Al-Ahram interviews Mahmoud Jibril, Libyan rebel leader

Mohamed Amin El-Masri and Asmaa El-Husseini, Sunday 28 Aug 2011

On Friday, Libya's opposition council second-in-command arrived in Egypt for a two-day visit, during which he spoke to the Al-Ahram daily newspaper about Gaddafi's threat and the two country's ties

Jibril and Tantawi
Mahmoud Jibril while meeting Field Hussein Tantawi in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)

During his two-day visit to Egypt, the second in command of Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC) and its executive head, Mahmoud Jibril, met with the head of Egypt's ruling military council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, and Egypt's foreign minister, Mohamed Kamel Amr. Al-Ahram spoke to Jibril who described some of the most pressing challenges now facing Libya after the fall of Tripoli to the rebels.

Fugitive Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s location is an issue preoccupying the rebels. For Jibril finding Gaddafi is of the utmost importance due to the danger he represents to Libya as he could resort to any tactic in order to destroy a Gaddafi-less nation.

The next battle for the Libyan rebels, according to Jibril, is comprised of two stages: the first being the liberation of remaining territory under Gaddafi loyalists and the second is maintaining a secure and stable Libya, especially after decades of lawlessness and disarray.

Jibril says weapons must be collected from streets and units merged in a new national army and civilian police force, citing the intentionally weak state of the army due to Gaddafi’s fear of a military coup.

Jibril told the daily about the necessity of starting procedures for transitional justice to ensure the restitution of people’s rights. The alternative is for civil unrest to lead to crisis. Jibril made reference to the fear among some that such a crisis would be set in motion by the rebels entering Tripoli, adding that since this didn’t occur he is “in reality very proud that with the fall of Tripoli, it wasn’t instantly turned into a jungle.”

“The revolutionaries have proved their high sense of responsibility,” he said.

Moving from security concerns to economic ones, Jibril expressed extreme unease about the shortage of funds available to the TNC, describing the effectiveness of a newly formed government without money as a “car without petrol.”

When asked about the promise of governments to unfreeze Libyan assets and loans offered by Turkey and the US, Jibril said that “talk is one thing and implementation another.” The consequences of any delay in access to those assets, he warned, could lead to the TNC losing their legitimacy since it would not be able to provide services to people, including payments to rebel fighters, some of whom have not been paid for six months.

As for plans for a post-Gaddafi Libya, Jibril referred to Libyans living abroad, a community spread around the world that boasts expertise in all fields. Many emigrants who fled Gaddafi’s Libya would return, said Jibril, and so the human capital and resources exist. What is missing, added Jibril, is a developmental outlook and a solid political will to complete this triangle and achieve a long-deferred development.

The rebel deputy chairman also spoke of the current relationship between the council and Egypt, assuring that Libya needs Egypt to engage politically and economically with its neighbor to the east. What’s more, Jibril expressed a desire that Egyptian and Arab forces make up the majority of any international peacekeeping missions deployed in Libya to secure Tripoli and other areas.

Jibril described Arab states as the vertebral column of such forces, and “foreigners” should not be present since “the stronger Arab and Islamic presence there is, we as Libyans will have a stronger negotiating hand.”

The different currents and factions present in Libya, Jibril went to say, should not undermine the country’s security but, rather, can enrich the democratic institutions to be built in a civil Libyan state that has a constitution, respects the equality between men and women and observes human rights.

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