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The idea if writing this documentary article was dictated by Mr Faraj El-Fakhry’s inquiry in his article “The Squandered Opportunities” in which he asked:
“Why did the LCU not succeed in attracting The Libyan opposition groups to around its slogans during that early period ? These are the same slogans adopted and raised today by Libyan opposition movements. Chief among these slogans was the call raised by the LCU at its inception to rally around King Idris I, who was still alive then. This in reality was a call to rally around the symbol of constitutional legitimacy of Libya(1).
Mr El-Fakhri continued his article by expressing the hope that the LCU founder members would undertake the task of explaining all the circumstances that led to the squandering of the opportunity that the LCU provided the Libyan opposition with, in asking them to unite in support of the Libyan Constitution. This demand which was ignored 25 years ago has now become a key demand of the Libyan opposition(2).
Mr El-Fakhri further expands his narrative with the inquiry about why the LCU was not successful in realising its goals (mentioned above), and followed that by asking another question of two parts:
- “Was this failure due to the incompetence and the inability of the leadership of the LCU, at that time, to explain and communicate their idea to the others?
- Or does the shortcoming arise as a result of the conflict of concepts and ideas among the competing opposition movements?”
He concludes by asking the founders of the Libyan Constitutional Union to provide answers and explanations to an era full of events, facts and secrets which in their totality are the reason behind “squandering that opportunity”(3).
Previously, I had always had the intention and the resolve to talk about this important era in the history of our homeland; however my fear for the hurt that this might cause to the people who participated in its events, due to their dishonourable stance, has prevented me so far from doing so. I constantly delayed talking about this era and waited for the time when the circumstances are right, more accommodating and accepting for such an action. I consider the current circumstances may be more suitable to deal with these important events in our homeland’s recent history.
When I resolved to have a written record about these important and thorny events I thought it sensible to suggest to Mr Farag Elfakhri, whose questioning gave rise to writing about these events, that he puts together this record in a suitable writing style.
I immediately telephoned Mr El-Fakhri and suggested we meet to answer his line of questioning, and asked if it was possible for him to write and edit the answers then to send them to me to review for publication on the Libyan web sites. Mr El-Fakhri’s response to undertaking this difficult task was agreeable and welcoming. We agreed to meet in Leeds to start the narration of the information of this period to him while recording it on cassette tapes. Our meetings started in October 2005 (Ramadan 1426) in the presence of my brother Hisham. The narration took six separate meetings.
Furthermore, the narrative will be in the first person pronoun in the same fashion it was received by the editor.
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When I decided, in the early 1980’s, to convert the idea of establishing the Libyan Constitutional Union, which was ripe in my mind for some time, into a reality it was imperative that I get in touch with the late King Idris (may Allah bestow His mercy on his soul) who embodied the Constitutional legitimacy to rule Libya. He was usurped of that rule by a group of low ranking officers who staged a coup d’etat in September 1969.
It was important that this should be the first step, as the issue of the Constitutional legitimacy to rule is part of the foundation and one of the principles upon which the idea of establishing the Libyan Constitutional Union was based.
So I embarked on attempting to gain access to King Idris. That was not an easy task. It was an ordeal with many obstacles that I had to overcome.
The late King had been living in Cairo as a political refugee since the staging of the military coup in Libya, in a villa in the suburb of Dokki in Cairo, which was assigned to him by the Egyptian Office of the President. He was forbidden by the Egyptian authorities to deal with political affairs or to receive any person active politically against the military government in Libya. A team of Egyptian security personnel, headed by a veteran officer was appointed to serve, protect and keep a continuous watch over the king.
It was very difficult to pass through the security cordon imposed on the King’s residence and to reach him through the normal means. The very close watch over the King’s person and his movements isolated him from the outside world except for few relatives or old close friends.
Therefore, there was no way for me to get in touch with the King except through one of these few persons who used to visit him and his estimable family.
