INTERVIEW: Chancellor Aguila Saleh Refutes Rumors and Provides His Vision for Libya’s Future – Al Marsad

[Libya, 2 May 2020] – In a special interview given to Al Marsad on Friday evening, Chancellor Aguila Saleh Issa, Speaker of the Libyan House of Representatives (HOR), denied any differences between him and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in particular, and the General Command in general. He said whoever believes there is a dispute between him and the Commander-in-Chief or the General Command is trying to promote fake controversy. In the interview he clarified the statements quoted by the US Embassy during his conversation on Thursday with the US Ambassador Richard Norland.

The full interview is here:

Al Marsad: Chancellor Aguila Saleh, what is the truth behind rumours and reports on disagreements and problems and possible estrangement between you and Field Marshal Haftar?

Chancellor Aguila Saleh: This is ridiculous. My relationship with Field Marshal Haftar exceeds any formal positions. There is a difference between disagreement and difference of views. The latter is a natural and healthy phenomenon in all countries of the world

However, do you not think that your initiative is inconsistent with the proposal of Field Marshal Haftar?

Absolutely not. It is rather complementary. They only differ in the way of presentation, implementation, and mechanism.

Your initiative is for forming a government, while Field Marshal Hiftar’s proposal is something entirely different!

A: In fact, what was put forward cascades down to one result, namely the removal of this miserable and unelected Presidential Council, but the mechanism and presentation differ. For years, the victim of this unconstitutional Council is not only the Libyan people but the armed forces as well.

In this context, I would like to pray to God to shower mercy on all the martyrs of our armed forces, from the far East to the West and the South, through the steadfast Tarhouna, whose people are still paying the price of their legendary resolve in the face of the Ottoman invasion aided and abetted by the Presidential Council’s agents.

The US Embassy quoted you on Friday during a conversation with the US Ambassador in a manner that has allowed it to be exploited negatively politically. How do you respond to that?

Perhaps you mean what was quoted on the Embassy’s page that I demanded an end to the infighting between the Libyans, and this quote let to ambiguity or misinterpretation. I spoke with the US Ambassador about the truce that the General Command agreed to on the occasion of Ramadan but Fayez Sarraj, goaded by Turkish orders, later rejected. The conversation also dealt with the need for maintaining the political track and commitment with the international community. I said that we respect all the initiatives and proposals of the international community, provided that they respect the will and opinion of Libyan people and that the evacuation of the Turks from our country is an unquestionable requirement in every forum, talk, or international meeting.

Does this mean that the fighting will not stop?

First, no sane person wants war for war’s sake, and my conviction is that the fighting has its causes that must be removed and completely addressed. Wars have been going on in Libya for many years in various forms. There has been series of wars beginning with the unjust Resolution 7 against Bani Walid, the recurrent wars in the south, and the war against terrorism, which forced foreign countries to intervene many times, as in Sirte. In the intervening period, there have been countless wars between militias and rogue smuggling gangs, as has always been the case in Tripoli, Al-Zawiya, and others.

Therefore, when it is said that fighting must stop, it is necessary to talk about the need for removing its causes radically. It is not only to stop it now with haphazard solutions, but to ensure it will not recur in the future. This is the only way for the coming generations to have a prosperous future.

Q: What are these reasons? How can they be removed so that wars in the future do not recur as you mentioned?

A: Thank you for this important question. The reasons for the fighting in the first place are the uncontrolled weapons and the militias. Uprooting them is an neessary demand after all attempts to absorb them have failed, be they through the programs of previous governments or the so-called Veterans Affairs Authority that set up programs that cost millions to dismantle the militias without any result. We also have another reason, which is the control by the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood and the remnants of the militants over the State’s political, economic, monitoring, and security institutions, and even over its authority.

Is it true that money is a reason for the recurrence of these wars and infightings?

The militias have always been fighting, blackmailing, and hijacking governments for money, but I want to focus on something else, which is the unfair distribution of resources and wealth among Libyans. I mean all ordinary Libyans, whether in the east, west, or south. The citizen, everywhere, does not enjoy his wealth and does not obtain it equally while the armed gangs controlling Tripoli and gangs of another type controlling financial and economic institutions, such as the Central Bank of Libya, benefit from it. Add to these the “lobbies” of corrupt traders who monopolize trade and companies despite their outrageous corruption.

