By Vanessa Tomassini.
The south of Libya with its large desert portions offers countless economic opportunities and local actors need the collaboration of foreign partners to make the most of the potential of this vast territory. Construction, infrastructure, environment, health, tourism, culture and engineering are just some of the sectors open to foreign investment. Ghat, an oasis city in the ancient region of Fezzan, in the extreme southwest of Libya near the border with Algeria, has maintained a good level of stability and represents the ideal place for the production of alternative energy such as photovoltaics which could also be used for the production of green hydrogen. Let’s see what the situation is on the ground in this interview with Mayor Ibrahim Mustafa Salem.
Mr. Mayor, thank you for accepting this interview. Please help me introduce yourself, your political and academic career, and your alternation with the previous mayor Moussa Al Kouni.
“My name is Ibrahim Mustafa Salem; I was born in Ghat in 1975. I reside at Ghat and I am currently Mayor of its Municipality. I graduated from the Faculty of Applied Sciences, I specialized in the development of rural and desert communities. I am an expert in studying the development of third world communities. Before becoming mayor, I was a social affairs officer and head of the Department of NGOs. Then, I moved to youth council in the Ministry of Youth, after that I was president of the management local board in Ghat. For my alternation with the previous mayor Moussa Al-Kouni, it was fairly smooth.”
As mayor, what are your priorities?
“My priorities are providing education, health and environmental services and women’s empowerment plans as we already set a comprehensive development strategy and are fully ready to cooperate with all different parties and organizations”.
How is the municipality of Ghat experiencing the current political division between Fathi Bashagha and Abdel Hamid Dabaiba? As mayor, do you support one of the two Prime Ministers?
“Our municipal Council reports directly to Abd al-Hamid Dabaiba.”
What is the security situation in the municipality of Ghat and in the south in general? Is the political division affecting the security services?
“Currently, the security situation is stable, there are no political differences or any kind of lawless problems. It’s true that the political divide affects the security services however not in a big way. The Directorate of Security is a subsidiary to the Government of National Unity, the division is within the Directorate of Security however everyone serves the interest and what is best for Ghat.”
How do you rate the delivery of services by Abdel Hamid Dabaiba’s central government?
“I believe that the services provided are good because all the decisions were made in a conscious and meaningful way and the assistance provided in addition to all facilities that reached Ghat were through Dabaiba.”
Who is responsible for closing oil facilities in southern Libya? What is the current situation?
“People have been oppressed, exploited and also deprived from their oil shares from oil extraction activities in their area. Sustainable development remains elusive for Ghat and the South as a whole, along with poor services fuel shortage at stations. All of this has negatively affected the already poor economic and social situation therefore a popular movement had taken the act of shutting down oil production in the area. The oil blockade was carried out due to political division and to pressure countries that have a significant role in the Libyan situation and supported by General Haftar in order to practice more pressure on those countries. Now things have been settled and citizens have been promised to enable them with their oil shares and give the chance to Ghat’s engineers and experts to work. It was agreed with the Libyan Oil Corporation and a decision was issued by the Government of National Unity about setting a refinery in the south, which was basically one of the demands of the movement.”
In your opinion, what is the way forward to get out of the crisis?
“Like all Libyans, I believe that the elections are the only way out of this crisis.”
The Ghat population consists mainly of Twareg. What do you think about the request for documents from citizens born in Libya but still without identity?
“As people of the South and as Twareg, we have called on all governments, ministries, Twareg representatives, members of the Parliament and representatives of the Geneva Committee to give an identity to these people who had been living in Libya for more than a hundred years and it’s their legitimate right to have an identity. It’s not normal for a 60 years old person to have no legal documents other than the administrative numbers that allow him to live in Libya. That is absolutely not enough, especially when he applies for a passport to be able to travel and get medical treatment outside Libya. We’re not much different on this subject from the politicians who came before us and we support the fact of enabling them of their rights as long as it doesn’t contradict with the Libyan law”.
What are the investment opportunities for foreign entities and companies in Ghat?
“The Municipal Council opens all chances of cooperation with foreign companies. Currently, there is a plan submitted by the Municipal Council. It is an investment plan because we have all the components in the south, and in Ghat in particular, for a successful venture such as security stability, vast arable areas and a fertile environment. Ghat is a border area with Algeria and we have all the possibilities to be an investment destination where a commercial line trade can be formed between Algeria and Libya with Ghat as protagonist.”
We have often stressed the need to strengthen collaboration with the private sector. Being Ghat in southern Libya it could host important energy projects such as photovoltaic systems; are there any initiatives in this sense?
“There are initiatives regarding photovoltaic systems, the production of energy through solar panels, but so far there is nothing in the field. Only promises made by companies and organizations “.
A last word for our readers…
“We want to be connected with organizations concerned with southern Libya and that seek to invest in the area. We are ready to exchange and share ideas to eventually achieve successful investments.”