Senussi / Sansussi - from wiki:
A Muslim political-religious Sufi order and tribe in Libya and the Sudan region founded in Mecca in 1837 by the Grand Senussi, Sayyid Muhammad ibn Ali as-Senussi. Senussi was concerned with both the decline of Islamic thought and spirituality and the weakening of Muslim political integrity. The Senussi fought French expansion in the Sahara, and the Italian colonisation of Libya beginning in 1911. In World War I, the Senussi fought against the British in Egypt and Sudan. During World War II the Senussi tribe provided vital support to the British 8th Army in North Africa against the German and Italian forces. The Grand Senussi's grandson became King Idris of Libya in 1951. In 1969, King Idris I was overthrown by a military coup led by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. A third of the population in Libya continue to be affiliated with the Senussi movement
The last Senussi in the Royal line:
Mohammed El Senussi born 20 October 1962 is the son of Crown Prince Hasan as-Senussi of Libya, and of Crown Princess Fawzia bint Tahir Bakeer. Born in Tripoli, he is considered by Libyan royalists to be the legitimate heir to the Senussi Crown of Libya. A rival claim is also advanced by his distant relative Idris bin Abdullah.
Libya has had four (or five) cycles in modern times which has shaped her society and their dynamics - both internal and toward the outside world.
Before WW1 - from the 15th Century to 1911,the Ottomans occupied Libya,but it was at the farthest reaches of their Empire and their control was never complete or total,so the yoke was pretty loose. So while it was still the Turks who "owned" Libya up until just about the start of WW1,it was not governed by a strong central ruling power out of Turkey,but by a member of the armed forces who had pushed out Turkey's governing agent and took over the actual local ruling and established a ruling dynasty for 150 years - long enough to become native rather than outside. By the time,the Italians invaded,the Turks rule over Libya was a very weak one. Pretty much in name only as far as Turkey was concerned and had now become a local dynasty for all practical purposes.
1911 - 1931 - Which is exactly why Italy decided she would just invade Libya and "liberate" her from Turkey.
Just prior to WW1,Italy took over the two urban coastal centers where the vast majority of the population lives. But where the locals had put up with Turkey rule more or less because it had become so weak and disorganized and they could push it to accommodate their desires - they absolutely did not want the Italians to now come in and rule over them. Absolutely not.
For twenty years,the locals fought a violent resistance to these outsiders (who were not Muslim and that was probably one of the biggest issues) arbitrarily taking over. Part of the process of subduing a local resistant population is removing all institutions that they might identify with and might unite them. But it tears apart the existing fabric of a society when you do that.
Now that's my spin on it - the fact is, they were removing an antiquated system that was put in place by the Ottomans and was outdated,but it was closely associated with the whole Muslim/Islam system since they both sorta developed in the same culture,time frame as opposed to western institutions and culture.
The Italians saw it as modernizing and the Libyans saw it as trying to destroy their faith and replace it with something from the West. The resistance to the Italians was led by the Sanussi order out of the Benghazi area,but all of the local tribes united in the effort against Italian rule.This region is centered in Benghazi,but the whole eastern portion of Libya is known as Cyrenaica.
The rebels were defeated during WW1 and a peace accord was signed in 1920. The rebels just didn't have the weaponry,etc that Italy had at their disposal. The international community recognized Italy's rule over Libya in 1924 and that's when there was a second brief uprising,but Mussolini' forces put it down brutally and swiftly.It was a conflict of attrition - the locals refused to yield and Mussolini established concentration camps in Libya and was quite willing to eliminate the entire population. Frankly,the resistance and population were just worn down after so many years of a superior force just crushing the population in retaliation at every spark of independence. For twenty years - that's all a whole generation grew up knowing - war and brutal crackdowns and oppression. They were an exhausted and defeated people. The resistance collapsed and the country was united under the Italians.
The Italian rule was from 1932 - 1950. The world considers this period of Italian rule as a period of stability because there was no internal fighting,Libya's institutions were modernized,Italian and Libyan populations were integrated peacefully. For all that the Italians may not have been just to the Libyans - the country was stable and strong,rule of law and and order was established. In truth - it was a very stable and secure period in Libya's history.
In 1934,Italy started bringing in waves of Italian's peasants to colonize the coastal region of Libya and the local farmers were pushed off their land. The entire agricultural sector was pretty much replaced by Italians. The population around Benghazi remained resentful of the Italians,but any outright hostility remained muted. The leaders of the rebellion turned to Egypt,which has always been the focal point of the eastern half of Libya. They aligned with the English over-rulers in Egypt.
During WW2, Libya was used by the Germans and their allies the Italians as a base from which to attack the English in Egypt. The fighting took place around Benghazi when the English (General Montgomery) pushed back the Germans and Italians. It was those same resentful Sanussi rebel fighters that now supported the British in their fight against the Germans and that made all the difference in the world with a sympathetic local population.
