Libya and Cyrenaica – challenge for national identity

Dear Editor,

In several weeks, we will celebrate the third anniversary of the Libyan Revolution, which replaced one of the world’s most . . .

despotic regimes with a democracy where free elections established both a General National Congress and a central government dedicated to building a strong and stable Libya.

Libya remains one of the few countries where the “Arab Spring” not only produced a functional democracy but avoided the tragic large-scale civil strife unfolding daily among many of our neighbours.  As a Libyan American, born in Libya but residing in the USA for nearly three decades, I have always had a deep and passionate interest in developments in my home country.  I am proud of what we have accomplished to support the 17 February Revolution, and remain extremely optimistic about Libya’s future.  But there is much that still needs to be done.   We clearly need to accelerate our nation’s progress in order to realise our full political, economic and social potential.

Given the overwhelming need for signs of progress, it is understandable why there is a growing sense of frustration, and why some regions in Libya want a greater say in local developments and economic affairs. Libyans, regardless of where they live, need and are eager to see the positive benefits and fruits of our revolution. And all Libyans need to share equally in Libya’s national wealth and resources. But implicit in this is also the need for all Libyans to contribute all they can to our national success and to building a strong sense of national identity.

In fact, building a national success and cultivating a strong national identity should be the top priorities in any nascent democracy. This is why we should all be deeply troubled by recent developments in Cyrenaica, and the efforts of some local leaders there to circumvent our national government and especially to seek international support and recognition of its autonomy.

The attention and energy of the leaders of Cyrenaica, of our own and of the world should be on a unified Libya. Our focus should not be on Cyrenaica’s attempts to bypass the National Oil Company and the central government and sell oil directly on the international markets.  Cyrenaica’s policy is a shortsighted and highly dangerous path for our individual regions, especially in this delicate stage of our fledgling democracy. Even the hint of armed force is counterproductive on so many fronts. The overwhelming majority of Libyans – anywhere in the world – will clearly oppose such moves. They also would oppose the use of their precious national resources to mount a $2-million international PR campaign to win support for a breakaway province, especially when the “PR Company” engaged by the Cyrenaica groups is allegeldy involved in facilitating the sale of arms, as well as the sale and shipping of oil.

I also understand Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s desire to assure and protect the authority of the central government.  It’s his job.  No group, no matter how noble its intentions, can be permitted to bully the government into action with the threat or use of armed force.  And no government can allow individual states or provinces to actively subvert its legitimate authority, unless it has initiated actions or policies that threaten the well-being and even the lives of its citizens. This is definitely not the case in Libya, and we must avoid any actions that could spark the kind of conflicts that we see in neighbouring countries, and which could put the lives of Libyan citizens at risk.

However, Prime Minister Zeidan’s threat of sinking ships and other military action against violators of Libya’s national sovereignty, is premature and provocative in and of itself. Because of the catastrophic effect on Libya’s economic and political development that this would entail, both sides need to put aside such sabre-rattling and work for the common good.

Libyans from every region want to see strong and definitive economic progress and political stability. Our government must show greater understanding of that concern, and a proactive willingness to implement programmes, projects and activities that will expedite the achievement of the aspirations and goals of the revolution.

Our country has the means to develop the infrastructure, a qualified and ambitious workforce, and the dynamism to make Libya one of the world’s top economies of the 21st century. To achieve this, we must not only put aside conflicts that put our goals at risk, but we must continue to pressure our government to overcome the paralysis that encourages groups to consider such dangerous actions.

We must also never stop pushing for a stable, energetic and pro-active government willing to take the actions that will accelerate the development of our country, and fulfill the promise of the revolution that we all welcomed so enthusiastically three years ago.

The American Libyan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ALCCI), and the American Libyan Center for Economic & Educational Exchange (ALC-Triple-E), were created for that very reason, and stand ready to help fulfill that promise.  As Vice Chairman of the ALCCI, and a founding member of the ALC-3E, I know just how much our Libyan-American experiences and vibrant connections with American business, industry, and institutions can help us realise our full potential as Libyans, and to reap the rewards of our revolution.  We can maximise the human and natural resources of our nation by working together as Libyans – and by not allowing regional interests to distract us from reaching that goal.


Dr Esam Omeish

President of Center for Libyan American Strategic Studies (CLASS),  Vice Chairman of American Libyan Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ALCCI) and Founding Member of the American Libyan Center for Economic & Educational Exchange (ALC-3E)

Source: Libya Herald