18 JUNE 1948, Page 15


Snt,—In his excellent survey, Libyan Outlook, Robin Maugham makes a plea for a united Libya under the sovereignty of the Emir Sayyed Idris es Senussi, with local autonomy in Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and the Fezzan. Is not this solution perhaps over-simplifying the problem? To begin with, it takes no account of the three races inhabiting the modern geographical Libya. Cyrenaica is peopled largely by Arabs who, in the great conquests, almost exterminated the original Berber inhabitants. Tripolitania, cut off from Cyrenaica by the great Sirte desert, has pre- served far more of its Berber blood and its Berber laiaguage. The Fezzan has a quarter of a million Tebu, Tuareg and similar Berber tribes, with

a comparatively small Arab admixture. The Berbers would not readily accept an Arab emirate. Second, and more important, the proposal takes no account of religion. The Ibadites (often Berbers) would never acknow- ledge a Senussi as leader. As well ask a high-church Englishman to acknowledge as leader a Calv mist Scot.

Finally, it is all too obvious, I am afraid, from the writer's paragraph on " the three main political parties in Tripolitania," that he has been supping in Tripoli city with some of our more Italianophobe administra- tors. The " political parties " scarcely exist outside this great wen, whose Muslim population of 47,000 odd is heartily despised by the other half million Muslim Tripolitanians. There are certainly personal parties— more than three—whose aims are the personal advancement of their leaders. To advance themselves, they speak the democratic, but foreign, language of their British governors, and because they are expected to think forward to such states as "Libyan unity," " independence " and so on, dutifully do so. But the honest educated Tripolitanian will answer the question, " What would you do if I told you Tripolitania were to be granted independence?" as one such answered me—" I should thank you for the advance information, and get out before you."

As for the claim that " the tribal system was broken down," this is nonsense. The tribal system is intact among Berbers and Arabs, and was only broken down, many centuries ago, among those Arabs who deserted their nomad life for a sedentary existence in the oases. The Italian hand was harsh, certainly, but no harsher than that of the Turks, and Italian rule certainly laid the foundation of prosperity for the country —a prosperity it had not seen since the Arab seizure of the city and the massacre of its inhabitants in 643 A.D.—I am, yours faithfully,