Tripoli via Tallaght for Libyan PM contender
A FORMER lecturer at the Institute of Technology in Tallaght, Dublin, is one of eight candidates for the post of prime minister in Libya.
Fathi Akkari, who lectured in electronic engineering at the institute before he returned to Libya shortly after last year’s revolution began, was appointed the country’s deputy minister for higher education last November. He moved to Ireland more than two decades ago as a political dissident.
“I think my chances are good,” Akkari told The Irish Times in a phone interview from the Libyan capital, Tripoli. “I am well qualified and I have a vision. My experience is wide-ranging – I have lived in Ireland and the US, and I have visited more than 30 countries across the world. I can see myself doing a good job for my country. It is critically important that we have the right person in charge to take Libya out of the situation it is in right now.”
Libya is struggling to establish a central government and rule of law after last year’s revolution brought to an end more than four decades of Muammar Gadafy’s idiosyncratic rule. The country’s incoming government faces many challenges, including building a proper and accountable security apparatus and disarming the disparate militias that sprang up during last year’s uprising.
“We have a major problem with security and we need to organise the army and the security forces without delay,” said Akkari.
“My other priorities are developing the economy and social security, and focusing on education and sustainable development. Libya has so much potential and we have a duty to realise it.”
Libya’s national congress, which was elected in July, named eight candidates for the prime minister post last week. They include Mahmoud Jibril, who served as the rebels’ de facto prime minister last year; the current deputy prime minister, Mustafa Abushagur; and minister for electricity Awad al-Barasi, who was put forward by the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Justice and Construction Party.
The prime minister will be elected by the 200-strong congress, which consists of 80 members elected as party candidates and 120 elected as individuals.
The political leanings of those elected as individuals are not always clear, making predictions regarding the successful candidate for prime minister difficult.
Abushagur, al-Barasi, and Jibril are considered to be the strongest contenders though the lobbying and backroom negotiations that have taken place since the candidates were announced last Thursday may yield a surprise result.
The candidates have been presenting their platforms to congress members ahead of a vote by the congress today.
Earlier this year Akkari told The Irish Times he planned to draw on his experience in Ireland to map a strategy for his home country’s education system. As minister for higher education, Akkari is responsible for more than 300,000 university students and 170,000 enrolled at higher institutes and technical colleges across Libya.
“You could say my way of thinking is Irish . . . we Libyans like to say that the Irish are simply Libyans who drive on the left side of the road,” he said.
Akkari, who has met Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore and Ireland’s Ambassador to Libya, Pat Hennessy, believes there is much potential in the bilateral relationship between Ireland and Libya.
He is one of three former residents of Ireland in Libya’s interim government. The others are Fatima Hamroush, who left her job as a consultant ophthalmologist in Drogheda last year to become Libya’s health minister, and Omar al-Khadrawi, who serves as deputy interior minister.
Earlier this year Akkari spoke of the country he would like Libya to become. “Our former king Idris hoped to see Libya like Switzerland. We want a peaceful, developed country, not ostentatious like you see in other Arab states, with skyscrapers and all that, but with the standards of living and social welfare that you see in European countries.”