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Libyan Constitutional Union

Sunday, 22 October, 2006

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Part 17                                                                                                                  

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

The Libyan Constitutional Union :
Its Establishment and Development (8)

A Documentary Article by Mohamed Ben Ghalbon
(Summary Translation from Arabic)

Readers of this series of documentary articles will be able to examine a narrative of historical events that took place in an important period in the history of our country. I am of the opinion that it is a duty to the homeland to record and publish these historical events, so that we do not lose contact with that important part of our contemporary history. As the narrative of these events deal with the stances of some individuals who were active participants in them, it becomes essential that these stances be recorded in their proper contexts. The intention behind the publication of these accounts, almost a quarter of a century after their occurrences, is not to criticise or denigrate the individuals who were active participants in them. Rather, this publication is a modest attempt to uncover and clarify part of our history that is passed over in silence. Thus, I hope that this aim should not be misconstrued and the writer of this article should not bear the responsibility for the cynical interpretations by others of its content.

Part (8)
(First published in Arabic on 11th September 2006)

(2) Announcing the Establishment of the
Libyan Constitutional Union

Hajj Khalifa Azzarouq

Prior to the establishment of the LCU I had not known or heard of the Libyan billionaire, Hajj Khalifa Azzarrouq. He was an émigré from the Ghirian area of Libya and was resident in Cairo where he managed his business and investments with the privileged status granted to him by the Egyptian government.(1)

A friend of mine, who was also one of the founders of the Libyan Constitutional Union and had a close relationship with Hajj Khalifa advised me to contact him in order to obtain his financial support for the efforts of the LCU and make use of his many contacts and influence in the Arab political milieus, especially in Egypt.

Hajj Khalifa Azzarrouq did not –at least to my knowledge- enjoy any sort of national fame or reputation that would enable one to ascertain his ideology. Nor was he widely known as an intellectual or a scholar. He was simply a self made businessman who made his fortune somehow.

It is important to note, in this regard, that the founders of the LCU, had at the time of its establishment, adopted a clear policy concerning the finance of its activities, which was to seek the needed funds from the well to do patriotic Libyan immigrants.

In following this policy the founders of the LCU were motivated by three codes of conduct which where adhered to from the beginning:

1. The financing of the LCU should be confined to Libyan sources. The wisdom behind this constraint is quite clear.

2. Making use of the contacts and influence that some Libyans have in various Arab and non Arab countries to enlist their support for the realisation of the national Libyan demands for the liberation of the Libyan people from this corrupt and brutal regime and the return of the constitutional legitimacy to its proper place in the homeland.

3. To strive to convince some leading Libyan personalities known for their wisdom, knowledge and influence (the wise and influential) to assume the leadership of the LCU in order to make use of their extensive contacts and experiences in leadership.

This policy was exactly what motivated me to meet Hajj Khalifa at his office in Cairo. My above mentioned friend arranged the meeting to take place in December 1982 while I was in Egypt on a visit dedicated to meetings with other Libyan notables residing in that country at that time. I had high hopes of convincing him of financing the LCU and to use his influence and considerable political contacts in the Arab world to publicise our just cause.

I received a very warm welcome from Hajj Khalifa. We had a deep discussion about the financing of the activities of LCU. I found him fully aware of all aspects and aims of the LCU beforehand. However, he stipulated that he personally hands his financial contribution to King Idris himself. I found his condition astonishing for various reasons, which I tried to articulate them to him as follows:

· King Idris did not have any direct relationship with the LCU, for he was neither its head nor one of its members. He was, in this context, no more than the symbol of the constitutional legitimacy that the LCU is seeking and hoping to restore.

· King Idris, from the very beginning, stipulated that he would not be implicated in the running of the LCU or in any activities associated with its work or its devised political plans. This was so – as repeated in various locations of this article- out of obligations to the host country, and also because his health no longer allowed him to assume these burdens of responsibility, which he was reluctant to carry even during his reign as the country’s monarch.

· I suggested to Hajj Khalifa that even if, by way of supposition, we ignored the above mentioned reasons we would still be facing another unsolvable obstacle, namely that the King never, in his entire life carried any money, or dealt with it. There was constantly someone who would act on his behalf in these matters. This was also the case before he became the King of Libya. After becoming the King of Libya the matter became more pronounced and an employee was appointed to take care of the financial matters related to his living expenses. Therefore, the insistence of handing the King money not belonging to him - because it was meant to cover the LCU activities – would be discourteous and no use would come of it, only the insult and psychological harm to the person of the King who insulated himself from money or dealing with it.

