripoli fell the next day and the day after Khalid was arrested and is still inside one of dozens of rebel jails petitioning his unresponsive captors for family visits while an international, American organized, legal team is negotiating to visit him.