This comment is in response to an article published last week by the Atlantic Council entitled The Politics of Libya’s Political Isolation Law
By Ahmed Sewehli
The article by Eric Knecht not only lacks substance but echoes (just about word for word) what those ex-Gaddafi colleagues who are fighting to the death to stay in power are saying. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an Arabic version of this article.
1) The author ignores the fact that it was Jibril’s National Alliance Party which insisted on inserting as many categories as possible and insisted that the isolation law encompassed positions from 1969. Of course this was done in order that Libyans and others say that this is an unfair law and stops it from passing. However Gaddafi’s ex-colleagues did not expect members of the GNC to agree to this broadening of the law even though it would include the current president of the GNC and others. They were even more shocked when Abdurrahman Sewehli, who proposed the initial draft in December 2012, and who in 1975-76 was the elected general secretary of the opposition UK Libyan Students Union whose members stormed and occupied the Libyan Embassy in London in January 1976 following the murder of students in Benghazi, stated that he was happy for the proposed law to include him in it as long as Gaddafi’s aides were isolated.
2) The author ignores the fact that the rules for the previous elections stated that members of the transitional National Council and executive and members of the transitional government should not take part in the elections. Mustafa Abduljalil respected the rules whereas both Mahmoud Jibril and Ali Tarhouni broke the spirit of the law if not the law itself by forming parties and getting people to stand on their behalf rather than standing themselves. It seems they could not resist their desire for power. These rules were made in order that appointed members of the transitional government do not get a head start in the first ever democratic elections as a result of their appointment.
3) The article somewhat implies that ‘isolating’ Mahmoud Jibril, Mustafa Abduljalil and even the late Abdulfatah Younis (which is preposterous as I have never heard of applying any kind of law to a dead man) is akin to blasphemy. The vast majority of Libyans who took part in the revolution did not hold any kind of post in Gaddafi’s governments or embassies. The author later states that the law would deprive Libya of ‘competent’ work force, which I’ll come to in a moment. How can it be that this vast majority that I refer to is unable to rule and administrate Libya? There must be thousands of Libyans who never worked for Gaddafi who are more than competent enough not only to fill in the gaps, but indeed improve the quality of life of all Libyans.
4) It would disbar the country’s top political actors and strip fledgling bureaucracies of competent labour.’ This is a load of nonsense. The law may disbar the country’s WELL KNOWN political actors, and what it would also do is strip the non-functioning bureaucracies of either corrupt or incompetent officials who have been in position for decades appointed based on cronyism and favouritism and not CVs and interviews. It is quite obvious that the author has not been in the offices of the various ministries which are like the living dead. I have also yet to see evidence of the ‘competence’ of Gaddafi’s ministers and ambassadors. Were they not responsible for sucking the life out of the country, with very poor quality or non-existence of services of education, health, transport, you name it?
5) The author mentions Ali Sallabi. This man has always been described as an associate of the Muslim Brotherhood, but as he has a stance which is anti-isolation law (not surprising as the law would apply to him), he is now described as a sensible man by Gaddafi’s former colleagues. I see.
6) The author echoes this very clever argument that if you are anti-Gaddafi’s colleagues then you must be affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood. Again as most Libyans know the vast majority of Libyans are not affiliated to them, indeed a large proportion dislikes them. But this has been the strategy of former Gaddafi aides such as Shalgam and Jibril- if you do not support us then the zombies will get you (zombies being Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood). One must not forget that many of those who participated in the revolution were liberals and most of the rest had no political or religious affiliations besides being Sunni Muslim, so filling up this article with Muslim Brotherhood this and that is just a waste of space.
7) The author does not even bother to mention the huge support that the law has in Libya or why it was initially proposed. He ignores the arguments of proponents of the law: that this law does not punish anyone, and that those excluded from leadership positions can take up other non-leadership positions, study, engage in private business and investment and live life like the 99.9% of who do not hold senior positions. They will neither be imprisoned, fined or exiled. They will have freedom of movement and the right to live peacefully with the rest of us. Rights they declined to champion or indeed opposed when they were officially members of Gaddafi’s barbaric regime which imprisoned, tortured and murdered dissenters. And so we come to the reasoning behind the law- it is a temporary measure (again the author is either unaware of this or chooses to ignore this fact) which will enable clean principled untainted Libyans to lay the foundations for building and developing a free, democratic, lawful, fair Libya without interference from those whose principles or flawed decision making process allowed them to prop up and work with a mass murderer and terrorist dictator. The fledgling violently new-born Libya must be given a chance to stand on its legs.
We will not forget our brave men who saw their friends, brothers and fathers blown to pieces on the front line; our ever so patient Libyan sisters who cried every day (and I heard the screams myself) as one by one their husbands and sons did not return and never would; others who did return to their homes only to find their houses destroyed and their children’s guts strewn all over; and indeed our brothers who now cannot walk or see. And we will not forget the atrocities committed by Gaddafi’s regime for over 4 decades. It was not illegal in Libya for Gaddafi’s aides to turn a blind eye to or even to defend these atrocities. But it is time for the remnants of that regime to let go. They ruled us in the past, but their era has ended: they will not rule us again. Because we the Libyan people have finally got rid of the chains and we will never be chained again.
This article presents the views of its author and does not reflect the views of ShababLibya, the Libyan Youth Movement.