Contacting the King
After getting in touch with many in the circle of my personal connections and looking carefully and persistently for information from every source, I managed to approach an honest and a dependable person from among the few who had direct contact with the King. I asked this person to convey a message from me to the King. I stated in this message my wish to visit His Majesty to talk to him about my resolve to found The Libyan Constitutional Union, and to renew -on behalf of my self, my family and collegues- our pledge of allegiance to His Majesty as the constitutionally legitimate ruler of Libya. And to proceed thereafter -with his permission- towards urging Libyan notables from various regions of the country to do the same in public – by publicising it in the international media.
It is important to emphasise that the pledge of allegiance here does not imply that the Libyan people’s pledge of allegiance to the King before Independence had withered or that it had lost its legitimacy, on the contrary, The King’s constitutional legitimacy was rooted in the unanimous desire of the entire nation for him to be their King and this constitutional legitimacy could not be revoked by an illegitimate act.
Renewal of the pledge of allegiance means the affirmation of the continuity of the old pledge of allegiance, and proof that it has not lost its holding force, for the new pledge of allegiance – in its essence- is considered a symbolic pledge of allegiance re-affirming the old one, and referring to its genuine legitimacy. Proving that the pledge of allegiance to the King and calling on him to resume his role as ruler of the country is a legitimate and constant right that time has not erased, nor revoked by the usurping of authority by force.
And so this praiseworthy person continued to convey my successive oral messages to the late King. This had lasted for many months approaching a whole year. I was careful in these messages to King Idris to affirm my hope that he might not deprive his people of his blessing and the bestowing of his legitimacy on our call upon him to be the legitimate ruler of the country.
In all my messages to King Idris, I was appreciatively and considerately aware of his ascetic way of life, his reluctance to rule or hold power and his loath to return to office and resume its burdensome duties. However, there was an overwhelming necessity imposing itself on this case and making his approval inescapable This necessity went beyond the personal desires latent in this pious and devout King, and would not accept from him –or anybody in his station- compliance with his own personal preferences. This necessity dictated that the late King consent to providing, the sacred task of liberating the home land, with his blessings.
If it had not been for the above mentioned necessity, I would not have dared to approach the devout and pious king on the subject concerning the legitimate right to rule the country
There was therefore a heavy price for King Idris to pay, as he had no interest to rule at his advanced age and he wished to spend the rest of his life in worship and meditation.
Therefore, I took care in my oral messages to King Idris to emphasize that his consent to give this noble task his blessings was imperative to open the way to liberate Libya. Thus providing this endeavour with legal and legitimate support which the world would pay attention to. And on the other hand this approval would create the leadership and symbol which the Libyan Opposition was in dire need of.
In my successive messages, I affirmed to the late King my full consideration to his weak health and old age. Further, at that time I thought that, and in keeping with my belief that only Allah knows when one dies, The Creator might not give him the time to witness the struggle for the liberation to its end. However, it was of the utmost importance to obtain his blessings for the call upon him to be the legitimate ruler of the country, for he would provide, by giving his consent, blessings and an honourable seal to the struggle to regain the freedom of the country with its necessary means and materials. And even if Allah willed that he would die before the end of this struggle, then the struggle would definitely continue with the authority derived from his constitutional legitimacy.
I made sure that my oral messages were detailed enough to cover all aspects of this matter which would neither strain the King nor burden him with too much responsibility. Further, it would not breach his undertaking to the Egyptian authorities concerning his non-involvement in politics.
On the spiritual front, I was adamant that he not leave this world before remedying the hurt and injury he was feeling as a result of his people’s failure to defend him when he was affronted by the dregs of society. I was seeking his forgiveness of the Libyan people in the hope that through it they would find a way out of their ordeal.
So at this stage it only remained to meet His Majesty, and this meeting would implicitly mean his approval of the content of my messages. This was the beginning of another arduous journey, for as I have explained before, his meeting was very difficult to arrange. For there were not only the Egyptian security apparatuses watching the King 24 hours a day but also “Haj Mohammad El-saifat” who, as a result of his old relationship with the King, gave himself the right to decide who should visit the King and who should not.
To be followed….
Mohamed Ben Ghalbon
8th July 2006