Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Two Libyan-Irish Appointed to NTC Cabinet

Libya's PM chooses secularist candidates with Irish ties for cabinet posts



LIBYA’S PRIME minister Abdulrahman Keib opted for secularists over Islamists in choosing a new cabinet to steer the country towards democracy.

Key portfolios including the defence and interior ministries went to secularists, and a technocrat from the National Oil Corporation was chosen to head the oil ministry. There was no place for Abdul Hakim Belhaj, a prominent Islamist who heads the Tripoli Military Council. Reports emerged that he had been offered the defence ministry portfolio at the weekend, but declined.

The administration includes two Ireland-based Libyans: Fatima Hamroush, a consultant ophthalmologist in Drogheda, has been appointed minister for health; and Fathi al-Akkari, a lecturer in electronic engineering at Tallaght Institute of Technology in Dublin, has been appointed deputy minister for higher education.

Dr Hamroush will be one of two female ministers in the cabinet. “I am honoured and proud to serve my country,” she said. “It will be a difficult task but we must work together to clean up the mess left by Gadafy and build a solid foundation for our future.”
Dr Akkari said his focus would be on developing Libya’s research capacity, particularly in the IT area. “This is a good opportunity to make a difference for my country,” he added.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore contacted the two appointees yesterday to offer his congratulations.

“The appointments are a recognition of the enormous contribution that the Libyan community in Ireland and their many supporters here have made to the new Libya,” Mr Gilmore said. “We are extremely proud of what they have achieved and we look forward to continuing our co-operation with them in their new positions.”

The Libyan cabinet will have the task of preparing for elections next June where voters will choose an assembly to write a new constitution.

Libya’s president Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who remains in his post, has already declared that the constitution will have sharia law as its base. But experts disagree on what form this will take in practice and on how strict an interpretation Libya is likely to adopt.

The choice of defence minister was something of a surprise. Osama Jweli is a commander of the Zintan brigades, one of the key rebel formations that captured Tripoli in August, but until now he has had no political profile nationally. What he has got, however, is custody of Saif-al-Islam Gadafy, the former dictator’s most notorious son who was captured by Zintan fighters last Friday.

Sources in Libya say Zintan’s administration made clear that it would not surrender Saif to Tripoli and planned to hold his war crimes trial in Zintan, unless the town gained a key cabinet post.

The other surprise was that there was no portfolio for Ali Tarhouni, who previously held the finance and oil posts.

Meanwhile, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno Ocampo said he would support Libya’s call for Saif, wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity, to face trial in Tripoli rather than at The Hague

Two Libyans in Ireland appointed to post-Gadafy political portfolios

MARY FITZGERALD, Foreign Affairs Correspondent

IT DIDN’T take long for the grumbling over the make-up of Libya’s new cabinet to start. Complaints were inevitable given the competing tribal, regional and ideological forces shaping post-Gadafy Libya.

Sources in Benghazi, the eastern town that served as a cradle for the revolution that ended Gadafy’s 42-year rule, gripe about the decision to make a military commander from the western town of Zintan defence minister.

Yesterday, members of two small tribes protested outside a Benghazi hotel where the interim government known as the National Transitional Council has offices. They held banners reading “No to a government of outsiders”.

Meanwhile, representatives of the Amazigh, or Berber, ethnic minority calling themselves the Libyan Amazigh Congress say they are suspending all relations with the NTC in protest at the cabinet line-up named by prime minister designate Abdurrahim el-Keib on Tuesday. The Amazigh are pushing for greater recognition of their language and culture after decades of persecution under Gadafy.

The choice of ministers appears to have hinged on regional affiliation more than experience, profile or track record. Islamists were overlooked, despite speculation that Abdelhakim Belhaj, a prominent former jihadist who now heads the Tripoli Military Council, would get the defence portfolio.

The new government will oversee the country as Libya prepares for elections due to take place next June when voters will choose an assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution.

The cabinet faces the onerous challenge of taking the first crucial steps towards rebuilding Libya and its institutions after Gadafy’s long experiment in tyranny and more than eight months of war. Under no illusions as to the difficulties ahead are two Libyans living in Ireland who have been appointed to the new government.

Fatima Hamroush, a consultant ophthalmologist in Drogheda, is to be Libya’s new minister for health and Fathi al-Akkari, a lecturer in electronic engineering at Tallaght Institute of Technology in Dublin, has been appointed deputy minister for higher education.

Dr Hamroush, who will be one of two women in the cabinet, says her priorities as minister will be addressing the needs of those injured during this year’s war and rooting out corruption in the country’s medical sector.

The care of Libya’s war wounded has become a prickly subject. Protests have taken place in Tripoli and other towns calling on the interim government to do more to assist the injured, which include scores of amputees.

In recent weeks, Dr Hamroush, who serves as co-director of Irish-Libyan Emergency Aid and head of the newly established Libyan Health Office in Ireland, has been co-ordinating efforts to bring wounded Libyans to Ireland for treatment.

