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Es Sayed Mohammed Idris bin es Sayed el Mahdi es Senussi

Es Sayed Mohammed Idris bin es Sayed el Mahdi es Senussi [12 March 1889 - 25 May 1983], later the monarch of independent Libya as King Idris, was the grandson of the founder of the Sanusi movement, and his status as a Sanusi gave him the unique ability to command respect from the disparate parts of his kingdom. The Grand Sanusi's son, Muhammad, succeeded him as the order's leader. Upon the Mahdi's death the Mahdi was succeeded by Ahmad ash Sharif, who governed the order as regent for his young cousin, Muhammad Idris as Sanusi (later King Idris of Libya).

He was recognized by the British under the new title Emir of the territory of Cyrenaica, a position also confirmed by the Italians in 1920. The newly-made Emir, Es Sayed Mohammed Idris bin es Sayed el Mahdi es Senussi was a man whose power was felt even beyond the boundaries of Libya and Cyrenaica. Idris was the supreme judge, defender and guide. It is difficult for a European to realize the power held by the Senussi family, for there has been nothing approaching it in Europe. It is a reflection of the temporal and spiritual Papacy at its height. For instance, Sidi Idris might order one of the oldest and noblest ekhwan to start the following day for a two-thousand-mile journey to Lake Chad, and he would obey unquestioningly, without preparation or even surprise. "We are the servants of the Sayed," he would say as he wrapped his burnus round him and prepared to face the waterless sands.

Tripolitanian nationalists met with the Sanusis at Surt early in 1922 and offered to accept Idris as amir of Tripolitania. Idris had never sought any title other than the one he held in Cyrenaica, and he was not anxious to extend either his political influence or his religious leadership to northern Tripolitania, where neither he nor the Sanusi order was widely popular. He had always refused aid to Tripolitanian nationalists and under the circumstances considered their offer to have been made for reasons of expediency, that is, because there was no alternative candidate for leadership apparent at the time. Idris' acceptance, as the nationalists understood, would draw sharp Italian disapproval and be the signal for the resumption of open warfare. War with Italy, in any event, appeared likely sooner or later. For several months, Idris pondered the nationalist appeal. For whatever reason--perhaps to further the cause of total independence or perhaps out of a sense of religious obligation to resist the infidel--Idris accepted the amirate of all Libya in November and then, to avoid capture by the Italians, fled to Egypt, where he continued to guide the Sanusi order.

Idris returned to Libya to a tumultuous welcome in 1944, but he declined to take up residence there until satisfied that all constraints of foreign control not subject to his agreement had been removed. At British urging, he resumed permanent residence in Cyrenaica in 1947; in 1949, with British backing, he unilaterally proclaimed Cyrenaica an independent amirate.

On December 24, 1951, King Idris I proclaimed the independence of the United Kingdom of Libya as a sovereign state. Under the constitution of October 1951, the federal monarchy of Libya was headed by King Idris as chief of state, with succession to his designated heirs. Substantial political power resided with the king. The executive arm of the government consisted of a prime minister and Council of Ministers designated by the king but also responsible to the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of a bicameral legislature. The Senate, or upper house, consisted of eight representatives from each of the three provinces. Half of the senators were nominated by the king, who also had the right to veto legislation and to dissolve the lower house. Local autonomy in the provinces was exercised through provincial governments and legislatures. Benghazi and Tripoli served alternately as the national capital.

Several factors, rooted in Libya's history, affected the political development of the newly independent country. They reflected the differing political orientations of the provinces and the ambiguities inherent in Libya's monarchy. First, after the first general elections, which were held on February 19, 1952, political parties were abolished. The National Congress Party, which had campaigned against a federal form of government, was defeated throughout the country. The party was outlawed, and Sadawi was deported. Second, provincial ties continued to be more important than national ones, and the federal and provincial governments were constantly in dispute over their respective spheres of authority. A third problem derived from the lack of a direct heir to the throne. To remedy this situation, Idris in 1953 designated his sixty-year-old brother to succeed him. When the original heir apparent died, the king appointed his nephew, Prince Hasan ar Rida, his successor.

After the forming of the Libyan state in 1963, Idris' government had tried--not very successfully--to promote a sense of Libyan nationalism built around the institution of the monarchy. But Idris himself was first and foremost a Cyrenaican, never at ease in Tripolitania. His political interests were essentially Cyrenaican, and he understood that whatever real power he had--and it was more considerable than what he derived from the constitution--lay in the loyalty he commanded as amir of Cyrenaica and head of the Sanusi order. Idris' pro-Western sympathies and identification with the conservative Arab bloc were especially resented by an increasingly politicized urban elite that favored nonalignment. Aware of the potential of their country's natural wealth, many Libyans had also become conscious that its benefits reached very few of the population. An ominous undercurrent of dissatisfaction with corruption and malfeasance in the bureaucracy began to appear as well, particularly among young officers of the armed forces who were influenced by Nasser's Arab nationalist ideology.

Alienated from the most populous part of the country, from the cities, and from a younger generation of Libyans, Idris spent more and more time at his palace in Darnah, near the British military base. In June 1969, the king left the country for rest and medical treatment in Greece and Turkey, leaving Crown Prince Hasan ar Rida as regent. On September 1, 1969, in a daring coup d'état, a group of about seventy young army officers and enlisted men, mostly assigned to the Signal Corps, seized control of the government and in a stroke abolished the Libyan monarchy. In 1975 former King Idris was sentenced to death in absentia, and died 25th May 1983 in Cairo.

Sayyid Hasan ar-Rida al-Senussi (by Humira al-Sanusi), Head of the Royal House of Libya 1983/1992, born 1928, Nominated Crown Prince in 1956, married 30th April 1959 in Tripoli, Fawzia Bakir, and had issue. He died 1992. Sayyid Muhammad al-Rida bin Sayyid Hasan ar-Rida al-Mahdi as-Senussi (born 20 October 1962) is the son of Crown Prince Hasan as-Senussi. He is recognized as being the legitimate heir to the Senussi Crown of Libya by Libyan royalists. He was held under house arrest in Libya by Gaddafi until 1988, when the Libyan leader allowed the ousted royal family to travel to the United Kingdom.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:53:33 ZULU