*   *   *

In spite of the logicality and the cogency of the above mentioned reasons, Hajj Khalifa Azzarrouq refused to accept them and persisted in his demand to at least obtain receipts signed by the King himself and nobody else.

I told Hajj Khalifa, that his demand was unreasonable and not logical, for the matter, as was reasoned above, did not concern the King in any way; and questioned his insistence on involving the King in something he had nothing to do with.

I added that I did not mind arranging an appointment for him for a social visit to the King where he could enquire about him, his health and general affairs. I explained that this would offer the king and his family a sense of warmth and affection which they were in much need of in their isolation away from home. I further explained to him that such a visit from a person with the status he enjoyed in Egypt would bring multifaceted benefit to the King and his family.

However, for reasons unknown to me but which could be foretold, Hajj Khalifa refused this offer and my reasoning for it. He was adamant and relentlessly insisted on the same two points: Either handing the money geared for the LCU activities to the King himself and obtaining from him a thank you letter, or getting receipts, for the donated sums of money, written by the King himself and authenticated by his personal signature.

After long and gruelling efforts, to convince Hajj Khalifa Azzarrouq of my logically argued point of view he argued against it in a way that was contrary to the basic principles of objectivity and insisted on his strongly held wrong and illogical opinion. As I was about to leave without reaching agreement with him, Hajj Khalifa finally agreed that he, his wife and children would visit the King and provide him with financial aid as a gift that would help him with the hardship of living away from home at his old age.

Unfortunately, Hajj Khalifa Azzarrouq did not fulfil any of the commitments he made. I tried, as did our mutual friend, to urge him to fulfil his promises, but his response to our communications was repeated procrastination.

I gave up on chasing Hajj Khalifa Azzarrouq and didn’t hear about him for sometime. I then learnt that he had joined the organisation of Mr. Abdulhameed El-Bakoosh and paid huge sums of money to finance its activities. Sometime later I learnt that he returned to reside in Libya after making a deal with the corrupt regime there.

*   *   *

Mohamed Ben-Younis

In addition to our personal acquaintance, Mohamed Ben-Younis and I were related. The wealthy position of his family and the government offices that he occupied in the two eras, the monarchy and the military (2), bestowed on him a certain prominence, which was enhanced by his intelligence and notable political and social awareness

His personality had an aura of gravity and solemnity among his cronies, who were constantly impressed by the aforementioned attributes. The attractiveness of these attributes was crystallized in money and prestige and the behaviour of these companions was neither considered to be abnormal nor surprising. Further, this behaviour was not rare nor was it exclusive to these friends of Mohamed Ben-Younis. From a different point of view this behaviour is in fact wide spread and almost considered to be normal among the urban dwellers in the societies of the third world. A typical example of this behaviour could be noted in the two cities of Benghazi and Tripoli.

What is important here, is that this feeling of admiration and awe that the companions of Mr.Mohamed Ben-Younis had for his remarkable personality made him the one with the decisive opinion and the obeyed word whenever they met with him.

*   *   *

In the early days of the establishment of the LCU I sent Mr Ben-Younis, who was resident in Egypt then, the booklets explaining the orientation of the LCU and a letter to gauge his willingness to co-operate. However, I did not receive a reply to this letter which I re-sent on the assumption that the postman was responsible for my not getting a reply. It later transpired that the postman was blameless on both occasions in this matter.(3)

In the autumn of 1982, Mr. Ben-Younis came to Manchester to visit his brother Mustafa, who was a resident there, and was accompanied by Mr Yusuf Al-Shaibani and Mr Ali Al-Sallaak.

Mr Mohamed Ben-Younis contacted me, and asked me to meet him. I invited him and his companions to dinner at my house. That gathering lasted until the early hours of the next morning.

I immediately sensed that Mr. Ben-Younis’ call was not solely social. From the beginning he alluded that he came to discuss the nature of the LCU, and at that point I asked him if he had received my letters which I had sent to him earlier in the year. He answered affirmatively and justified his not replying by saying that it would be more suitable to postpone the matter until he could meet me in person.

