By Vanessa Tomassini, this interview originally appeared on the Italian “Strumenti Politici“
After the House of Representatives (HoR) appointed Fathi Bashagha as Libya Prime Minister-designate who will present his Government of National Stability in Parliament next week, the current Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dabaiba has announced that he will only hand over powers to a government elected. In these hours, the eyes are focused on the Council of Elders and Notables of Misrata, the city that gave birth to both the premieres. In fact, its position appears to be decisive in terms of political support at the local level given Libyan social fabric. We reached Muhammad Al-Rajoubi, head of the Misurata Council of notables and elders to dispel some myths and better understand their position.
Thank you, Mr. Rajoubi, for accepting this interview.
“In the name of God, the most Merciful, thank you, my sister, for hosting me.”
What is the position of the council on the current political situation?
“We, as a council of notables and civil society in the city of Misurata, refuse to extend the parliament, which was established on the basis of 18 months, and it has now reached seven years. Is it possible for a Parliament to remain in charge seven years!? The country entered into wars and disputes, which God has not sent down any authority. We are Libyans, one society, and there is no problem between the Libyan tribes. As soon as the roads and airports were opened, the Libyans began to communicate and there is no problem between our cities. The only issue is between politicians from the House of Representatives and the High Council of State on one hand, the international community, and the regional interventions from Egypt and the UAE on the other, for the special interests of these countries. That is what made the process delay so far.”
Why do you reject the new Government of Fathi Bashagha?
“We have nothing to do with Fathi or Dabaiba. Our main demand is parliamentary elections. Then we will move to the constitution, then presidential elections, and finally, stability. I think ten years of wars are enough. People in the West, East and South are tired of wars. I am in contact with all Libyan cities, and all of them reject any new wars. We have a great role, God willing, in reconciliation, and there is no problem in Libya except these worn-out bodies. Khalifa Haftar wants to rule with the power of the military, the Parliament and Khaled Al-Meshri want to stay for life. This thing is rejected by all the Libyan people.”
We heard a warning from the sheikhs of Misurata and Greater Tripoli…
“Great, we met with them and we understood that Tripoli could not enter a new war. This is the warning we gave. The western region cannot break out in another war. Enough of wars! We sit at the negotiating table all the time, but not with those who killed the Libyans. Heroes of wars are imposed. They are being delayed until the country progresses. Libya has good people, professors of law and jurisprudence, professors of sociology, university professors, civil society and tribal sheikhs. We are all united and agreed not to fight again, and those who have special interests will not judge us on the way of Gaddafi or Haftar and others.”
Few days ago, you spent a visit to the city of Zawiya. Who did you meet and what are the discussions’ results?
“Our visit to the city of Al-Zawiya was a historic visit. Members of the Municipal Council, the director of security, army officers, university professors, brigades’ commanders and Zawiya revolutionaries, the entire community of Zawiya reserved us a great reception. That is evidence that they are with us on the same approach that urges parliamentary elections to end these existing bodies and the new parliament assigns the government that supervises the constitution and presidential elections, so to hand over power to an authority elected by the Libyan people”.
Is it true that you are looking for support from other cities like Zintan?
“Yes, Misurata asks for the support of other cities such as Zintan but the truth is that we are not asking support for a government or the other, but it is a call to support the elections. We actually went to Zintan and listened their opinion, Gharyan, Greater Tripoli, Zawiya, Western Mountain and the West Coast, and all of them want elections. We do so to poll the public opinion so that we can say that the Libyan public opinion wants elections. In the eastern region, in Al-Beyda and Ajdabiya, demonstrations took place to topple the parliament and we visited all the western regions to confirm that everyone wants parliamentary elections and our goal is to speed up the electoral process. The army, the police, and individuals, they all want elections, and we want Italy to help us in this demand, and all the countries of the Mediterranean basin.”
What do you think of the deal between the Parliament and the State Council?
“The deal that took place between the State Council and Parliament, which is to extend the period of time for them and without even setting the dates of the elections or setting a date for the constitution. They just agreed on a new 14-month-old stability government headed by Bashagha. “
Dabaiba formed a new armed formation, the Force to protect elections and Constitution. Who is part of it?
“The formations that Dabaiba established, such as the Constitution and Election Protection Force, include forces from the army, the police, and the revolutionaries. They will protect the constitution and the elections, and protect the country, God willing.”
Is there a division among Misrata armed groups?
“There is no danger from the armed groups in Misurata because our city is a cohesive and fraternal society. They are all brothers and cousins. The city is safe and secure, even if there is a dispute between them that will not reach an armed conflict.”
What is your message to the Libyan youth who are carrying weapons or belong to armed groups out of the State control?
“My message for young people who bear arms is that they must be involved in the state’s agencies and that the state finds a solution for them. Part of them need psychological treatment because of the war. There are armed youth who want to get married and want to enter the field of work and find loans for housing and development. Unfortunately, the youth have been destroyed by this was and 30 years of neglection during the Gaddafi era because he did not care about the youth and did not care about the society. There are no universities or infrastructure. Libya is still a crude country, whether people or land. Libya does not have the possibilities to be one of the modern countries, it needs years in the field of education and technology and health in order to get out of this predicament that we have fallen into. I hope that God will help us against these gangs.”
How is the reconciliation process going on? Do you think Mr. Dabaiba did his best on this file?
“Dabaiba is not charged with reconciliation, and the one responsible for reconciliation is the Presidential Council. Unfortunately, the Council did nothing for reconciliation, even though it received a budget for this goal. We do not know what they did with it. We want reconciliation and there is no problem between the regions of Libya. All regions are complaining about the rule of the army, Haftar and his aides. They killed people in Tarhuna, according to Tripoli, and in Benghazi, they executed many without courts. We want legal procedures, and what the courts determine, we accept. We want a state of institutions and the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers, like the rest of free world. The elections must be fair. Libya is a state with many good things and a strategic location.”
What do you expect from the international community? And what Italy, and Europe in general, can do to help our beloved neighbors, the Libyans, in this phase?
“We have a common history with our neighbors like Italy and Europe. Also, the African countries must stand together so that we can get out of these problems and our children learn and be educated, so that the Mediterranean becomes a lake of peace, security and stability, not a lake of displaced and drowned people. Unfortunately, these are remnants of the dark ages, and we must be open to each other. The French and the Italians are our brothers, we are all children of Adam and Adam is from dust. I see that Italy has a role and we have strong relations, it is a neighboring country, and one day Italy made a great contribution to building modern Libya. All the Mediterranean basin, whether France and Italy are neighbors. We hope that they will have a positive role, especially Italy by studying and understanding the Libyan people, to have a role in solving the Libyan problem and supporting parliamentary elections for all of Libya that will end with all the current bodies, missing for 10 years. We expect that Libya will rise, God willing, with the help of Italy and friendly and brotherly countries, and may God bless you.”