Alex de Waal, March 2013
Many Libyans like to describe their country as the ‘gateway to Africa’, reflecting their ambivalence about their African identity and preferred orientation towards the Mediterranean. Nonetheless, history, demography and politics have tied Libya closely into Africa. The province of Cyrenaica (eastern Libya) has a long-standing connection with Chad, through the Sanussiya order which controlled an important trans-Saharan trade route. The southern province of Fezzan is home to substantial numbers of Toubou/Tebu and Tuareg peoples, as well as the Arab tribes Awlad Suleiman and Warfalla, which straddle the borders with Chad and Niger.
Under the 42-year rule of Muammar Gaddafi, Libyan relations with sub-Saharan Africa were volatile and chequered.
See online: African roles in the Libyan conflict of 2011