Allied Administration

Libya Table of Contents

Separate British military governments were established in Cyrenaica and in Tripolitania and continued to function until Libya achieved independence. Each was divided into several districts governed by civil affairs officers who reported to brigadiers at senior headquarters in Binghazi and Tripoli. British authority was exercised under the Hague Convention, which conveyed legislative, administrative, and judicial power to an occupying country. It was essentially a caretaker operation, the initial objective simply being to maintain peace and order and facilitate the war effort. British military officers and government emphatically stressed the nonpolitical character of the occupation government.

The British administration began the training of a badly needed Libyan civil service. Italian administrators continued to be employed in Tripoli, however. The Italian legal code remained in effect for the duration of the war. In the lightly populated Fezzan region, a French military administration formed a counterpart to the British operation. With British approval, Free French forces moved north from Chad to take control of the territory in January 1943. French administration was directed by a staff stationed in Sabha, but it was largely exercised through Fezzan notables of the family of Sayf an Nasr. At the lower echelons, French troop commanders acted in both military and civil capacities according to customary French practice in the Algerian Sahara. In the west, Ghat was attached to the French military region of southern Algeria and Ghadamis to the French command of southern Tunisia--giving rise to Libyan nationalist fears that French intentions might include the ultimate detachment of Fezzan from Libya.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress