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Home » Libya » Joint Communique on Libya

Libyan liberator

Friday 19th April 2013 

HE Mahmud Nacua

Sitting in an ornate office in the Libyan Embassy in Knightsbridge, Mahmud Nacua still has to pinch himself. “It’s ironic that I am working inside this Embassy; not so long ago I was outside protesting,” smiles the Ambassador wryly.

A journalist and early critic of the Qaddafi regime, Nacua was jailed in 1973 for two years and after his release he moved to Britain where he would spend most of his 35-year exile.

“Back then I had two dreams that I would write about -– first to remove Qaddafi from power, by any means, peacefully or by force; and secondly to build a new democratic state in Libya with the rule of law.”

Nacua and likeminded Libyan émigrés, including Mohamed Yousef el-Magariaf (now the President of Libya’s General National Congress) formed the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NSFL) in 1981 to make the dream a reality.

With Qaddafi’s agents operating everywhere, it was a risky endeavour, even in Britain. “We were always looking over our shoulders,” says Nacua. In fact, it was during an NFSL protest outside the Libyan Embassy in 1984 when shots fired from the within the Embassy killed PC Yvonne Fletcher.

But in later years, when Qaddafi decided to rehabilitate his image from a pariah to a petro-dollar partner, it became increasingly difficult for the NSFL to get their voice of opposition heard.

“Our allies, even the Blair government, made friends with the Qaddafi regime for commercial reasons. It felt like a betrayal for us,” he says.

But just as the dream of toppling Qaddafi seemed almost out of reach, the Arab Spring changed everything. As Libyan rebels rose up, Nacua went on the offensive in the media studios of London and the Middle East, appealing for humanitarian and military support.

When Britain expelled Qaddafi’s diplomats and recognised Libya’s Transitional National Council in July 2011, Nacua was chosen as their representative in London. Welcoming the Libyan community to the re-opened Embassy, once a feared place of conspiracy, was an emotional moment. “It was crowded with people and we all had tears in our eyes,” says the Ambassador.

But he is under no illusions that the dream of creating a democratic Libya will be a long struggle: “The revolution took eight months, but to build a new state will take years,” he cautions.

Security is the immediate challenge. “The government has to broker some kind of reconciliation between the well armed young militia, who consider themselves as the frontline of the revolution and want a role in the new state,” explains the Ambassador.

With the threat of Islamist extremism in the Sahel, regional security is vital to Libya’s domestic security, says Nacua, adding that Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan recently toured all Libya’s neighbours to build a new foundation for relations. “Our relations must be based, not on the bags of dollars Qaddafi used to promise, but on mutual respect and cooperation. We have appealed to them to hand over dissidents who want to sabotage the new government.”

Political reform is the second challenge for Libya. With a freely-elected Congress and a newly sworn-in coalition government, the creation of a constituent assembly and the re-writing the new constitution is the next major task, says Nacua.

“Now we are debating both inside the Congress and in the media and civil society about how to select the 60 people who will draft the constitution to ensure they represent all segments of Libyan society.”

The third challenge, says Nacua, is to rebuild Libya’s institutions. “A culture of corruption had grown in the 40 years of Qaddafi’s rule so we have to rebuild every ministry, which will require a lot training.”

Much of the Ambassador’s work in London will be to obtain British assistance in this rebuilding phase: “We need British creative ideas because they have long experience in building the army, the police, health services, economic institutions and infrastructure.”

Fortunately Libya is blessed with oil and gas resources to help fund this reconstruction phase. “We want to invest this wealth wisely to train young people,” he says, adding that around 10,000 Libyan students are predicted to enrol in UK universities. “I want to engage with them and the members of the Libyan community in the UK who have skills that we need to rebuild our country.”

The government is also keen to create a secure, stable climate that will attract investors,” says the Ambassador, who adds that British businesses will be given priority.

He also hopes a more stable Libya will start to attract ordinary British tourists to discover the hidden cultural heritage and beauty of the country.

Appreciative of Britain’s role in rallying international support for the revolution and its assistance in the post-revolution reconstruction, the Libyan government has pledged to cooperate with the UK in its investigations into the Lockerbie disaster and the murder of PC Yvonne Fletcher, according to the comments made by Libyan officials during the recent visit to Libya of Prime Minister David Cameron.

The challenges facing Libya are huge, but Nacua remains undaunted: “Despite all the difficulties we are facing – and we are facing them – I am very optimistic that we will overcome them and build a new Libya.”

Source: Embassy Magazine 

Categories: News, Press

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