Recent floods in Derna show that Libya’s woes will not end until the country establishes a stable political settlement.
In the first days after the tragedy that struck cities in the eastern province of Libya, with the city of Derna suffering the greatest damage, we emphasized the importance of saving as many lives as possible while honoring the dead with proper burials.
These were the immediate priorities given the exceptional circumstances that Libya faced. We knew, however, that these priorities would be made even more challenging due to the currently dire condition of much of Libya’s physical infrastructure. So, despite the heroism, self-sacrifice, and courage of the Libyan rescue and emergency teams, they found themselves predictably entangled in the chaos and confusion resulting from systemic corruption and the complete collapse of state institutions throughout Libya.
This systemic corruption and collapse, which we have warned about for several years, is now fully and tragically evident to the Libyan people and the world. It is the result of politicians, at every level of the state, administering the country’s affairs for their personal financial interests rather than the wellbeing of ordinary Libyans. That there was not even the most basic emergency planning in place to deal with the immediate consequences of the flooding displays the systemic breakdown in administrative capability and planning throughout the country.
Libyans are filled with a profound sense of loss and the painful realization that a national tragedy could have been avoided if Libya had been better governed. Appropriately, they are pointing the finger of accusation at the agents of corruption who continue to hold the destiny and the livelihoods of Libyans in their hands. They have dominated the political scene in Libya for many years, exploiting their position only for personal gain, becoming now the main suspects in this national catastrophe for which thousands of innocent victims paid the ultimate price.
There have been several attempts in the past few years of political “reshuffling” to catalyze a successful political process in Libya. But these attempts have produced nothing. We can expect more such attempts in the coming months, none of which we believe will be able to resolve Libya’s fundamental problems.
Whatever deal is struck between the political incumbents, under the watch of the international community and led by certain powers whose ambition is to strengthen their foothold in Libya, we fear will only perpetuate the Libyan state’s demise. This will further intensify the political “empty space” or vacuum in Libya that is being filled by aggressive actors that risk the security and wellbeing of not just our country but Europe, Africa, and ultimately, the rest of the world. Due to its location and significant natural resources, Libya matters. Why else would so many competing interests vie for influence and control over it?
In this context, to protect Derna and the rest of the affected cities and villages in the Green Mountain region from further exploitation, Libyans understandably called for an international investigation, as well as independent international supervision, in partnership with the Libyan people, for managing the continuing rescue and reconstruction efforts. However, it must be remembered that international political efforts to date have been less than satisfactory.
The best solution in Libya will not come from the formation of an international supervisory committee to reconstruct and revive a specific city. Every city in Libya is another Derna waiting to happen. Due to the collapse of institutions and the absence of transparent governance, all regions of Libya are at risk of becoming disaster areas at any moment.
The root of the problem since the first Libyan civil war in 2011 is the imposition of political structures that lack situational context. Libya is a factional nation with competing affiliations to tribe, city, region, and ideology. Ill-conceived political structures of the past twelve years have simply reflected and deepened these divisions within society rather than create the necessary binding glue for a sufficient united political culture to emerge. These deepening divisions resulted in a multilateral second civil war in Libya between 2014–2020 and continue today to fuel deadly factional conflicts and the pervasive political and institutional dysfunction that breed corruption and national demise.
The rescue that my country needs today is not the continuation of the political experiments and failures of the past years but the return of a legitimate and constitutional state as represented by Libya’s own constitutional monarchy. Our constitutional monarchy, a parliamentary democracy established on December 24, 1951, via a written constitution drafted by the Libyan National Assembly with the support of the United Nations, is grounded in Libyan history and national identity, with well-functioning institutions governed by law.
It emerged from the ravages of World War II and provided a stable, popular, and effective accommodation between rival parties in Libya. It united competing factions, split in ways similar to Libya today, and led to a period referred to by Libyans as our country’s “golden years” in terms of social, economic, and political progress. This solution is again rising in popularity among ordinary Libyans. It needs more consideration, especially by outside international players, who remain cynically wedded to their corrupt and ineffective affiliations, despite clear evidence that this strategy has resulted only in abject failure for over a decade.
While Libya and its people will, of course, need all possible international support, we will only rebuild our country and protect our people’s wellbeing by restoring transparency and integrity to our political system. Shaping a brighter future for our nation, which includes bringing to justice all those who have neglected or manipulated Libya’s destiny, begins with restoring Libya’s democratic and constitutional monarchy, the only one with the necessary historic legitimacy to bring our people together once again.
Mohammed el-Senussi – the crown prince of Libya.