Khalifa al-Ghwell, the prime minister of the Libyan Tripoli-based National Salvation Government, noted that [his government] is a government for all Libyans, whether they were in the west, east or south of the country, and that it offers its services, as much as it can, to all of them equally, for it includes all the community’s spectra starting with the Tuareg, Toubou, Amazigh and Arabs.
In an interview with Al-Hayat in his office yesterday [May 6], Ghwell expressed his appreciation for the positive role played by Arab and regional [countries] to resolve the Libyan crisis, and pointed to his government's aspiration for a greater role played by Saudi Arabia in order to support stability in Libya.
He also urged the major powers and the international community to assume their responsibilities toward assisting Libya in the transition from the revolution to the establishment of a state of law, equality and constitutional institutions. Ghwell also asked them “not leave Libya as a prey to internal and external conspiracies and to the ambitions of rebels; and not to turn Libya into a breeding ground for extremist terrorist groups.”
We are not Islamists and we represent all spectra
On whether he favored describing his government — which is parallel to the internationally recognized government — as the government of Fajr Libya, Islamists or the Libyan-West, Ghwell said, “On the contrary, it is a government for all of Libya, since it emerged from the General National Congress (GNC). It has gained legitimacy through the ruling issued by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court that dissolved the elected parliament. This is why we consider ourselves as a government for Libya as a whole and this is being implemented through our services in 85% of Libyan lands, for they are under our control. We are performing our duties in accordance with the potential available to us.”
Ghwell, who is considered one of the young technocrats, rejected the terms “Islamist government” or “Muslim Brotherhood” saying, “Historically, the Libyan people followed moderate Islam or the doctrine of Imam Malik and was a stranger to partisanship over the past decades.”
Ghwell pointed out that “Fajr Libya represents an operation that took place in mid-July 2014 to liberate the capital, Tripoli, from the suffering rebels and outlaws imposed.” He compared [Fajr Libya] to Operation Odyssey Dawn on [March 19], 2011 to liberate Libya from tyranny. He noted that his government includes all spectra starting with Tuareg, Toubou, Amazigh and Arabs, in addition to the rebels of the February 17 [Revolution].
“I do not belong to any party, my only concern is my country and I suffered as [much as] the Libyan people suffered for four decades before the revolution,” Ghwell noted, adding, “Yes, I did received the support of the rebels by choosing this position, but my wish and theirs is to overcome the revolution stage and build a civilized state, in which every Libyan citizen can live comfortably and enjoy security and stability.”
Meeting with the Tunisian president
Al-Hayat asked Ghwell about the reason behind Tunisia’s openness toward him and the fact that he was greeted by President Beji Caid Essebsi as soon as he assumed the presidency of the government, which had failed for an entire year to achieve any diplomatic breakthrough abroad. “There is no doubt that Tunisia is a neighboring country with which we have always had special relations. My visit to [Tunisia] was no surprise as there were previous arrangements as part of efforts to visit other countries in the near future,” pointing out that such endeavors were preceded by two visits to France. He said that his visit to Tunisia and his meetings with Essebsi and Prime Minister Habib Essid “will open new doors in the coming period.”
Regarding the dialogue sponsored by the United Nations, which is facing obstacles from Libyan parties, Ghwell said, “We are open to all dialogues that resolve the Libyan crisis and guarantee the country's access to safety, and we appreciate everything the regional and world countries are doing in this regard.” He preferred not to comment on the efforts of UN special envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon, but he seemed to be betting on an Arab initiative elsewhere.
“We stress the positive role played by Saudi Arabia in order to support stability in the Arab countries, and we look forward to its biggest role in the reunification of Libyans under the wise policy of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, both internationally and regionally. We welcome all initiatives to address what Libya is going through and we are sure that it would be in the best interest of Libya and its people,” Ghwell said.
Al-Hayat asked Ghwell about his opinion on the Brotherhood and Islamists attending Algeria’s dialogue to negotiate with representatives of the liberal National Forces Alliance, and whether [the dialogue] conceals a project for a power-sharing between the two. “I reiterate that we applaud every effort and attempt to support the dialogue between Libyans, but any dialogue based on partisan ground will not have beneficial results,” he noted.
“We reject all partisan alliances seeking to share power, but we appreciate all the efforts of the brotherly and friendly countries to find a solution to the current crisis in Libya. Personally, I do not expect a satisfactory outcome to the partisan conflict over power. Civil society, its activists and revolutionaries will have the last word in a formula accepted by all Libyans,” he added.
Ghwell believes that Libyans should be involved in and be at the basis of any solution. His statement came as a response to Leon, who called upon Sudan to interfere and mediate the Libyan dialogue.
“We do not rebuff or deny any effort supporting the dialogue, but we seek to achieve security and understanding among each other. Leon was commissioned by the UN to sponsor our dialogue. We are not banking on his attempts alone, as he might get it right and he also might not. Also, we are not placing our bets on the meetings in Geneva, Morocco, Sudan or Egypt, but rather on the Libyans’ will and effort to reach an understanding and find solutions to their issues,” he said in response to a question in this regard.
Libya for all
On the current situation, Al-Hayat asked him about the “significant” reconciliation agreement between Janzur and Warshefana (west of Tripoli) and how long it might last.
“We applaud any initiative to heal the rift between Libyans and to solve their problems, leading to reconciliation between areas and cities, and to find solutions to problems caused by failed policies as a result of the former regime. These problems are pulling Libya back, and hindering its development and progress,” Ghwell said.
He also stressed that the government “urges the dignitaries of the regions and cities — where the people support the insurgents (supporters of the previous regime) — to turn to the homeland again and contribute to its rebuilding and development because Libya is for all Libyans and can only be built by joining hands.”
About the criticism against his government by its domestic allies and by those who describe themselves as revolutionaries, Ghwell said, “There is no doubt that any government is criticized by a party in the street, as is the case of governments in stable countries in the world. We are well aware of the size of this criticism although we work in exceptional circumstances and are surrounded by problems and challenges at home and abroad.”
Ghwell alluded to a plan to restructure the government, saying, “We are working on preparing a well-thought vision to everything that serves the interests of the country and brings stability to the country, meeting the aspirations of all citizens.”
Oil and the sovereign institutions
About the reports that the government in Tripoli has lost control over the central bank, the National Oil Corporation and other sovereign institutions in light of the parliament's procedures in Tobruk, he said, “These state institutions are the property of Libyans whether they were in east, west or south of the country. These institutions operate in Tripoli in very appropriate circumstances and in an unbiased manner, meeting their responsibilities toward the people. The central bank has been distributing funds to aid Libyans throughout Libya, which is further proof of the impartiality of the state institutions, which we do not seek to control and pressure in any way.”
Corruption and waste of money
Ghwell also recognized the rampant corruption in the country and the waste of Libyan funds, as stated in the [Libyan] Audit Bureau’s (LAB) latest report for 2014. “Rampant corruption is no secret to anyone. However, the LAB's report pointed to increasing rates [of corruption] in light of previous governments, as it pointed out to spending amounting to about 100 billion Libyan dinars [$72.4 billion] under the previous government, without any visible outcome to this large expenditure. This leads us to wonder where all this money went, especially since the government did not start any infrastructure projects.”
“The LAB’s report explained the features of corruption and those who committed it, which prompted our government — which did not receive any amounts except for those allocated for salaries — to form committees to streamline government spending. We will also take the necessary steps to embark on the path of reform,” he added.