Dimanche 26 Mai 2019  
 

N°101 - Premier trimestre 2013

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Kazakhstan
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     Libye
 
  S.E.M. / H.E. Alshiabani Mansour Abuhamoud

The Challenges of Reconstruction

Almost two years after the Libyan revolution, the nation has entered the third phase of a political transition that will culminate with the approval of a new constitution. While ensuring security remains the government’s top priority, the rekindling of oil exports has opened promising prospects for speeding up the reconstruction process in a country whose vast industrial potential remains largely untapped. The Ambassador of Libya to France, H.E. Alshiabani Mansour Abuhamoud, describes the strides made by Libya in carrying out a political and economic transition, as well as his country’s desire to bolster its ties with France. 

The Diplomatic Letter : Mister Ambassador, 17 February 2013 marked the second anniversary of the revolution that put an end to Colonel Kadhafi’s regime. What do you think of the political transition launched on 8 August 2012, when the National Transition Council (NTC) handed over power to the General National Congress? Could you outline the principles that will be underscored as the Constitution of the «new» Libya is drafted? 

 

H.E. Alshiabani Mansour Abuhamoud: As Libya presses forward with its political transition, the handover of power between the National Transition Council and the General National Congress was, indeed, an extremely important step, marked by the organization of free and transparent elections. 

The Libyan people took advantage of this vote to confirm their desire for change. Libya also set itself apart from its neighbors by instituting a different election process, which silenced all doubts about our country’s ability to successfully carry out a much-needed political transition. 

As for the drafting of the future Libyan Constitution, I think that pluralism and democracy will be the principles that prevail as this document is drawn up. The Constitution will most surely emphasize respect for human rights, especially the rights of women and minority groups. 

The importance of being able to rely on a strong economy - a key factor for ensuring the success of our political transition – must also be emphasized. Thousands of our fellow citizens laid down their lives during the revolution to improve our everyday living conditions. The Libyan people have very wide aspirations in this arena. The Libyan economy is bouncing back at an increasingly fast pace. And while our economy still depends in great part on oil production, oil exports have climbed back to their highest levels, which is excellent for the Libyan people, for Libya, and for the international community. 

 

T.D.L.: Your country posted record growth in 2012, thanks to the rapid relaunching of oil production. According to IMF estimates, the economy expanded nearly 120%. What kind of structural reforms is the government planning to institute, to bolster the banking system and stimulate the private sector? With the government working hard to diversify the economy and to improve the country’s infrastructures, what sorts of opportunities does the Libyan market offer foreign investors, and French investors in particular?

 

H.E.A.M.A.: The Libyan economy is clearly in need of structural reforms. Libya was completely dependent on its mineral resources for more than 60 years. During this period of reconstruction and reform, it is vital that we strengthen and diversify our economic assets by fostering new sources of economic growth.

We believe that the private sector has a key rôle to play in this arena. Our government is working very hard to bring this about, hoping to spur the growth of the private sector.

Libya offers foreign companies a wide array of investment opportunities, and is doing a variety of things to heighten their interest in our country. Several companies that operated on the Libyan market in years past have moved back into the market. 

To answer your question more specifically, let me say that more than 1,500 French companies now appear to be interested in expanding their operations into Libya. Libya is also eager to see this happen as well, as the material and idealogical assistance France gave us during the long and difficult months of the revolution forged a great friendship and strong ties between our two countries. The Libyan government is thus doing everything it can to make it easier for French companies, specifically, to gain a foothold in our country. 

 

T.D.L.: Since his appointment on 15 October 2012 by the General National Congress, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has made security one of the Libyan government’s top priorities. Has there been headway toward reestablishing your country’s law enforcement and defense structures? Are steps being taken to disarm militias as quickly as possible? With internal tensions still running high in Libyan society, how is the government approaching the problem of forging a successful national reconciliation?

 

H.E.A.M.A.: Security is absolutely vital, so that we can move forward calmly with rebuilding Libya. This is a top priority and a crucial goal for the General National Congress (GNC), which has undertaken numerous reforms and initiatives, including: disarming militias; training law enforcement agents, with much appreciated assistance from France; and welcoming former revolutionaries into the ranks of the Interior and Defense Ministries.  

The Libyan government is doing everything necessary to disarm the Libyan people and to meet their legitimate needs. These are the most important measures in the government’s action plan. Ensuring Libya’s security and stability is, clearly, a prerequisite for building a strong economy. 

These measures will also help ease tensions in Libyan civil society. A special commission has been created within the General National Congress to help bring about a national reconciliation. It has a great deal of work ahead of it, but we have already seen indisputable improvement in several regions.

 

T.D.L.: Meeting in Paris on 12 February 2013, the Friends of Libya Conference approved a Plan for Bolstering National Security and a Plan for Fostering Justice and the Rule of Law. Could you summarize these two plans for our readers? What would you like to see your international partners do to help Libya meet these challenges? Do you think the creation of an EU civilian mission to help secure Libya’s borders could reinvigorate your country’s relations with the EU, working for instance within the framework of the Union of the Mediterranean?

 

H.E.A.M.A.: The goal of the Friends of Libya Conference was to bolster cooperation with the aim of improving Libyan national security, while, on a broader level, heightening international security. 

We will have to work with all of the actors in the international community to make this goal a reality, and to contain the risks and threats that could undermine the stability of our country and of the world as a whole. 

Implementing a successful security strategy is an absolute necessity. With France stepping up to help us, along with the entire international community, Libya will be able to overcome these security challenges. 

Setting up an EU civilian mission to secure our borders is a necessary step that will enable us to make this shared objective a reality.

