Books on Libya
Col Mu'amar al-Qadhafi
Update No: 030 - (02/05/06)
Transitions are Difficult
As stated on various occasions, Libya's reforms while apparently well
intentioned are weakened, despite their best efforts, by the unclear
constitutional situation and the divergence of opinion between the revolutionary
elite and the reformers themselves. In March, there was an important cabinet
shuffle that replaced Prime Minister Shukry Ghanem with al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi,
who was Ghanem's deputy. Mahmoudi is a technocrat with extensive experience in
the Libyan bureaucracy, while Ghanem had more experience in international
settings as he spent much of his career at OPEC and in academia. Some say
Mahmoudi is better suited, or at least better connected, to reformists as well
as conservatives (in the case of Libya, these are those holding on to the
country's revolutionary past), which suggests he will be better able to lead the
country through the delicate changes that will inevitably erode the influence of
some powerful societal elements. Shukry Ghanem was pushing for a rapid
transformation of Libya's particular brand of socialist economy promoting free
market mechanisms; however, he was alienating colleagues, which ultimately made
the proposed reforms ineffective.
Therefore, some diplomats have been suggesting that with Ghanem moved to lead
the National Oil Company (NOC), the reforms might have a better chance under
Mahmoudi, who is more familiar with the 'system'. That the cabinet shuffle in
mid-March came shortly after deadly riots in Benghazi (attributed to protests
over the display of the Danish Muhammad caricatures on an Italian minister's
t-shirt), suggested that Ghanem was alienating large parts of the population
with the free market approach, considering that Libya's young population has
known little else but the generous subsidies and employment of the state.
Ghanem's package of reforms envisaged in his 'National Economic Strategy' is not
likely to be adopted by Mahmoudi. However, the new prime minister has stated
that free market reforms, including private banking, would continue. There would
also be a renewed focus on low-income citizens; state investment in
infrastructure - which apart from the Great Man Made River finished in 1997 - is
urgently needed in order to help the population at large, which suggests that
fighting the 13% unemployment rate will remain a priority. Al-Mahmoudi also said
his government would help streamline the bureaucracy simplifying taxes and
financial regulations. On the surface, the Mahmoudi program is not very
different from the Ghanem one. The differences are expected to be in the
approach and dealings with 'stakeholders' (i.e. the old guard), which in
Mahmoudi's case are perceived to have more widespread appeal.
A Family Feud
A more pernicious problem for reform is the role of the 'leader',
particularly, as there is no succession mechanism envisaged in the Jamahiriya
(and the Green Book - the de-facto constitution of the country) for Col.
Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi. Qadhafi is in his mid-sixties and probably has many more
years of rule left in him; however, as reform, or talk of reform, advances the
question of succession is inevitable. The prominent role of Qadhafi's son
Saif-ul-Islam in the reform process, his pronouncements on foreign affairs and
the widely held view that it was he who persuaded his father to renounce
"weapons of mass destruction" to improve relations with the United
States would indicate that Saif-ul Islam is indeed the designated successor.
Nevertheless, in Libya, not everything is, as it seems, especially with regard
to the leadership, which has never been an official role. Qadhafi's title is
Leader of the revolution, not president. Saif ul-Islam is also the current head
of the Kaddafi Foundation and is apparently the favourite. However, Saif's
brother Saadi also appeared to be slated for the role of 'successor', even if
Saadi has been involved in several controversial situations, which usually had
something to do with football. In fact, the July 1996 riots outside Tripoli
stadium that left an estimated 80 people dead, started after a match played and
won controversially by Saadi's own team (against the team of his half brother
Muhammad, who enjoys better regard from the people). Nevertheless, Saif and
Saadi have been vying for a leading role in Libyan politics. Saif is far more
public relations savvy and has a good relationship with the press.
Saif has also said things that appear to diverge from the official position
(such as the ineffectiveness of reforms in Libya and pronouncements on the
failure of the Libyan medical system vis-à-vis the Bulgarian nurses trial),
which could also be construed as being those of his father. Saif is also liked
by the West, which considers him the face of the "New Libya." Saif
stated recently "Libya must become open and democratic; otherwise it risks
turning to dictatorship and fascism." Saif is fluent in English and German,
with some knowledge of French, Saif has been a key factor in bringing Libya back
into the international community. He has been able to almost single-handedly
change Libya's image abroad - no small feat considering that until 2003, Libya
was still widely perceived as a terrorism-sponsoring nation and a rogue state.
Saif is also believed to have challenged his own father by suggesting, "All
US oil companies are returning to Libya, the revolution is over and done
with." Saif's foundation took on some of the more 'significant' foreign
policy events in Libya's recent history such as helping to free hostages in the
Philippines held by the Islamic Abu-Sayyaf movement to freeing western hostages
in southern Algeria.
