Exclusive conversation with the Misrata Mayor Mahmoud Al-Soqotri: “We are with anyone who refuses military intervention”

By Vanessa Tomassini.

This interview originally appeared on the Italian “Strumenti Politici”.

Tunis – Misurata, November 24, 2020 – In these days, consultations have resumed in Morocco between the members of the House of Representatives – among the MPs in Tobruk and Tripoli after almost two years. While, the Libyan Political Dialogue facilitated by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) continues in the presence of the acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG), Stephanie Williams.

In the complex Libyan puzzle, the city of Misrata has historically played an important role, especially in light of the announced agreement for a permanent ceasefire by the Joint Military Committee (JMC 5 + 5). To understand how Libya’s third city is experiencing this moment, we reached Mahmoud al-Soqotri, recently elected Mayor of the Municipality of Misurata. Businessman and former president of the Sewehli sports club for over seven and a half years, Mr. Soqotri graduated from the University of Literatures, Department of Philosophy, and is keen to clarify that he is not a professional politician.

-Mr. Mayor, first of all let me thank you for accepting this interview. Let’s talk about the recent political developments in Libya and the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF). What is your opinion about the dialogue facilitated by acting SRSG Stephanie Williams?

“Regarding Stephanie Williams, we strongly support peaceful solutions for the crisis in Libya and we totally refuse any military intervention. We have a problem with the choices of the participants, on how they were chosen, and in particular with the basis on which they made these decisions”.

– What do you think of the ongoing dialogue in Morocco between the members of the Parliament from the east and west?

“Now with the meeting of the House of Representatives in Morocco, it seems that we are going in the right path of making good decisions. Clearly, we have some objections, those representatives and some of those figures also present in Tunisia have been elected, so they have all the rights to represent the Country”.

-Which chance for the LPDF to come to a successful conclusion? If Williams will not succeed, what would be the strategic vision of Misrata?

“Misurata is part of the Western region that have always been against the military intervention. For us, and to be clear, the path of Stephanie’s dialogue is acceptable and we have to support it, but the only problem for us are the standards based on which decisions were made”.

– Do you think that Misratah was well represented in the first round of the LPDF in Tunis? If not, why?

Honestly, it would be premature to talk about how many people were present in Tunisia that represent Misurata because the choices were made on the basis of personal acquittances. There is no consensus on the figures representing our city Misrata”.

-Many observers say that Aguila Salah can be the next president of the Presidential Council, do you think is this a good option?

We do not agree with Aguila Salah and we refuse that he becomes the head of the Government.”

– Which personality from Misrata do you think is the more suitable to represent the city and his interests?

“We have no objection on anybody and our only condition is that the person who will be appointed do not support military solution. We do not have any problem with anyone not supporting a military intervention.”

– Did the different Misratah political components agreed on a unique candidate for the Prime Minister function? And for the head of presidential council function?

“Until now, there are no candidates. And until this moment Misurata did not decided who supports for the presidency of the Government.”

– What do you think about Fayez al-Serraj resignation?

“Me, as the rest of the people in Misurata, prefer Fayez al- Serraj to continue his duties until the next elections.”

-About the security issues: what is your analysis of the security situation in Libya and in particular in the Capital Tripoli?

“Loud and clear, there are complex security problems in Libya and in Tripoli. There were serious intentions from the Minister of Interior to organize the situation and make it safer, but the intervention of April 4, 2019, made unfortunately the situation worse. In order to accomplish a stable and secure environment, many efforts are needed”.

-How you think the problem of Tripoli militias can be solved?

“I have an objection on the word ‘militia’, because those people are actually citizens defending their land, and this could be considered as a ‘resistance’. There is a serious security problem in the capital and it was on its way to be solved. However, what happened made it worse”.

– How does Misrata intend to guarantee the cease fire in Sirte?

“All forces in the frontline are related to Misurata, there are not foreign forces that did not abide to rules. All of them are disciplined forces who support legitimacy. If the ceasefire is agreed, all forces will respect this decision”.

-About the Misratah Municipal Council, how you evaluate your work team? What are the prerogatives of the Council?

“There are a lot of issues from previous period of time and we are working on that. There is a status of coherence within the municipality and it is still early to assess”.

-How do you deal and work with the other authorities of the city as the military council, businessmen council? You feel free enough to carry out your duties?

“There is a military house in Misurata, at least it is no longer called that way. I have my freedom in doing and saying what I think it’s appropriate, as I have been elected. Otherwise why I am here if I cannot express myself?”

-How are the relations with other cities Municipal Councils?

“There are many meetings that are taking place with other mayors, specially in the Western region, and our main concern is the centralization: how we can solve this issue and establish a decentralized system in Libya”.

-How is going the rehabilitation of Tawergha city?

“It’s going well. Infrastructures have been re-builded in Tawergha, the police station is working normally, and the schools as well. The city is returning back to its normal life”.

-What can you tell us regarding the city foreign relations:

“I hope that countries considered friends with Libya help in the implementation of our Municipality projects. Before the revolution, there were many Italian companies working in Libya. We hope that those projects can restart soon. We also hope that our Government set the safest environment for foreign companies to come back”.

-Last year we saw many foreign countries delegations visiting Misrata and meeting dignitaries and Misrata’ companies. Are there today foreign companies working in rebuilding or business projects?

“There are, but not many. Not as we wish, due to coronavirus and the security situation. We hope the Government set s a proper environment so our relations with Turkey and Italy come back again as before”.

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