Sabha was where the erstwhile ruler of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi
, grew up and received secondary education and where he also later became involved in political activism.
After the Libyan Civil War
and the resultant instability in the country, Sabha reportedly grew in importance as a slave
However, an investigation by the National Commission for Human Rights in Libya (NCHRL) revealed that while there was illegal slavery, reports were exaggerated, as slave auctions were rare and not made public.
The city was later seized by forces loyal to the Libyan National Army
(LNA) and its leader Khalifa Haftar
in January 2019,
but some politicians in the area switched their loyalty to the Government of National Accord
(GNA) in May 2020.
In historical times, Sabha was a major centre of the Libyan caravan trade.
Sabha Oasis, near Sabha, was the test site of OTRAG rockets
, after launching was no longer possible in Shaba North
in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo
). On 1 March 1981, an OTRAG rocket with a maximum height of 50 km (31 mi) was launched. It was also a remote test site for the Soviet Space program from 1984 to 1991.
Sabha is famous for the Fort Elena castle,
which is the castle featured on the reverse of the ten dinars banknote
of Libya. Fort Elena was previously known as Fortezza Margherita, built during the Italian colonial period
. Currently the Italian-built fort is a military institution. Sabha University
is situated in the city. It has been involved with field studies in the desert.
There are numerous irrigation canals, which are used to provide freshwater for growing crops.
The city is served by Sabha Airport
, which underwent expansion in the late 1970s.
An 800 km (500 mi) long railway has been proposed from Sabha to the port of Misrata
for iron ore
Reports of slave auctions
In 2017, The United Nations Migration Agency
reported that Sabha had turned into a modern-day slave auctioning town. Each slave (mostly migrants from countries to the south of Libya, especially Nigeria
) was sold for around US$325, with reports up to 1000 such sales each month.
While this aspect of Sabha had been kept under check during the reign of Muammar Gaddaffi
, it raised its head again due to the turbulence in Libya caused by the civil war. Most of the migrants came here escaping equally tragic conditions back home in Burkina Faso
, Nigeria and other neighbouring African countries
However, the National Commission for Human Rights in Libya (NCHRL) revealed that the media reports of slavery were exaggerated and that slave actions were not public, as suggested by CNN.
The slave actions which were discovered were revealed to be rare.
Haftar takes control
In January 2019, 10:oopm forces loyal to LNA leader Khalifa Haftar
launched an operation to take control of Sabha and were able to enter the city by the end of the month.
On January 29, 2019, it was announced that Haftar successfully captured Sabha.
In February 2019, Haftar's were spotted patrolling the city's neighborhoods.
By May 2, 2020, politicians and activists loyal to the Tripoli-based government had announced their support of the GNA,
and is currently under control of pro-GNA municipal governments.
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