If Saif-ul-Islam enjoys the support of the West to succeed his father (as well
as many Libyans), Saadi has not given up the challenge. While, Saadi appears to
support the old guard (the Revolutionary Committee types), his soccer
connections - Libya is a soccer mad country - have not been kind. Saadi's many
attempts at playing professional soccer abroad (famously with the Italian Serie-A
team Perugia) and his failure to deliver prestigious results have earned him
some scorn among the very ranks he was trying to impress. Saadi was recently
appointed to lead the national football league, but the failure of the Libyan
national team to advance in the elimination round in the recent 2006 Africa Cup,
which was won by Egypt, further alienated his 'natural' support base.
Internationally, Saadi does not enjoy his brother's reputation. He has had
numerous spats with the police in Italy for raucous and violent behavior in
popular night clubs in the Italian island of Sardinia, where he was once asked
to leave a club owned by the famous Renault formula-one boss Flavio Briatore.
Nevertheless, while logic suggests that if the choice for successor would likely
fall on Saif-ul-Islam, Saadi could still garner sufficient support by
conservatives to obstruct his brother. The choice ultimately rests on the
success and popular acceptance of the reforms. Should these fail to deliver
their promises, Saadi could after all emerge as the ultimate victor.
Re-Trial of Bulgarian Nurses
Meanwhile, the re-trial of five Bulgarian nurses accused of infecting
children with HIV in Libya has been scheduled for 11 May. The first session of
the trial will serve to present the case to the new judges. While, it is
doubtful that the nurses will once again face the death sentence, the nurses'
Libyan lawyer Osman Bizanti said he would seek the testimony of HIV experts
Italian Professor Vittorio Colizzi and his French colleague Luc Montagnier. They
had written a report identifying the cause of the HIV outbreak in the infant
wing of a Beghazi hospital that infected some 400 children to poor hygiene.
Nevertheless, the trial will be held in Tripoli rather than Benghazi, which is
doubtless a point in favour of the nurses (given the tense situation in Benghazi
as suggested by the riots of last February and the need to identify a culprit
for the families).
US maintains status-quo
Finally, in April the US State Department confirmed that Libya would not be
removed from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. The United States praised
Libya for the progress made so far and their growing cooperation, but stopped
short of offering an explanation as to why Libya has not been 'promoted'. Cuba,
Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria are on the current list. Libya was not
pleased with the move, which was widely perceived as the decision almost
coincided with the 20th anniversary of the US bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi on
April 15, 1986. Libya complained that the United States has not yet apologized
for that action, hindering trust between the two countries. While unstated, the
retention of Libya in the state sponsors of terror list is likely due to the
pressure of the families of survivors of the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103
over Lockerbie, Scotland - even as Libya has been paying compensation to those
Greece to further invest in Libya's oil industry
Visiting President of the Hellenic Republic, Karolos Papoulias, expressed
Greece's desire to further invest in Libya's oil industry during his meeting
with Libyan Prime Minister, Baghdadi Mahmudi, in Tripoli recently.
"A new chapter regarding Greek-Libyan relations has begun with a new
momentum that is based on mutual political volition to promote relations for the
benefit of both peoples," Papoulias said during the signing of two
bilateral agreements in the tourism and cultural exchanges sectors. "Greece
and Libya can also cooperate in the Balkan and Black Sea regions," ANA
quoted Papoulias as saying.
Mahmudi, who signed the agreements with Greek Culture Minister, George
Voulgarakis, and Deputy Foreign Minister, Evripidis Stylianidis, said he was
pleased with Papoulias' visit, who he called "a beloved friend of the
leader of the revolution."
Mahmudi also referred to a new period of economic cooperation between the two
countries and called on the Greek business community to invest in Libya.
Later, Papoulias met with Libyan leader, Muammar al-Qaddafi, in a cordial
atmosphere. The Libyan leader received the Greek President and his entourage in
the known Tent where he hosts foreign senior officials who visit Libya.
Papoulias and Qaddafi talked for about an hour, both at the meeting that took
place in the presence of Boulgarakis, Stylianidis and Deputy Foreign Minister,
Yannis Balynakis and Deputy National Economy and Finance Minister, Petros Doukas,
as well as at the dinner which Qaddafi hosted in honour of the Greek delegation.
The two leaders did not make any statements.
Athens, however, expressed concern after Libya's state oil company published
plans to issue permits for exploration and drilling in areas south of the Greek
Mediterranean islands of Crete and Gavdos.
The issue gained attention after Libya's state oil company reportedly published
an energy map on its website showing territory and waters in Libya and beyond
where the company could consider issuing permits for exploration and drilling.
"The extent of the area pictured on the map in question is such that it
creates ambiguities as to the potential for conveying rights for economic
exploitation in areas south of Crete, as well as the island of Gavdos,"
Greek foreign Minister spokesman, George Koumoutsakos, said in a statement.
"The ambiguities of this particular map rendered necessary its
clarification through actions undertaken by the foreign ministry on an official
and political level."
According to international law, any county has the right to explore underwater
natural reserves u to 200 nautical miles from its coast. Qaddafi has recently
sparked interest in investing in Libya by pursuing economic reforms in an effort
to encourage foreign oil companies to return.