The Times 31/3/2011

  • Source: The Times
  • Title: Libya can stay united after Gaddafi has gone
  • Date & Time: 31 March 2011
  • Author: Mohammed El Senussi

Like Libyans across the world, I have watched international leaders speaking this week about the future of my nation with profound feelings of confidence and gratitude. Despite talk of divisions within the rebels and the international community, one thing was clear: if Colonel Gaddafi had few supporters before the revolution, he has fewer still today. His leadership is in its final days.

Like millions of my countrymen, I have experienced first-hand the terror of Gaddafi’s regime. I remember as a boy of 7 my father being locked up in prison and having a gun held to his head, shortly after Gaddafi had deposed my great-uncle, King Idris El Senussi. My father, then the Crown Prince, was imprisoned on trumped up charges and put under house arrest. We lived with Gaddafi’s hated guards in front of our house every day for seven years until, in 1984, we were forced to watch members of his revolutionary committee burn our home to the ground. We then had to move into a shack on the beach. Four years later, in 1988, we were exiled to London, leaving Libya with nothing.

Gaddafi could have left it at that, but this is a man who revels in cruelty. The Senussi name has long been respected across Libya for the family’s role in providing education, mediating trade and tribal disputes and uniting Libyans in resistance against Italian colonial rule. Knowing this, Gaddafi did his best to erase all traces of our family. He demolished the Senussi mosque in the desert oasis of Jaghbub in eastern Libya and disinterred my great-grandfather’s body, throwing his remains into the desert. We were not executed only because Gaddafi feared creating new martyrs.

I am in regular contact with the rebel fighters and the Interim National Council (INC) in Benghazi. These discussions lead me to doubt that the country will split in two. There is a real commitment to national unity among the Libyan people. We want a future in which every corner of Libya is represented, from Cyrenaica in the east and Tripolitania in the west and Fezzan in the south. Like all Libyans I long to be able to travel freely in the land of my birth and I am ready to do everything in my power to support my country.

Council members in Benghazi have been giving serious thought to the 1951 Constitution as a basis for a settlement in Libya. This was the Constitution, drawn up with UN assistance, with which Libya declared independence as a democratic nation. We have already experienced democracy. Whatever its limitations, the Government that lasted from 1951 to 1969 was not the sort of kleptocracy that emerged under Gaddafi.

Mohammed El Senussi is the exiled Crown Prince of Libya

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