The Libyan people have endured years of conflict and division and are eager for a brighter, more secure future. My people have known nothing but conflict, violence, and a lack of self-determination for over a decade – but despite the struggles we have faced, Libyans still have hope for the future. We are not resigned to foreign governments picking our leaders, and we will no longer accept those pushing for divisions. In December, when we hold our first elections for a parliament and President, we will be moving toward making Libya the next democracy on the world stage. It is well past time that we take these important next steps.
In my lifetime, I have seen Libya go from one of the wealthiest countries in Africa to one of the poorest. We once had the highest rating on the Human Development Index in Africa, but our quality of life has declined precipitously. A lack of accountability, greed, corruption, and malicious foreign actors have formed a stranglehold on Libya’s ambitions, but they are not set in stone.
It is only through democracy that Libya can overcome these forces and thrive once again. Libya is filled with educated, motivated people in a wide range of fields. They are ready to help the government implement reforms that the Libyans have long been waiting for – but to unlock their potential, free, fair, and transparent elections are vital.
Make no mistake – democracy in Libya will not be easy or clean. After a decade of near-constant conflict, there must be both reconciliation and accountability, or grievances and conflict will persist. This can only be accomplished through engagement with all Libyan people – particularly young people and women, who have been shut out for too long. It is vital to listen to and learn from these groups, to ensure they are engaged in the building of what will be their future.
Following the election, Libya must be unified. The division that has crippled our country must end and east and west must be brought together for a common purpose – creating a better future for all Libyans. This includes unifying our banking system and all government services. The country’s resources must not be used for the elite few. And they certainly should not be used to foment conflict within our country. A unified Libya will be stronger and more secure, attracting investment and becoming a place where people make their futures.
Libya must provide opportunity for all. Our country has the capacity to increase the standard of living for all its people, through increased per capita income, restoring the value of the national currency, and increasing private sector opportunities. A focus on investing in natural gas and clean energy, developing our valued ports, and improving other types of infrastructure, from roads to telecommunication networks, will be both a driver of growth and a source of jobs, but also essential for the transformation of Libya’s economy for years to come. Another key element of this opportunity will be strengthening local governments and decentralizing administrative power. It is absolutely essential that all Libyans are empowered to build their own futures.
A more prosperous Libya will yield a more secure Libya. Our country is in need of legitimate and respected security services that protect all Libyans. This includes securing our borders with modern technology. We can no longer allow outside forces to use our country to serve their own strategic purposes. The Libyan 5+5 Joint Military Commission, which is talking about ways to make the country more peaceful, has already started important work to improve our security situation. The conflicts that have persisted between the East and West of Libya must be resolved. The work of this Commission to restore stability and unity must be supported. For too long, our nation’s currency and banking system have been manipulated by criminals to benefit the few and fund militias that are determined to destabilize the country. This must stop. We need a self-sufficient and free-market economy liberated from self-interested elites.
The new Libya must also be welcoming and open to outsiders. Recently, there have been attacks on immigrants to our country that shocked the world. This cannot continue. This violence must not be tolerated. Instead, we must welcome immigrants who can contribute to our new democracy and treat them with respect. This will send a powerful signal to the world that Libya is moving forward in a positive, peaceful, welcoming way.
That’s why I am running for president – to help build a unified, prosperous and secure Libya. I know there will be a tremendous amount of work to do. But I am ready. The Libyan people are too. And if democracy prevails in December, Libya will flourish as a prosperous and secure nation once again.
Fathi Bashagha is a former Interior Minister in the Libyan Government of National Accord and a former entrepreneur and pilot in the Libyan Air Force, Minister Bashagha has served in Libya’s House of Representatives and on the National Reconciliation Commission.