The Bride of the Mediterranean, and Her Groom
By Deborah K. Jones, US Ambassador to Libya.
As we approach the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan and the celebration of Eid Al-Fitr, I shall have been in Libya for just under seven weeks. During that brief period, I have had the opportunity to meet Libyans from across the country and throughout the government: political and community leaders, artists and students, family members and individuals, all of whom have expressed a common desire to see their country flourish and grow in an environment that is secure, prosperous and free, respectful of its citizens and governed by the Rule of Law. All share the desire to work and to love with dignity, the common aspiration of all human beings.
These are the ideals and values for which the Libyan people fought so hard and made the ultimate sacrifice. Turning these aspirations into reality takes hard work and patience, and is a never-ending task for both governments and citizens, as we well know in my own country, the United States of America, which still strives to live up to our own revolutionary ideals of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
Now there are those who would seek to rob the Libyan people of the prize they fought so hard to gain, through a campaign of cowardly assassinations and acts of violence and intimidation, carried out during this holy season of spiritual renewal. It is my fervent hope that the people of Libya will reject these efforts to intimidate and discourage, and will instead continue to pursue their hopes and dreams for a Free Libya. My own vision foresees a Libya that is vibrant and productive, as proud of its cultural heritage as it is entrepreneurial and innovative.
Every time I drive along the Corniche by the port in Tripoli, en route to my meetings, I envision a future Libya, with Tripoli and Benghazi joined by the sea, by tourism, by economic endeavour and technological innovation.
I see a port whose shallow draughts have been cleaned up and reconfigured to handle the ferries and shuttles from cruise ships that transport the thousands of tourists who will come to see this beautiful country, so easily accessed from Europe and elsewhere, with its marvelous weather and no fewer than five world heritage sites.
I see tourists disembarking in Tripoli, the Bride of the Mediterranean, and spending several days touring a restored and charming “old city,” dining on delectable fish in waterfront restaurants and staying in five-star hotels against a backdrop of modern, eco-friendly architecture. After visiting Leptis Magna, Sabratha and the glorious oasis of Ghadames where they are introduced to the ancient and proud pedigree of the Amazigh, these eco-tourists head south to the sands of the Sahara to encounter the unique culture of the noble Tuareg. Here they experience, as I first did while traveling in Tunisia in1989, the majestic, deafening silence of the desert and the overpowering and humbling nearness of its stars.
Heading back to Tripoli, they catch a sea-shuttle to visit her groom, Benghazi, home to yet a third world heritage site, Cyrene. In Benghazi they find modern, world-class hospitals providing services to the broader Sahel/Maghreb region, and a downstream petrochemical center tied to the National Oil Corporation, partnering with international oil companies, hopefully American, to develop environmentally sustainable vanguard products.
I could go on and on. The possibilities are endless.
Yes, this is only my dream, but it is not a fantasy. It can be done; it will take time. My government is working now with other G-8 nations to support and train a General Purpose Force for Libya to enhance the security necessary to create safe space for development.
Meanwhile every true Libyan must stand up to take ownership of your country and its future. You have all the challenges, and possibilities, of any emerging nation. It is up to you to seek the things that unite you, to fill in the blanks only civil society can complete, as you weave a magnificent national tapestry whose warp and weft are the constitution and Rule of Law, whose knotted edges are national security, and whose colourful threads reflect the sand and sea, olive and date, rich and diverse ethnicities and hydrocarbon wealth of this country you love.
Your friends and allies are here to support your efforts, but you must do the essential weaving.
Together we shall work to change the narrative from one of violence and paralysis to one of renewal.
Kul aam w’entum b’il-Kheir!