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If it wasn’t for oil ‘Libya would be in the same situation as Egypt and Tunisia today’

Published time: March 01, 2013 19:12

Libyan politician Mahmoud Jibril. (AFP Photo / Spencer Platt)

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Libya can be used or at least is being seen as an alternative to finance and compensate the lack of assistance that might be coming from Europe and from the US, Libyan politician Mahmoud Jibril told RT.

Jibril is currently the head of one of the largest political parties in Libya, the National Forces Alliance. He was a high-ranking official with the Gaddafi government and also a leader of the revolutionary Council in 2011.

Jibril also added, that just because of oil Libya is a strategic target for too many players in the region and worldwide.

RT: Libya has made a progress after the revolution and parliamentary elections were held, won by your party – the national forces alliance. But then the Constitution has yet to be drafted and the country remains under the control of the revolutionary groups and militias. Who holds real power right now in Libya?

Mahmoud Jibril: Power under theoretical study rests with the legislative body and with the government. But realistically speaking it’s the one, who holds the guns, holds the power. So, there is still the cut between real power and official power. Hopefully with the progress that we are involved in right now, in those developments, that some sort of compatibility between the two can be struck. 

RT: Libya is probably the only example of an Arab spring country which was able to pick up its economy after the revolution. If you look at other countries that underwent the Arab spring we get the sense, that instead of prosperity they got insecurity. Why?

MJ: First of all, Libya did not pick up its economy. Its economy wasn’t picked up. Only oil production was resumed. It’s a pity, because foreign countries rushed into Libya immediately to start pumping oil again, because it’s connected to their way of life, to their economies. While the rest of the projects all over the country are still intact, are still as they were left on the 17th of February.

So, if it was not for this drop of oil, Libya would be in the same situation as Egypt and Tunisia today. So, it’s oil. Not the Libyan economy in general. I think Libya because of this oil was the subject of being targeted by too many countries, because this oil wealth is needed not only for Libya - maybe to finance some other projects in the region. Taking a look at the European economy today or the recession and the situation which the American budget is in today, I think Libya can be used or at least is being seen as an alternative to finance and compensate the lack of assistance that might be coming from Europe and from the US. That’s why Libya is a strategic target for too many players in the region and worldwide.

RT: Many Libyans that I’ve been spoken to – most of them are people, who never liked Gaddafi. But they told me one thing that could not be denied is that during Gaddafi there was sense of security and stability in Libya. And this is something they are lacking greatly right now. How much time do you think it will take for Libyans to feel secure and feel stability again?

MJ: A post-conflict period is a difficult one. It’s not an easy thing, especially in a country, where democratic culture was totally absent. It needs time, needs patience, and it needs a real love of this country, which lots of people lack these days.

RT: Another opinion is that a growing gap between the victor towns like Benghazi and the looser towns like Benwaleed - people feel like maybe the gap is widening and there are two camps establishing in Syria. Do you feel that? 

MJ: Some glimpses of that are true. But you can’t deny that this is the harvest of 42 years of a culture that somehow managed to divide Libyans to create cleavages between Libyans – regional lines and ethnic lines. Gaddafi for too many years tried to discriminate against ... Now it’s an opportunity for all Libyans. Everybody is asking for his own rights to be realized, to be achieved. These are all legitimate rights. The magic word is “dialogue”, real dialogue between all those groups.

RT: If we talk about the Gaddafi clan. Does he still have support in Libya? Do a lot of people still support his clan? What future would you envisage for them in Libya?

MJ: First of all, Libyans should be treated as equal citizens and they should have equal rights, excluding those who committed crimes against Libyan people. Those acts should not be exempted. Those should be the subject of law. Courts should say they’ve done this. Other than that Libyans should be treated equally. And this should be granted constitutionally.

RT: For example, Gaddafi’s son Saif Al-Islam is held in a city of… Do you think he can be tried in the international criminal court instead of domestically? Do you think he is getting a fair trial in Libya?

MJ: He is a Libyan. His crimes were committed on a Libyan soil. Libya is not a member of the ICC. I don’t know what grounds the international community or the ICC is talking about, being tried in the ICC.