The discussion centred on the core idea of the LCU and its orientation which the people present liked and admired. Further, Mr. Ben-Younis said that he saw this as the right way - if the people would unite under its banner - to realise the hope and the aspiration of the Libyan people to get rid of the military regime and the return of the constitutional legitimacy to the country. At that point I saw it was opportune for me to offer to him to join the LCU to lead it toward achieving the desired aim, as I had done with Abdulhamid Al-Bakoush and Mansour Rashid El-Kikhia, in keeping with the policy that I was careful to follow.

Mohamed Ben-Younis asked me for time to think this matter over and to discuss it with some of his comrades in the arena of the national endeavour and said that he would reply to my offer at a later time. I told him that I would be coming to Cairo within the coming months and I would visit him to get his reply.

I travelled to Cairo in December of the same year and telephoned Mr Mohamed Ben-Younis and arranged an appointment to visit him in his residence to ascertain his reply.

On the set date I found Mohamed Ben-Younis waiting for me in his home in Cairo. Also present were some of his close friends, including Mr. Yusuf Al-Shaibani, Mr. Sami Al-Jerbi and Dr. Mohamed Al-Gandouz.

As soon as I started explaining the core idea of LCU to Ben-Younis and his friends Sami Al-Jerbi began attacking King Idris in a provocative manner. Mr. Al-Jerbi claimed in this attack that the monarchy was out of date and that it was not desired by Libyans. He condemned the orientation of the LCU as a certain failure because, in his opinion, the LCU limited its potential with its myopic identification with the King and the monarchy.

At first, I was in control of my temper while Al-Jerbi continued with his illogical utterances. I was about to refute his claims and convince him of the falsity of his discourteous assertion, which was neither objective nor true, however, he did not give me the chance to have a dialogue with him. He continued in his impolite allegations without paying any attention to the observed conversation etiquette and continued in his derision and sarcasm of King Idris (may Allah bestow His mercy on him) when he said mockingly, “Is the King, truly, still alive or is he dead? He is one of the old fossils weathered by time and long forgotten. I do not believe at all that he is still alive. I think that the Egyptians have embalmed him, for they are skilled in the art of the Pharaonic embalming, to be used as a scarecrow whenever the need arises.”

During this time of Al-Jerbi’s silly and nonsensical comments deriding the King without observing the basic rules of good behaviour and manners, there was nothing for me to do except to rebuke him with a reply that would force him to follow the rules of polite behaviour which he did not respect, however, Mohamed Ben-Younis was faster than me in dealing with this situation by blaming Al-Jerbi for his shameful and disgraceful utterances.

From then on, it was not possible to continue talking about the subject that I came specifically to discuss. The atmosphere of the gathering had been poisoned by Al-Jerbi’s irresponsible comments, making the ambience unsuitable for the discussion of the subject. After that the conversation took a different direction in order for a calming atmosphere to prevail on the gathering.

At the end of this meeting, Yusuf Al-Shaibani invited me and the rest of the people present for lunch at his house after two days to finish the talk that we had not started yet.

The meeting finished without discussing the idea of the LCU which was supposed to have taken place.

*   *   *

I met Mr Mohamed Ben-Younis again at Yusuf Al-Shaibani’s home two days later. He told me that the idea upon which the LCU was established, was the sound and valid idea for the national struggle to liberate Libya from the military rule. And he said that sadly, dissidents did not support this idea.

Mr Mohamed Ben-Younis continued his speech about the LCU saying that most of the dissidents belonging to opposition groups and organisations of considerable weight, did not like the idea of there being different dissenting currents competing with their groups and organisations. This was especially the case if these organisations had the potential elements that would help them in grasping and identifying the origin and the cause of the disease in the existence of the military regime and its continuation in ruling Libya.

In other words, the struggle for the liberation of the homeland from a “local” corrupt regime would inevitably face national opposition forces. These forces would reject this regime and strive for its downfall or its change. However, it is not necessary in most cases for these forces, of different opposition trends and colours, to unite in order to achieve the common goal.

This intense contest regarding the achievement of this noble cause among the comrades in the struggle, as happened in similar cases in the world, might even transform them into opponents and fierce enemies.