I know that there are citizens in the east and south who live in shanty houses and I know that citizens in Tripoli live in even worse houses in the old city that are unsuitable for humans—even though they are only meters away from the the Central Bank of Libya controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. There is no explanation for this except that gangs of various kinds are the ones depriving all Libyans of their resources. These reasons must be ended to get out of this vicious circle. The question now is how to do it.

How can that be done?

We can accomplish this through our efforts and initiatives to remove the sponsor of all this chaos, that is the unconstitutional Presidential Council. There is no longer a so-called Presidential Council but rather an autocracy represented by Sarraj, as testified by the members of this disjointed Council itself, as well as its network of corrupt traders, militias, nepotistic circles, and multi-headed shell councils.

The armed forces have spared no effort to uproot those militias controlling Tripoli, and those behind it internally and externally. They are also teaching a lesson to the Syrian mercenaries and terrorists that the Turkish invader brought to the country. Therefore, I said before that my initiative is not different in essence from the proposal of Field Marshal Haftar, though the mechanism may differ.

In this regard, I would like to salute the armed forces for disciplining these terrorists brought by Turkey and teaching them a harsh lesson. I also remind the armed forces that we have declared a general nationwide call to resist the new Ottoman invasion and this remains in effect until we uproot the last terrorist and expel all of them from our country. I urge the armed forces to treat the prisoners and civilians well, maintain their property and safety, and protect the safety of public property everywhere.

Some say in return that the House of Representatives has been late and has not fulfilled its role. How do you respond?

This is unjust, or at least inaccurate. I will mention to you some of the duties undertaken by the HOR, the first of which at the military level as the Supreme Commander of the armed forces. We granted legitimacy to Operation Dignity immediately after we convened in 2014. We formed the General Command and the General Staff and promoted the heads of these two institutions after extensive consultations with the military during the period to select the most qualified. We supported the armed forces in all foreign meetings and international forums and classified Libya Dawn as a terrorist operation, as well as the Shields and Ansar Al-Sharia, through official resolutions in quorate sessions. We also reinstated the military personnel removed by the GNA’s Muslim Brotherhood.

As for the political and service levels, and within the framework of our jurisdiction, we annulled the unjust Muslim Brotherhood’s Political Isolation Law as one of the steps for comprehensive reconciliation. We prevented the decision to cancel subsidies because it would crush the middle class. We deprived the GNA of local constitutional legitimacy and stopped the HOR’s Dialogue Committee and did not give it any powers, including the committee that included my deputy, Emhimmed Shuaib, who resigned and went to seek the position of an ambassador from the GNA after completing his services to them.

Is not this the duty for which you were elected Chancellor Aguila Saleh?

A: I do not want to say more, but I must mention the war waged against me by international powers, which honored me by placing my name on the list of sanctions and classified me as an obstacle for the empowerment of the GNA gang to control Libyans without a constitutional basis and undermine the armed forces that were then fighting the fiercest organizations in Benghazi and Derna.

However, the funny thing is that they punished me internationally though I do not have a foreign nationality and they did not find a single external account in my name. I have only an account in a local bank for my salary from the judiciary.

The Presidential Council, and its government, which you say HOR deprived of legitimacy, do not care and assert that they have international legitimacy with which they control financial institutions, resources, and decision-making process. How do you respond?

Even if it has some kind of international legitimacy, this does not deny the fact that it does not have a local legitimacy because that is the basis. The defect of usurping power and assuming false capacity is a crime that is not subject to the statute of limitations. Any ordinary citizen or a newly graduated lawyer can throw the head of this government and all its ministers in prison on this charge. I am here speaking as a judge and not as a Speaker.

We have seen dozens of national judicial rulings that have suspended or canceled decisions issued by Sarraj and his government due to lack of capacity. We always confirm that the priority is always for the local judiciary and national legitimacy.