The appointment of Dr Hamroush, who has lived outside Libya for almost two decades, has also prompted criticism. “People feel Dr Hamroush is out of touch with the real health situation in Libya as she has been away for almost 20 years,” one doctor in Benghazi said. “She does not know about the day-to-day problems of the hospitals here.”

Dr Akkari, meanwhile, said his priority at Libya’s new education ministry would be developing Libya’s research capacity, particularly in the IT area. He also stressed the importance of encouraging Libyans to study foreign languages, particularly English.

“For 42 years all aspects of the Libyan educational system were dictated by Gadafy,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do to overcome the damage he caused.”

Libyan Writer Dr. Fathi al-Akkari
الكاتب الليبي الدكتور فتحي العكاري

In this article, I will highlight some of many of the beautiful places in Libya that some young Libyans may have never had the luck to enjoy or see or may have seen long time ago and almost forgot as they are busy with their day to day living. I hope it turns into an enjoyable and informative reading.

This quarter of Tripoli, Image 1, was built by the Italians during their occupation in the nineteen hundred and twenties on a land that was confiscated from Libyans by force. This area had seen the first wave of attack on Tripoli and many civilian citizens were killed in cold blood during the first few days of the invasion. Libyan population at that time was made of predominantly Muslims and a small fraction was Jews. Most of the Jewish minority then were not fully integrated in the society due to various reasons. There were no Christian Libyans. After the occupation, the church was built as a landmark for Christian victory. It was designed to be higher than any Minaret in the city at that time.

At the time of the invasion, in 1911, the Italian forces were far superior to the Libyan resistance. However, in order to gain full control, the Italians declared three days without rule to facilitate total power for the soldiers with no law boundaries. Many Libyans fled out of the city for fear for their daughters and wives. Many members of the Jewish community then took advantage of the situation and started looting from Muslim Libyan’s homes. For the occupying forces, it was not unhelpful. This led to a better relation between this minority and the Italians. It would be very interesting to research Libyan history in order to know what happened and who is who in Libya.

I remember in the early sixties, this quarter was occupied by Italians, Jewish or pro-Italian Muslim families. The best shops, and the best places, cafés and restaurants were run by Italians and Jewish people. It was a great dream come true to see the last Italian leaving Tripoli.

In Image 2, you see how the Italians were enforcing their grip on our history by claiming the return to their ancient land and linking Tripoli to Rome and the Romans.

This land beside the castle was the cemetery of Sidi Hmoudah. It was removed and a mosque was built in his name within the building to the right. This square had seen the execution by hanging of some of the Libyan fighters ‘Mujahedeen’ during the invasion. It is called martyrdom square. The Italian colonial era is a dark one in our history. They did not allow Libyans to go to school beyond primary level so as to be used as cheap labour. They created for the first time in history concentration camps for Libyan tribes who were part of the resistance. In these camps two hundred Libyans would die daily from hunger and disease. As a last resort they built walls around the cities to cut them off from the rest of the country, more or less in a similar fashion as the Israelis do now in Gaza.

Roma bank to the left in Image 3 was the first arm for the invasion and the last leg to leave. This bank created the atmosphere favouring invasion even among some Libyan families who benefited from its existence in Tripoli. Within two years of the invasion, some Libyans joined the Italian forces and sadly fought against their own people in the battle of Fondog Bin Ghasheer. They were tempted by money and power. Later on, the Italian Governor enforced military service on Libyans and took them to fight for them in the African horn mostly against their will;, and further later on, they were made to fight against the allied forces on the Egyptian front. The same story is repeated in every town and village. Afterwards, Italian families were to live and settle in all agricultural lands. They confiscated lands from their Libyan owners and gave them to Italian settlers. Most of the old houses we see in farms now were originally built for the Italian Farmers. Ironically, while Italians were cultivating the land, Libyans were made to work in roads projects or forestry projects to protect farming lands with no payment.

The Italian church authorities took a number of Libyan children to Italy to train them as priests. Some of them came back as priests and later returned to their families while others retained their new faith and identity and never returned.

Image 4 shows the same symbol of Italian and Christian dominance over the harbour mirrored in the city of Benghazi. It still remains standing as a reminder of the Italian occupation.

Even today, the sequelae of the Italian era is still existing all over Libya in the form of mine fields and the poor health and lack of education of the elderly along with a number of disabled people from mines.

Libyan people have not yet demanded proper compensations from Italy.

At last, in recognition of the brave national resistance during the Italian occupation; we, Libyans, should celebrate a national day for the martyrdoms who gave their lives for their country. This can be marked by the anniversary of the execution of Sidi Omar Mokhtar, by hanging, on the sixteenth of September.

The anniversary of the departure of the last Italian from Libyan soil is another major event that we should all celebrate wherever we are.

It is part of our national campaign for the love of Libya to ensure that all efforts and sacrifices that Libyans made for Libyan independence and freedom to come true, are recognized, appreciated, and held close to the hearts by all generations.


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