Ubari, Libya – Since the popular uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has become bitterly divided into two governments, with their respective militias fighting over lucrative assets and power.
One such battle is taking place in the oasis town of Ubari in Libya’s long-neglected southern Sahara, close to one of the country’s largest oil fields and smuggling routes. The Tuareg and Tebu tribes, indigenous to the region, are fighting each other over their place in a new Libya.
Each side is backed by one of the two opposing governments – Libya Dawn in Tripoli and Libya Dignity in the east – and their international supporters who are looking to gain control of the south.
In the fight over the predominantly Tuareg Ubari, one strategic position is the Tendi mountain, which looms over the town and sprawling oil field beyond. It is controlled by Tuareg fighters.
Meanwhile, Ubari’s devastated downtown has been emptied of its population, and has become filled with snipers from both sides since the fighting kicked off last September.
More than 200km to the southwest, along a pitted desert road that leads to the isolated Tuareg town of Ghat on the Algerian border, Tuareg families fleeing Ubari’s violence have been camped out on a half-finished construction site with little water, food or prospects for work.
With peace negotiations fraught with challenges, the near future looks bleak for those who regard this desert land as home.