The harsh southern region is home to several tribes maintaining a delicate balance of power over lucrative trade routes.
Dec 3, 2012
Kufra, Libya - The drive across Libya's Sahara from Murzuq to Kufra is arduous. Without a road, the desert's residents, subsistence smugglers, and border guards navigate massive sand dunes and old mine fields guided by small piles of stones and ubiquitous fuel canisters.
Once at the isolated Kufra oasis, a large wall built by the local majority Arab Zwai tribe encircles the small town, funnelling desert traffic into one guarded entrance. The Zwai are also in charge of Kufra's government, military council, commercial downtown and airport.
Kufra's other residents, the minority Tebu tribe, are segregated into the impoverished ghettoes of Gadarfai and Shura. Cordoned off by checkpoints now monitored by the Libyan army, they live in damaged shacks surrounded by rubbish heaps and scorched earth, leftovers from this year's fighting.
After the fall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the balance of power between local tribes in places such as Kufra has shifted, and tribal battles between the indigenous Tebu and Arab tribes over power and control of lucrative trade routes have exacerbated instability along the country's vast southern border.