Unifying the Libyan tribes is central to bringing stability to the country, believes David Otto, Counter Terrorism and Organized Crime Expert, Director of TGS Security and Intelligence Consultants, a company, providing consultancy on security and intelligence matters, who took the time to participate in an interview with Radio Sputnik.
In the midst of crisis and civil war, Libya is bracing to hold presidential elections next year. Since being freed from jail this past summer, second son of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is being posited as a potential favorite for the post. Sharing his thoughts on the prospect of a member of the Gaddafi family returning to power is specialist David Otto.
David Otto: This is a man who has gone through a political branding mill, so to speak, and he understands very much what it takes to move Libya forward, to a modern government system by the people, for the people and a system that would be void of interference in the internal affairs of Libya. I think Saif Islam, having spent a lot of time in jail, he has taken time to reflect on what really went wrong. And he now has the opportunity, perhaps, to have another go if the people of Libya really choose to elect him as the next president.
Sputnik: How much support does he have?
David Otto: In terms of support, Saif Islam is somebody who is aware of the causes of credibility. He knows very well that it is the people of Libya that count. He also knows that a lot of Libyans who hold the power to vote remain the silent majority, and they continue to suffer the most from what Libya has become after his father was murdered. He has managed at this very early stage to win almost 80% of the union of tribal council members — and you are very much aware that Libya has about 140 tribes that make up Libya. Even before Gaddafi came to power, which is
something Saif Islam has experienced himself, he knew the biggest challenge that any leadership would face, any challenge that would threaten the unity of Libya and its progress from being a poor country to being a rich country was the diverse tribal existence, where every tribe wanted to be dominant. However oppressive Western media sees what his father did, he managed to have very firm control over all of these 140 tribes. This is an experience which Saif Islam had during the leadership of his father. The time that he spent in jail, he understood the dynamics of the tribal and planned system, and he is putting some of the major tribes back together, which exist in Libya. He has a lot of support from some of these tribes, and this is what really puts him in a very strong position.
Sputnik: How is it that he’s been able to gain this support? What exactly has he been doing, and what will he continue to do to try to unite all of the different tribes in Libya and bring unity to the country?
David Otto: What Saif Islam has been able to do is to spend a lot of time to understand that in order for any president, or for anybody to have full control over Libya — he said it before, already in 2011 — he said that in order for anybody to have firm control over Libya, they have to be able to have a firm control and abide in the interests of the tribal councils. He has been able to put envoys on the ground to talk about the possibilities of having a unified Libya. He understands that there is the Government of National Accord in Tripoli, and then he also has the challenge of the Libyan National Army, under Khalifa Haftar. So, what Saif Islam has been doing is to garner more support from some of these tribes that switch sides when things hit the fan. He’s managed to do that. A lot of Libyans are now fed up after six years of thinking that the new GNA government, which is UN-backed, would be able to create stability. But now there’s a period of disillusionment among a lot of these tribes, and they then look at the way that Gaddafi’s father ran Libya and think that was far better. Because of that, he has actually been able to bring a lot of support, because they see him as the only person that could actually unite most of these tribes.
Sputnik: How is the West, namely the United States and the EU likely react to Saif Gaddafi, especially if he does win these elections?
David Otto: It is going to be interesting. What I think is that it’s going to be a somewhat confusing and somewhat unbelievable scenario for the West. But Gaddafi’s son understands that in a democratically held election, it is the reaction of Libyans that will count to Saif Islam, and no-one else really matters. Libya, of course, will need foreign support, and I guess from many countries, including the African Union, that has the capacity to lift Libya from the turmoil, even if Libya is deserted by the European Union. I think if Saif Islam wins and succeeds in bringing Libya together, and halts the crisis that most countries are facing as a result of Libya, and manages to stop the chaos that has been created in Libya, perhaps in coordination with the African Union, and also if he defeats the cocktail of jihadists in the Sahara region and creates stability for his regional neighbors, the reaction of the West will change for good. The West itself is desperately looking for some miracle to fix this problem, even if it benefitted them somehow from a geopolitical perspective, and if Saif Islam is that person, then I don’t think they have much of a say.
David Otto Institutional Representative of SECINDEF (Security Intelligence and Defense) Israel-USA International Consulting Counterterrorism in the United Kingdom and collaborating analyst of OCATRY (Observatory against the Terrorist Threat and the Jihadist Radicalization) David Otto is the Director of TGS Intelligence Consultants Ltd and the Preventing Radicalisation and Violent Extremism Programme – Step In Step Out (SISO) – based in the United Kingdom. He is also Senior Counter Terrorism Advisor for Global Risk International.