The origin of this phenomenon could be traced to human nature, in its constant egotism and the searching for distinction to the extent that the protagonists would become enemies and hate each other in the heat of their competition to realise the desired common goal.

There are three exceptional cases, in which the forces of the opposition would unite to realise the nation goal of being liberated from its oppressors which could be summarised in the following points:

. When the individuals in these groups would reach the level of consciousness, transcendence and the human moral advancement, the individual or the group, with the common interests, would act altruistically and work for the public interest and not their own limited personal interests.

· Secondly, in the case of an accord of a group around a belief and their unity under its banner then all the personal desires and interests would vanish in order to realise the main common goal which is beneficial to all.

· Thirdly, if the body in power were an occupying entity or foreign colonialists then the objective would be undisputedly common to all and therefore, unity and cooperation would be a patriotic duty for everyone.

In his detailed speech, Mohamed Ben-Younis continued to say that the active national opposition forces might agree on the end or the aim for the realisation of the desired national goal, however, they would disagree about the means used. These means are two fold: The first would be military action leading to changing the corrupt regime by force; the second would be the utilisation of the media with the use of political propaganda through pamphlets and other publications aimed at creating collective awareness of the situation at home and to stir up the Libyan society to act.

However, the course the LCU was following was not in this devised plan for the Libyan opposition. Namely because the LCU deals directly with the real problem concerning the difficult and tragic situation of the Libyan People. The LCU offers, within the framework of its presented core idea, the most promising solution to realising the hoped for goals. The way to achieve this is through a legal and a political struggle and diligent human efforts as expressed and explained in its intelligent message that demands the return of the constitutional legitimacy to the country.

In this turbulence and for the reasons that have been mentioned, many of the dissidents have attacked the LCU’s orientation because its adopted course of action belittled the totality of their presented courses of action.

Mr Mohamed Ben-Younis continued his lecture and indicated that all that had been mentioned before were the main reason behind the highly skilled campaign launched by some opposition personalities to decry the LCU and to raise doubts about its success. This campaign revolved around connecting the LCU with the King and the monarchy and, deliberately, ignoring the foundation of the core idea of the LCU as represented by the return of the constitutional legitimacy to its proper place in the country.

He then precluded by saying that he knew fully well that the idea upon which the LCU is founded contains in its core the solution to the Libyan problem. And that, on the other hand, he did not see a grain of truth in the understanding that was being spread by some scheming elements to distort this idea by stripping it from its genuine roots of a call to restore constitutional legitimacy – regardless of the presence or absence of the King - and deliberately confusing it with a restricted call for the return of the monarchy.

Mr. Mohamed Ben-Younis then arrived at the main point in his long and carefully prepared speech of that day, which shall be the subject of the next part of this article.

To be continued...

Mohamed Ben Ghalbon

20th October 2006

(1) He gained membership of the boards of directors of several banks in Egypt, and was also appointed by the Egyptian government as honourary consultant in some government investment departments. In addition he was included in several Egyptian official trade delegations which negotiated commercial and financial deals with foreign countries and corporations.
(2) During the monarchy era Mr. Mohamed Ben-Younis occupied the offices of the attorney general of the city of Benghazi, and the post of Head of the Municipality of the city. In the early period of the corrupt military regime he was appointed Mayor of Benghazi, then Minister of the Union (the so-called union between Libya and Egypt), which was based in Cairo. He turned opponent of the regime in the early eighties for few years.
(3) I sent the letter to Mr. Mohamed Ben-Younis on 16th January 1982, and re-sent it to him on 16th February 1982 (copy attached below).

Translation of LCU letter to Mr Mohamed Ben-Younis
dated 16 January 1982

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate
The esteemed Mohamed Ben-Younis
I ask Allah that you and your noble family are all well. I hope that you have received the Libyan Constitutional Union’s three booklets which detail its idea.
Dear Ustad Mohamed,
If you think that there could be a chance to cooperate to serve the Libyan national case, please know that you are the person whom I, and members of the LCU, would be honoured to work with.
Waiting to hear from you, please accept the respect and appreciation of all the LCU membership.

Till we meet, Regards
Mohamed Abdu Ben Ghalbon

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  Part 9    Part 10  Part 11  Part 12  Part 13  Part 14  Part 15  Part 16
Part 17                                                                                                                  

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