When the British and French pushed out the Germans and Italians from Libya,they then occupied the territorial and political spaces that had been previously occupied by the Italians. It took until 1949 to work out negotiations. At that time the UN declared that the three regions of Libya would be united as a single state. But the tribal and regional identities complicated this creating of a new state from this point forward.
Cycle Three- part 1:
1951 - Libya became the first African nation to declare independence.
The new constitution approved by the UN and the Libyan Assembly created a federal system (in an effort to try and accommodate these three totally different regions into some cohesiveness with a central authority vested in King Idris and a Prime Minister,a Council of Ministers and a two house legislative body. They held parliament elections just once before the King banned all political parties. The King was dictatorial,but he was not a strong ruler. And there is a difference between the two.
That first decade after independence was spent with the different sides and players making deals - bargaining and out bargaining their opponents amid rivalry between the different governors of the new provinces. Who got a bigger slice of the pie - both personally and between the various provinces.
The institutions and social fabric that the Italians had put in place started to weaken. As the various governments feuded,animosity grew between the different competing local governments- but also toward the King who was creating this tension.
Again - tribal and regional identity and loyalty took precedence over national unity.
Setting up a system where there was no competing political parties,but a central dictator you had to appeal to,reinforced the dynamics of competing rivals working against each other instead of working together for a common goal - which of course is the whole point of why authoritarian leaders use this strategy.
It kept the King strong and challengers fighting each other.
By 1963,the King replaced the federal system and made his central authority even stronger because now oil had been discovered (in 1959) and foreign investors needed one person to deal with rather than having to deal with a million little tribes of conflicting interests. The wealth from oil uplifted the standard of living of the nation as a whole,but it never really affected the lives of the common man on the bottom half of society. Also,King Idris was western oriented and his population were conservative Muslims - tribal oriented. After the defeat of Arabs in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967,all Arabs were resentful of anything associated with the west.
Cycle Three - part 2:
1969 - Gadhafi and a group of military officers took their cue from Egypt and how Gen.Nasser had overthrown the old monarchy and risen to greatness. Gadhafi overthrew the government in a bloodless military coup.
Like other countries during that time period when colonial rule was ending,the population was now stable enough to start to stretch and exercise independence from what ever absolute ruler was in place.
The first stage of that striving for independent rule is that the population outgrows an absolute monarchy. And then you go along with who ever pushes the old rule out - which in Libya's case,was Gaddafi.
For a while, that revolutionary ethos and defiance toward the world that Gadhafi brought to Libya satisfied the masses. It felt like freedom.
But it wasn't really freedom at all.
Gadhafi fashioned his new government after socialism and a strict Islamic society - a combination that was particularly in fashion and appealing at that time. (remember Israel also first leaned toward socialism with the kibbutz system,etc. - it was all the rage the world over).
Educated Libyans,professionals and the upper crust left Libya at this time and formed expat oppositional organizations dedicated to removing Gadhaffi. What was left was a population dominated by poor,uneducated,unskilled workers.
Gadhaffi made revolution and resistance against both the US and Russia his trademark-a common "Revolutionary" theme -"Against all Oppression "- except of course his own,against his own people.
He was a major financier of terrorism in the 80s and 90s. When his terrorism activities ran smack up against American lives and interests,we and the UN slapped an oil embargo on his ass so fast,his economy went into the toilet for the next twenty years. In 1986,the US started bombing raids in the country. In 1987,Libya invaded Chad,but was pushed back. They were pretty much cornered - we were going to actively oppose them if they kept up with the anti west terrorist activities.
In 1999,Libya agreed to the demands the UN set up and sanctions were removed. In 2003,Gaddafi renounced terrorism and stopped his program of gathering chemical weapons,etc.
He was actually trying to change things to fit in more with world standards.
1971 - And now back to the Libyan population during this time period. Eventually the fact that they had simply replaced one dictator over them for another became apparent to the Libyan people and all the revolution and defiance toward the world couldn't mask that fact.
The sad thing is that this process often happens just this way.The population reaches a point of taking action against a dictator -not as a dictator is doubling down on suppressing the population,but when they are starting to ease up on the population and moderate because they realize they can't move forward as a nation if they don't loosen the noose a bit.
And sometimes,it doesn't matter what the leader of a nation has done or does - it's just part of a larger wave and keeps going until it runs it's course.
But if a government has not prepared the population to take over those governing duties - if they have had no learning experience in self-rule and making responsible decisions and compromising - then when they do throw away the current rules and ruler - whether that rule/ruler is good or bad - what you end up with is anarchy and chaos.
And that's where Libya is right now.