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Remembering Dr. Mahmoud Jibril El-Warfally: A Genuine Voice of Reason and Moderation

A year ago, Dr Mahmoud Jibril passed way. While the COVID-19 pandemic has been wreaking havoc globally and the Libyan civil war continues unabated, a prominent Libyan voice of moderation and wisdom disappeared in silence. Former Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril died at the age of 68 in Cairo, where he had resided after leaving power in 2012 at the helm of the National Transitional Council, during the post-Qaddafi transitional phase. He had been admitted to a hospital in Cairo on 21 March 2020 and three days later tested positive for coronavirus.

Dr. Mahmoud Jibril, who supported the establishment of ICDI, was known both locally and internationally as a Libyan voice of moderation, dialogue and wisdom. A true Libyan patriot and true believer in building a Maghreb union, Dr. Jibril always put his country first before any political expediency, narrow political calculations, or any foreign agendas. He believed in a Libya for all Libyans, even including his fiercest opponents. His political stances were always inclusive, never divisive.

Amidst the Battle of Tripoli, Jibril sent public messages and made public appearances cautioning Libyan fighters against looting, revenge killing, abuse of foreign nationals, and mistreatment of prisoners of war. He called for unity and asked that police and army units in Tripoli disavow Gaddafi but remain at their posts to serve Libya, and not a particular regime or man. Once the Qaddafi regime fell, Dr. Jibril declared in a televised speech: “Today, all Libya’s people are allowed to participate in the building of the future, to build a state based on a constitution that does not differentiate between Libyan men and women, sects or ethnicities. Libya from now on belongs to all Libyans with no exclusion. Libya should establish an example to be replicated in the Arab region.”

Dr. Mahmoud Jibril always believed in the importance of inclusive national dialogue to find a way out of the vicious circle of civil war and conflict which has been tearing Libya apart for many years now

To enshrine these principles, and in particular to consecrate the most sacrosanct of the all in his eyes, i.e. a free and transparent electoral process and the peaceful transition of power, Dr. Jibril announced on 3 October 2011, that he would resign from government once the country had been liberated from the former regime. On 20th  October 2011, when the last Qaddafi loyalists’ stronghold Sirte fell, and Muammar Qaddafi tragically killed, he indeed stepped down keeping his promise to leave at the war’s end. He was succeeded by Abdurrahim El-Keib on 31 October 2011. In 2012, Dr. Jibril became a member of newly founded political union of National Forces Alliance. On 14 March 2012, he was elected leader of the alliance.

Dr. Mahmoud Jibril always believed in the importance of inclusive national dialogue to find a way out of the vicious circle of civil war and conflict which has been tearing Libya apart for many years now. He relentlessly stressed the need for all influential parties in Libya to partake in a truly Libyan national dialogue process as the only sustainable way to establish a durable peace and building a Libyan state with strong, accountable and effective institutions. In his vision, a locally-owned Libyan dialogue should include all stakeholders, including civil society, the Libyan National Army (LNA), armed groups, tribal elders and supporters of the former regime. He cautioned against repeating mistakes of the past in the form of ad-hoc deals and quick fixes, that trumped state-building for narrow-minded and short-sighted power-sharing arrangements. These unsustainable arrangements sidelined the Libyan people, disregarded their choices and excluded their voices, in favor of regional and international geopolitical interests. Among these, the agreement signed under the auspices of the United Nations in 2015, to which he referred as “that shameful deal“, signed under the auspices of the former UN Envoy Bernardino León and in which the Libyan stakeholders were “mere spectators at the talks.”  To his eyes, this hasty and not well-thought out agreement only deepened the Libyan crisis.

While he always lamented the passive posture of the Maghreb countries in the diplomatic efforts to resolve the Libyan crisis, Dr. Jibril blamed most of all the international community which, in his opinion, not only sidelined Libyan voices but also misconstrued the Libyan crisis as a political conflict when in reality the dispute was over the country’s financial resources in the absence of a state. The founding elements of a genuine Libyan-Libyan dialogue for him had to focus on rebuilding the state, not mere power-sharing arrangements, ensuring the peaceful transition of power and making sure that no one is excluded from representation, including the former members of the Qaddafi regime.

In the national elections of 7 September 2012, Dr. Jibril led the National Forces Alliance (NFA) party on a platform calling for the establishment of a democratic polity based on the principles of rule of law and accountable institutions. The NFA won the largest number of seats in these elections. At the time, Dr. Jibril ran for a second term as prime minister, winning the first round of voting, with 86 votes to 55 votes obtained by his primary opponent, Mr. Mustafa Abushagur. In the second round of voting Mr. Abushagur defeated Dr. Jibril. Faithful to his principles and ideals, Dr. Jibril recognized the electoral results and continued his work for Libya outside of the executive branch, in the building process of the future Libya he had always dreamt of. As interim Prime Minister, Mahmoud Jibril was one of the most high-profile figures in the conflict that ousted Muammar Gaddafi. That prominence was clearly reflected in the ballot box, with election results showing his National Forces Alliance leading in the country’s first democratic vote in the history of Libya.

Dr Jibril commended wide respect beyond his support base, and was regarded as a trusted, charismatic and wise leader who could unify the country at a time of uncertainty, as Libya was finding its way to emerge from a brutal conflict
Dr Jibril, together with other Libyan intellectuals before the uprising, was involved in a project called “Libyan Vision”, which sought to establish a democratic state. He commended wide respect beyond his support base, and was regarded as a trusted, charismatic and wise leader who could unify the country at a time of uncertainty, as Libya was finding its way to emerge from a brutal conflict. Yet, his opponents would later try to stop his political ascension, through the passing of the controversial law called the Political Exclusion Law. Modeled after the De-Baathification law in Iraq, this law has since pushed Libya further into exclusionary politics and violent civil strife.

All told, despite this unfortunate setback, there is no determinism in history. Unlocking the intractable Libyan peace process, through a genuinely inclusive Libya-owned dialogue is a sine qua non condition for a sustainable peace in Libya and the Maghreb region as a whole. The recurrent attempts to impose quick fixes and hasty power-sharing deals have proven shortsighted and vain. Without Libyans from all sides truly empowered to decide their future, and in the process making mutual concessions for the sake of Libya today and that of future generations, little progress will be made, and more lives will be lost.

Unlocking the intractable Libyan peace process, through a genuinely inclusive Libya-owned dialogue is a sine qua non condition for a sustainable peace in Libya and the Maghreb region as a whole

Without an inclusive Libya-owned national dialogue, involving all Libyan stakeholders, and in particular those excluded from previous political processes, the guns will not be silenced durably.

With Dr. Jibril’s sudden death, Libya and the whole MENA region lost a Libyan patriot and a genuine voice of reason and peaceful dialogue.  The situation in Libya continues to deteriorate. It is high time for Libya’s neighbors, the Maghreb countries – instead of undermining or competing with each other- to take the initiative to support, in a coordinated manner, a genuine Libyan-led political process free from outside coercion and interference.

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ICDI Admin