Libya: A who’s who of the National Transitional Council

Who are the main players behind Libya’s new ruling body? We profile the major movers in the NTC.

In the wake of  Colonel Gaddafy’s death, the National Transitional Council (NTC) is poised to assume full power in Libya. Conscious that it starts the era of liberated Libya with the stain of Gaddafy’s ignominious death on its hands, and under pressure from the international community, the NTC has instigated an investigation that marks its first significant test since the death of its former leader. The eyes of the world will be watching as the NTC seeks to deliver on its stated aim of restoring order and democracy to a country that has lived in the shadow of a dictator for decades. But what we do know about the people behind the NTC? We take a look at the key movers and shakers, their motivations, ambitions, and what we can expect from Libya’s new leaders.

The NTC
Originally formed by rebels in the east of the country in the first days of the uprising against Colonel Gaddafy, the NTC is internationally recognised as the sole authority in Libya but is a very disparate movement. It is also avowedly an interim body that will only manage the transition until a constitution can be drawn up and elections held – probably in 2013.

The NTC issued a Constitutional Declaration in August 2011 to set up a road-map for the transition of the country to a constitutional democracy with an elected government.

Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil
NTC Chairman. Jalil was Justice Minister under Gaddafy from 2007 – a posting he owed to Gaddafy’s son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafy, who was trying to demonstrate his own liberal credentials. Jalil defected on February 21st in protest against “the excessive use of violence against unarmed protesters” in Benghazi. He champions moderate Islam. He has always taken a stand against human rights violations in Libya, but was accused of intransigence during the appeal by the Bulgarian nurses accused of infecting hundreds of Libyan children with HIV (the nurses were ultimately released).

Mahmoud Jibril
NTC Executive Board Head (de facto Prime Minister). US-educated Jibril was the voice of the NTC on the international stage in the early days. His attempts to bring the various militias under NTC control have been unpopular with military leaders. During Gaddafy’s reign Jibril was involved in a project called “Libyan Vision” with other intellectuals which sought to establish a democratic state. On 3 October 2011, Jibril announced that he would resign from government once the country had been “liberated”. Keeping his promise, Jibril resigned on October 23d and was succeeded by his deputy, Ali Tarhouni.

Libya's former de facto Prime Minister, Mahmoud Jibril

Ali Tarhouni
Finance Minister and now Prime Minister.  Tarhouni fled Libya in 1973 for the US, where he worked as an economics lecturer at the University of Washington in Seattle. He was stripped of citizenship, sentenced to death in absentia, and put on a government hit list in 1981. He returned in the early days of the uprising to join the fight to overthrow Gaddafy. He is popular and has a reputation for economic competence. He has raised funds for the revolt, even ordering fighters to rob Benghazi’s central bank (netting the rebellion $320m). He also represents Libya on the Cairo-based Arab League.

Abdul Hafez Ghoza
NTC Vice-chairman.Ghoza is a human rights lawyer from Benghazi who used to be president of the Libyan Bar Association. He was arrested on 19 February, but released soon after. He was the spokesman of an interim council, rivalling the one created by Mustafa Abdul Jalil but then in early March was brought into the NTC, where he was made vice-chairman and spokesman.

Abdel Hakim Belhaj
Tripoli military commander Belhaj led the military brigade that overran Col Gaddafy’s Tripoli compound in August, catapulting the former Islamist fighter and member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) to international prominence. Since then shocking allegations have emerged that he was kidnapped and tortured by the CIA.  Documents found at an office used by Col Gaddafy’s spy chief corroborated his claim to have been a victim of extraordinary rendition.

Ali Issawi
Foreign Affairs. Issawi resigned as Libyan ambassador to India on 21 February in protest at the government’s “use of violence against its citizens” and deployment of “foreign mercenaries against Libyans”. He used to be Gaddafy’s Minister of economy, trade and investment.

Ahmed al-Zubair Ahmed al-Sanussi
Al-Sanussi is the lone descendant of Libya’s last king, Idris al-Sanussi.  He was accused of conspiracy in an attempted coup against Col Gaddafy in 1970 and spent 31 years in prison, many of them in solitary confinement. He was released in August 2001, on the 32nd anniversary of the revolution.

Military Commanders

Abdul Fatah Younis
The Commander-in-Chief of NTC forces until his death in July 2011.

Suleiman Mahmoud,
Previously Younis’s top lieutenant and replaced him as Commander-in-Chief after his death.

Colonel Khalifa Belqasim Haftar
Another top military commander.

Apart from the NTC, other groups represent significant sections of the Libyan populace:

Misrata military commanders
The city of Misrata, which suffered a brutal siege and bombardment by Gaddafy’s troops in which hundreds died, is something of a law unto itself. It was Misrata militia who captured Gaddafy and carried his body back to their city to put on display, apparently without consulting the NTC. A report by Bloomberg quoted an organisation called the Misrata Military Council as saying it was surprised that no-one from Misrata was on the NTC’s board.

Berber groups
A non-Arab minority, the Berbers had their language and culture suppressed under the Gaddafy regime. They joined the revolt against his rule in February, and, descending from the Nafusa mountains, swept into Tripoli in mid-August. They are in alliance with the NTC, but Benghazi is a long way from the Berber heartlands near the Tunisian border.

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