RT: But you feel like he is getting a fair trial in Libya?

MJ: He’s been tried once in two or three sessions. And we didn’t see any mistreatment.

RT: When you were working in Gaddafi’s government, were you had friendly relations with him or not?

MJ: There was a working relationship, sporadic. I was basically a consultant. He had his own team, but some technical issues that related to my specialization – sometimes he got in touch with me and asked me some questions

RT: Back then there was talk that he was trying to democratize or liberalize the Libyan economy. Was it a sincere attempt? Could it have helped at that point?

MJ: No. I don’t think it was sincere at all. I think it was some sort of a division of labor by Gaddafi among his clan.

RT: When you were working with Gaddafi, did he have any understanding of what was really going on and what could really happen?

MJ: First of all, I didn’t work for Gaddafi. I worked for the Libyan state. I don’t think he had any glimpses of understanding of what was coming. He was self-engulfed in his own perception of the world, he was self-inflated, sense of narcissism of his personality, and I think he thought that this uprising could be crushed at any moment. He had the assumption the moment he fired some shots on the streets, everybody would run away. He didn’t know what was coming. This is a national uprising. It’s not just a demonstration by a group of students in a certain university. I think even the security systems in the Arab world were built around that assumption, that it was only a demonstration here and there – the maximum scope was going to be a city, no more than that. But all security system and security forces in the Arab world were not built around the assumption that a national uprising covering all the country can take a place and they can counter that uprising.

RT: When he was killed, I remember you told our channel a year ago that you didn’t know who killed him and you regret the killing.

MJ: No. I didn’t regret the killing. I regretted the fact that he was not tried before he got what he deserved, whether it’s a punishment of death of whatever. But I think too many secrets were buried with him. Those secrets regarding our financial assets abroad, his relationship with too many intelligence institutions worldwide, his relationship with too many heads of states - where conspiracies are planned here and there. All those secrets were for the Libyan state, not for Gaddafi. And I think those secrets were buried with him. And whoever killed Gaddafi – definitely had an interest in burying those secrets.

RT: Libya has a complicated track record when it comes to the US, in September alone there were two Americans killed by an angry crowd, and also a US ambassador. In your personal opinion – was it a planned terrorist attack or was it just people’s outrage?

MJ: I am not involved in that investigation.

RT: But just your personal opinion…

MJ: I think (on what I heard from different findings – whether Libyans or Americans) it was a planned attack.

RT: What do you think, when Hillary Clinton said how that happened in a country that we (Americans) helped to liberate?

MJ: It’s a question of lack of security. There was no official control in the country and anything could happen.

RT: Do Libyans feel liberated by the Americans?

MJ: No, that’s not the case at all. Libyans feel that they liberated themselves, they appreciate the help of the international community. But who liberated Libya and who achieved this revolution – was the Libyan people, nobody else.

RT: The question of Islam is very acute in every country that underwent the Arab spring. What kind of Islam and democracy plan do you envisage for Libya?

MJ: First of all, Islam is a global religion. It’s not confined, for instance, to Arabs or a certain nationality. So, when we talk about Islam… Islam – it depends on how it’s being conceived, how it’s being understood. When conceived the right way, it managed to build a civilization – still one of the best civilizations in history, where even western students used to come, for instance, to the Middle East just to learn Algebra, Chemistry… This was the real Islam, which respects the human mind, which endowed human beings with a mission to be the Halifax of God on this Earth, to be creators, to be peace creators, peace achievers, peace lovers – this is the real message of Islam. But sometimes it’s misunderstood, misinterpreted by others. And this misinterpretation and misconception sometimes gives a very distorted picture of Islam and at the end some sort of a very negative stereotype results, as the one which associates Islam with terrorism, associates with ……, associates with a tent and a camel. That’s not the real Islam. 

RT: What do you envisage for Libya in terms of Islam? What kind of Islam…

MJ: Islam’s identity should be the frame of reference for our constitution, for our interaction.

RT: Will sharia be an option for Libya?

MJ: I always ask my Islamic scholars in Libya that their real mission is to turn this sharia into real laws.