Therefore, I assert that all these reasons we talked about must be removed so that wars do not recur in the future the monopoly of political, commercial, and armed gangs over the resources of the Libyan people must stop. The people only exercised their legitimate democratic right to elect a House of Representatives but the Muslim Brotherhood, its militias, and subservient followers have turned the people’s decision into hell with the sinister Libya Dawn Operatio [Fajr Libya], which we consider the Presidential Council and political agreement as a whole as its illegitimate offspring.

Chancellor Aguila Saleh, footage was circulated of you during a meeting with leaders of the Obeidat tribe and it was said that you were informing them of sensitive information from the Russians. Is that true?

If I had a slot on TV, I would reiterate what I said in that social gathering. What I was saying is not a secret of the state, but rather a transparent answer to people’s inquiries through information I received from political counterparts and advisors, and not from secret intelligence services. The media has published most of this information as stated by foreign officials even before I said it.

Therefore, whoever decontextualizes that is among those who fish in troubled water. Yesterday, I sat with the Obeidat tribe, some Al-Murabitun tribes, and some social fabric components. Tomorrow, I can sit with any other tribe from the east, the west, and the south. We cherish our social fabric components and respect the opinion of those who are with us or disagrees with our opinion as long as it is in a peaceful framework. Politics, in the end, is the art of managing differences.

This, of course, indicates the prevailing atmosphere of freedom far from the oppression of the militias, despite all the attacks carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkish, and Qatari media forces against our tribes and Sheikhs describing them in the worst terms. We have not heard of the kidnapping of those who support us and have not suppressed those who disagreed with us. Rather, we are happy with the Libyan people’s renewal of their confidence in the armed forces and supporting the morale of soldiers despite all the aggression waged by Turkey, by land, sea, air.

We are also happy with everyone who expressed his support for the HOR; the goal is one and the house is united, God willing.

Why do you keep attacking the Turkish regime?

Let me respond to your question with a couple of questions, and let us leave the answer to the reader: how should we view a regime that seeks to extract our country from its surroundings through an Ottoman tide in our region, which is no less dangerous than the Persian tide in other countries—and works hard to impose its Muslim Brotherhood ideology, revive ethnic strife in our society, enslave and captivate us, and plunder our capabilities to save its economy or make us the bank of the Muslim Brotherhood? Should we thank Turkey, which vows legitimacy and peaceful rotation of power, for its support for an unelected authority usurping power? Should we thank Turkey for sending us Syrian militias and terrorist organizations and sponsoring all the terrorists fleeing our country? Should we thank Turkey for its armored vehicles and drones for which it charges millions of dollars a month?

How will the future of the relationship be with the General Command of the Armed Forces, and what is the next step?

I do not know why this question recurs. The relationship is still impeccable as it has always been. By the way, I had a meeting with guests from the General Command and it was friendly. In the future—and I do not wis to anticipate the events before they crystallize—but what I definitely want to confirm is that we shall share the same responsibility to get the country out of its ordeal in the shortest time to culminate the march we started together with all the sincere Libyans at all levels and crowned with the great sacrifices of the martyrs.

But what is prevalent on the media does not indicate that, but rather reflects the opposite?

Perhaps you mean the ideologues who provoke sedition. In fact, I do not waste my time following up on their nonsense. However, I heard through the daily reports we receive from the media centre in the HOR that there are pages run by militias and cheap channels and platforms affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and the remaining militants or those loyal to Sarraj and his unconstitutional government that try to invest in this issue. I advise them to stand aside instead of wasting time, effort, and money of their financiers.

I tell those who believe that their illusions and temptations will split our ranks and attract some of us to their ranks or parallel parliament in a way that fulfils the interests of their groups, militias, Syrian mercenaries, and suspicious organizations——that for our army and for us they are nothing but terrorists and criminals and we will never be on their side.

Also, I cannot fail to call on the national media, which has always been supportive of the armed and legitimate forces and the HOR to maintain the highest standards of professionalism level by committing to accuracy and honesty, to act responsibly, move away from the personalization of disputes, leave everything that would be exploited by the hostile parties to split the row, and remain a source for bringing views closer and supporting the national and social cohesion, which is our true capital.

Thank you Chancellor Aguila Saleh for your time and magnanimity. Ramadan Kareem.

Thanks you to Al Marsad for having me in this dialogue. Best wishes for further progress and success.


© Al Marsad English (2020)