The First Post 2/4/2010

  • Source:The First Post
  • Title: Libya: Heir to throne ‘ready to rule’ if people ask
  • Date & Time:2/4/2011
  • Author: Venetia Rainey

The First Post interview: ‘Gaddafi is getting weaker and weaker, he cannot stay’ says crown prince in exile

As rumours emerge that Col Gaddafi's regime is keen to open discussions with the West and bring the Libyan conflict to a conclusion, the question now is: who will take power when Gaddafi falls?

One man who sees himself as a contender to at least play a part in rebuilding Libya is Mohammed el-Senussi, the 48-year-old Libyan crown prince in exile in London.

Mohammed was six years old when his great-uncle, King Idris, was overthrown in Gaddafi's 1969 coup. Idris had ruled Libya from 1951 following its liberation from Italian and British rule.

Countries don't often return monarchs to power – though it has happened occasionally, notably in the Netherlands and Spain – and the heir to the Libyan throne is not pushing to retake it.

However, the now-abolished Senussi monarchy is the only alternative to Gaddafi most Libyans have ever known. As Mohammed wrote in a recent column for the Times, Libya has "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 has kept a relatively low profile since he became heir to the throne on his father's death in 1992. In recent days, with the old tricolour flags of the monarchy fluttering over the roofs of Benghazi, he has entered the spotlight with his vocal pleas for military intervention to help the rebels.

The crown prince talks to The First Post about allied intervention, Moussa Koussa's defection, and what happens after Gaddafi.

HOW DO YOU THINK THE WAR IN LIBYA IS GOING?

I keep calling my people inside Libya every day, especially in the east. It's harder in the west, where the killing is continuing. It will continue until Gaddafi leaves. At least there is some help now with the allied intervention. The Libyan people are grateful for the UN resolution, because Gaddafi can't use planes now.

The main thing is to protect innocent civilians, especially families, women and children. I think the Libyan people will continue fighting. Most of the Libyan people want regime change. They want Gaddafi and his family to leave so they can have a chance to choose the system the want.

IS THERE STILL A RISK OF A STALEMATE?

Everything has an end. The Libyan people will move towards the west and reach Tripoli eventually. If Gaddafi stays, he is choosing his own death, but I don't believe he can stay. I speak to people there every day and they say he is weaker and weaker, even though his propaganda tries to make him out as strong.

As for arming the rebels, I can't decide. I want to see the Libyan people strong, but at the same time there is a risk with that.

HOW DO FEEL ABOUT THOSE FIGHTING FOR GADDAFI?

Gaddafi is using people from Africa in order to scare the Libyan people. The revolution started peacefully and will end peacefully, but Gaddafi has tried to make this

revolution 'red' by spilling more blood, that's his technique. A lot of people who are being used by Gaddafi are innocent. He is using money, fear and threats against their family to employ them as militia, but they don't know what they're doing, they have the wrong information.

IS MOUSSA KOUSSA'S DEFECTION IMPORTANT?

Yes. This shows the government is falling from within. Gaddafi is always saying he is strong, but now we are seeing lots of people leaving him. In the end, I don't think Gaddafi will win the war.

I would ask everyone around Gaddafi to leave him; that is the main issue. It is the only way to save the country and stop the killing.

Should we provide a safe haven for [Koussa] here in the UK? It's difficult. All I want is justice. The Libyan people have lived under Gaddafi for 42 years without justice, and anyone who is involved with killing should have justice and the law. In the end the law will decide who is guilty.

WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING IN EXILE?

I came to London in 1988 with my father because he was ill. After he passed away in 1992, I started to organise demonstrations with Libyan opposition groups. It's always hard living in exile, but in the end everyone has to go back to their home. Everything takes time. Gaddafi has a lot of support, but with the advances in technology and the internet, Libyan people are beginning to understand their old history.

WHAT'S NEXT FOR LIBYA IF GADDAFI FALLS?

I want to see peace and democracy in my country. The transitional council is only temporary. They should serve the Libyan people and move to Tripoli when it is freed. Then all Libyans should join in one council and have an election, this is the only way.

It will be a chance for the Libyan people to think about the system they want. If they choose monarchy we are ready to rule, if they choose republic we will respect that too. The Libyan people have started re-using the old flag because it is normal, it is the flag of freedom. They are happy to use it, and the people will choose what they want.