Sebha is the capital of the Libyan Fezzan, the southern region bordering the Sahel, below the Tropic of Cancer.
With over 600,000 inhabitants, Sebha is in the middle of the Libyan desert and is the hub of all the shady dealings that lead from Africa to Europe and vice versa. Its desert roads are full of robbers who kidnap, plunder and kill people. The city is experiencing a dramatic moment, torn by clashes and at the center of a dispute between the several governments, but also among the criminal gangs from middle Africa, that have their tentacles here.
We met Hamid al-Hayali, its elected mayor, one of the few legitimate authorities in the chaos of a country with 3 governments, desperately seeking funds and projects to restart the city, even more isolated by the closure of the airport. "Sebha is the main corridor of illegal traffics to the south and north" - he admits - "but our police forces are inadequate. They lack everything: weapons, uniforms, money, cars, billy clubs, training...No, the willingness is not lacking, we have brave youngs".
A river of millions of Euros and US dollars passes every day through the city of Sebha, its deposits, its logistics, its criminal networks. The municipality, however, does not even have the resources to keep the prisons open: "Because even the willingness to keep them open is lacking, as well as the strength and ability to manage them. Prisons must be defended. Who do it? This is also a matter of resources."
In the province of Sebha there are 75 tribes that, in the vacuum of political power, occupied most of the space, limited only by the military presence of the Third Force of Misrata, further strengthened after the victory against ISIS in Sirte. The Third Force is the only permanent military element of interposition to prevent chaos in the most acute moments of conflict. "Most of Libya's tribal entities are present in Sebha. Here there are the Awalad Suleyman, the Tebu, the Touareg, the Magharia, the Warfalla, no-one else is missing. The Balance between the tribes, in constant conflict with each other, is guaranteed by the municipality, but also by the elderly assemblies, which intervene in the event of inter-tribal armed conflicts."
- Why the tribes do not oppose to the traffic?
There are good tribes and others bad, and criminal individuals from all sides, as well as good people from all sides. Some tribes are, then, directly involved in trades. Furthermore, there are militias, autonomous and armed. It's a difficult situation.
- The traffickers are foreigners or locals?
The majority of them are foreigners. Then, there are the locals, who join together and these are among the causes of this violence. Most traffickers are Chadians, then there are the Nigerians. They are all criminals, like the gangs of Gambia and Ghana. They are like organized networks, part of the great international crime. Whereas the Nigeriens are workers, they stay here a couple of years, they work and then go back home. Yes, they commit some small crimes, but nothing compared to the Chadians and the Nigerians.
Finally, these networks have international contacts: how do they can bring immigrants in Italy, obtain the ships, have bases, etc. without the support of the European criminal organizations like the Mafias?
A security source, then, explains us that, since some time, Nigerian clans perform transfers towards Italy, especially of women, under reserve, ie they get a fee upon arrival at the Italian reception centers or with money transfers that come directly by relatives or other traffickers in Italy. Traders receive on phones the financial transfer numbers and, after checking the regularity of the transaction, embark the migrants. Each piece of route has its own dedicated organizations, often in competition with each other, with its price lists for the various "services" provided. The price can get up to 5,000 Euros for the arrival in Italy, while another thousand Euros then are spent on running away from Centers, reaching other destinations, or being put to work in the streets, by mixed Italian and Nigerian organizations.
- What is trafficked today?
To the south, all the products subsidized by the Libyan government. First of all petrol, diesel, oil and oil derivatives, but also food, rice and pasta. These are the goods that from Libya, through Sebha, go to the south, Sudan and Chad. What do they bring on in addition to immigrants? They carry drugs, hashish, pills and cocaine. But there are also mercenaries who the various parties enlist. They are thousands. The African cocaine route, which passes through Sebha and the Sahel and is supplied by cartels in South America, is one of the most interesting new researches.
By security sources, who have made several arrests and seizures on the coast, we learned that the cocaine passing from Sebha opens a new route across the north-south traffics axis. The African market for cocaine is North Africa, from Morocco to Egypt, following both paths through Kufra and the coastal ones that give access to Tunisia.