By Emadeddin Zahri Muntasser
Founding Board Member, Libyan American Public Affairs Council
Frederick North, Lord North, the 2nd Earl of Guilford, and Lord George Germain are unfamiliar names to most. Even some historians may struggle to recall that North was Prime Minister of Great Britain during the American Revolution and Germain was Secretary of State for America, under North’s direction.
Among other things, North proposed the Coercion Acts (Intolerable Acts) designed to punish the colonies following acts of defiance including the Boston Tea Party. Germain was responsible for conducting the military campaign on behalf of the British. Because they were seen as agents of oppression and tyranny, North and Germain were unpopular in America before, during and well after the revolution.
The re-appointment of aggressive, authoritarian government administrators displaced by a popular revolution is precisely what’s happening today in Libya.
The United Nations, including ‘allies’ of the Libyan Revolution, the US and Britain, met in New York and created a new government for Libya which includes two ministers who previously held posts under the deposed dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The UN also appointed a military commander who has been actively waging war in Libya, against the Libyan people.
Several individuals, including the Minister of Planning, Taher Al-Juhaimi and Mr. Mohamed T. Siala have been appointed to the same posts that they held under Gaddafi. Another is Mr. Mahdi Al-Bargathi, the new Defense Minister, who until recently was one of the commanders under General Hifter who led post-revolution Libyan campaigns which have killed and displaced countless innocent Libyan civilians.
That’s the government our former allies believe Libyans deserve; the government so many fought to remove.
This comes against the backdrop of a law, passed after the revolution that prohibits all former high-level Gaddafi officials from taking high offices in the post-revolution government. The law was passed in part because many in Libya believed, and still believe, that some of those officials fled the revolution with billions of dollars in state assets and may use that treasure to bankroll any number of nefarious activities. Even so, that law only banned them from public office for a mere ten years.
Apparently, at least some felt that a ten year sideline for the leaders of the Gaddafi regime wasn’t appropriate – a decision that is suspect and unpopular.
In addition to the upheaval these appointments are causing in Libya, there is damage caused by the creation of a new government by former allies in a foreign city. The credibility of the UN and other Western powers is all but gone.
Whatever hope the UN had of playing a progressive role in Libya hinged on naming a government that unified Libya – a government that, at a minimum, was without dislodged Qaddafi loyalists. There was no shortage of qualified Libyan leaders to serve in a new government. But, clearly, that wasn’t a major consideration of the UN planners.
As many have theorized, a main goal of the UN and its allies may have been to cobble together a government – any government – that would authorize a western military campaign against the Islamic State. What Libyans wanted was of a secondary concern – if it was at all. Those arguments, and corresponding opposition to the UN, will only grow as this “new” government tries to assume office.
The Libyan people deserved better. They still deserve a government like the one Americans won in their revolution – a government of, for and by the people.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Libya Observer