Toubous: Restive warriors of Sahara

N'DJAMENA- The Toubous, locked in almost a week of deadly clashes with rival tribes in southern Libya, are present in two other Saharan region countries, Niger and Chad.
Black skinned and renowned for their warrior spirit, the Toubous, or Goranes, are divided into two groups speaking different dialects -- the Taza in Chad and Niger who speak Dazaga, and the Teda in Libya speaking Tedaga.

Proud of their identity, the Toubous refused submission to French rule and also to the political authorities who succeeded them.
"The Toubous live in a hostile environment which makes them take responsibility from an early age. That's why they have a sense of direction and the survival instinct which makes them brave and fearless fighters," said Abderaman Salah, a Toubou governor from the region of Tandjile.
He said some 120,000 Toubous are spread over the three countries, but other estimates claim that Chad alone has 400,000 of them.
"It is very difficult to know how many they are in these three countries," admits Saleh Boudoumi, himself a Toubou from northern Tibesti, adding that Toubous from Chad have always refused to take part in any census.
Salah said "the Toubous played a leading role in the 1966 revolt with the creation of the Frolinat," a rebel movement in Chad.
Goukouni Weddeye, the son of a Toubou chief, became the head of Frolinat, and took power with the support of Libya in 1980 after years of fighting.
He was overthrown by Hissene Habre in 1982. The result was a new war between Chadian troops of Habre, backed by France, and rebel Weddeye fighters, supported by the Libyans.
"In northern Chad, some Toubous live around oases and work in agriculture", but the majority "are nomads living by raising sheep, goats and camels," said Boudoumi.
"With the discovery of oil, many went to Libya in search of work. They have benefited and settled there while keeping their ties with Chad," said Boudoumi.
"Toubous have never considered they are living abroad. For them it's all a normal part of the nomad life."
But he said they "have not always been able to integrate into the host regions" such as Libya, where most live in Kufra, Murzuk and Furzu.
"Relations between the Arabs and Toubous have always been bad. To be integrated with the Arabs ... they must renounce their identity, something the Toubous have always refused to. Hence their marginalisation," he added.
Libya's interim government on Saturday announced a ceasefire aimed at ending six days of deadly clashes between Toubou fighters and Arab tribesmen in the southern desert oasis of Sabha that cost more than 150 lives.

Saturday, March 31st 2012

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