 

T.D.L.: During Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s first visit to Paris, to attend the conference, President François Hollande reconfirmed France’s support for the efforts to rebuild and stabilize Libya.  Will the French-Libyan defense partnership continue to expand, after the signing of a new accord on 2 November 2012? France played a major rôle in the Libyan revolution. In what arenas would you hope to see our two countries build even closer ties? 

 

H.E.A.M.A.: The Franco-Libyan defense partnership has given rise to an array of projects. Let me point out an array of initiatives undertaken to train and to modernize the Libyan Army and to heighten security information exchanges, and as well as the various plans for supplying us with French weaponry. 

We hope to see optimal cooperation between our countries in every arena where France can assist us with its  care, education, transports, telephone networks, etc. 

France could do a great deal to help rebuild Libya, working as a privileged partner of our country. 

 

T.D.L.: The Malian crisis underscored the grave security risk raised by the porous borders in the Sahelian region, starting with Libya’s own borders. What have Libyan authorities done to prevent terrorist groups from slipping back into your country, once Operation Serval draws to a close? Is Libya working on this problem with other countries in the region, starting with Algeria?

H.E.A.M.A.: Our government has significantly bolstered the military troops stationed in strategic posts along Libya’s borders. We are also working closely with neighboring countries, such as Algeria and Tunisia, to prevent any elements that might pose a security threat from crossing borders. We believe that we have a shared understanding of both the nature and the gravity of this threat, which targets every one of us and requires us to work together to overcome it. Algeria will be able to share its experience in this arena, as it has been battling this danger for many years. 

Let me add that we have already laid out a global security strategy. Enhancing security, maintaining a social dialogue, and fostering economic development in the region, while building close cooperation with the international community, are key actions that will make it possible for us to battle fanatical activities.  

 

T.D.L.: A major step was taken toward ensuring stronger regional economic integration on 9 January 2013, with the creation of the Union of Arab Maghreb Investment Bank. What is Libya doing to keep this dynamic going? How can it help enhance the political dialogue between Tunisia and Egypt, with special focus on border security and illegal immigration? 

 

H.E.A.M.A.: The Arab Maghreb Union will take concrete shape as we begin cooperating more closely, which means working together on both the political and economic levels. Member countries will begin sharing their experience and knowledge with one another, which will enable us to finish piecing together a union that will, hopefully, meet the expectations of the people who kindled the Arab Spring. 

In answer to your second question, I would like to emphasize that the governments in power in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia are heirs of the Arab Spring. This is a responsibility these governments now shoulder. This is why we share the same values and the same political ideals, but also the same security and humanitarian problems, which are tied to a steady rise in illegal immigration and ever growing threats from tiny armed groups.

I am convinced that by implementing a mutual doctrine, using all the necessary means, we will be able to guarantee the security of both our borders and our peoples. To keep this strategy moving forward, we will jointly implement any reforms needed to speed up the process of making our countries secure. 

 

T.D.L.: Prime Minister Ali Zeidan reconfirmed Libya’s role in the African construction process at the African Union (AU) Summit, held on 27-28 January 2013. Looking back, what do you think of the criticism leveled against the AU for not stepping in during the revolution? Could you lay out the broad lines of your country’s policy for African renewal?

 

H.E.A.M.A.: Not interfering in the affairs of other States is a fundamental principle for certain African countries, which we fully understand. Many of these States have also remained loyal to Kadhafi, as he is the founder of the African Union, and, as such, its only legitimate representative. Other States have roundly condemned the former regime for the crimes it committed against the Libyan people during the revolution. 

But these are all things of the past. We want to move forward now with building our future. Libya is an African country. As the founder of the African Union, it has a key role to play in the efforts to strengthen the ties between the different countries of Africa. We will step up and meet this responsibility by launching specific initiatives for every country on the continent, with full respect for: their political stance, the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other States, and their territorial integrity. 

Here again, the primary goal of the policy we pursue will be to get our countries to cooperate more closely and to work together to overcome all the threats weighing upon the African continent, be they security-oriented, economic, environmental, etc.

 

T.D.L.: Nearly one and a half years after the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the international community has not managed to resolve this crisis. What can be done to unblock the UN Security Council? Why has Libya shown such strong support for the Syrian National Council? In what concrete ways is it furnishing this support? On a broader level, what do you think of the geopolitical upheaval that has been caused by the various «Arab springs»?

 

H.E.A.M.A.: This is not the first time the Security Council has prevented the international community from taking action. This also happened in Kosovo, and it may turn out to be the same thing in Syria. There are signs, however, that positions are shifting, such as France’s and Great Britain’s recent statements about supplying the Syrian opposition with weapons so it can defend itself. 

The Libyan people understand better than anyone the great suffering as well as the hopes of the Syrian people. Just two years ago, we had the same needs, the same demands, and the same desires.

We also understand, better than anyone, the value and the importance of the political and economic support thrown behind a people fighting for its freedom. We also know that establishing a free and democratic Syria is in the best interest of the Arab world and the Middle East as a whole. 

Let me conclude by adding that the Arab Spring was an historic event in many different aspects, on both the political and the cultural levels.

The Arab world will never be the same again. An entire swath of its history is now a thing of the past. For the first time in centuries, the various Arab peoples are free. 

It is also true that there are still internal problems that must be overcome This is a very difficult but necessary phase, yet we remain optimistic, because all these different peoples went through the same stages and managed to overcome them. I am convinced that we, too, will get through them successfully.

If victory and democracy are the end goals, then the Arab people are now fighting to reach that end stage in their history, as other peoples have already managed to do.  

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