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Don’t Give Up Too Soon On A Free Libya

Essay: A public appeal to the West from the leader of the Libyan rebels, Moustapha Abdel Jalil: ‘Give us time -- and arms...’ for negotiating with Gaddafi is not an option.

Brega, after a rebel victory last month.
Brega, after a rebel victory last month.
Moustapha Abdel Jalil

After 40 years of oppression and injustice, the Libyan people started a revolution on February 17 that freed large parts of the country, and for which countless never-to-be-forgotten martyrs have given their lives.

The budding new free Libya readily embraced the rule of law and justice. Local committees and a National Council were formed to put in place the building blocks of a new democracy and administrate a much enfeebled country. Doing so means, one day, all the men and women of this land can turn the page on Gaddafi and his family once and for all, and express themselves through free and transparent general elections.

But the tyrant is unfortunately still clinging on. Forced to retreat at first, now he seems powerful again. His army of mercenaries has pushed our fighters back from Sirte. His armored vehicles, his artillery and his deadly forces have bombarded us in the middle of the desert. Our courageous chebab volunteers,lacking tanks and heavy weaponry, had hoped to liberate Misrata and Tripoli with the bare force of their will and hands. But they suffered great losses and were forced to retreat

Then the French airplanes came and saved Benghazi from the bloody punishment that the dictator had promised it. Had the international community led by Nicolas Sarkozy and his allies not acted when they did, all of Libya would probably have fallen under Gaddafi's vicious control once more. There is no force that can stop armored vehicles from advancing in the desert, except from above. Western aircrafts have until now managed to do that, and we are infinitely grateful for that.

But NATO's planes cannot free the cities where Gaddafi's forces, using civilians as human shields, are now taking cover. Those of us now free do not have yet the strength needed to accomplish this urgent and vital task for all our fellow citizens that are being shelled or remain enslaved. It takes more than six weeks of freedom to transform thousands of armed men in an army: they need more time.

But we are resisting for the time being, and we are proud of it. We do not ask of anyone to fight in our place. We do not ask foreign soldiers to come and stop the enemy, nor do we expect that Libya's friends come and free it for us. All we ask is that the world give us time and the means to build a force able to keep the dictator's mercenaries and soldiers back, and then free all of our cities.

Just a paper tiger

The international community must continue to provide us support, by continuing the air strikes, but also by supplying us with military equipment. Just give us the means we need to free ourselves, and you will be surprised: Gaddafi has taken advantage of our early inexperience and youth, but he is nothing more than a paper tiger. Just wait and see.

It would be so unjust, so fatal for us to be sacrificed, because of our early inexperience, for the sole good of a peace without conditions. What peace would that be, which so closely resembles a capitulation? How can anyone claim that we can negotiate with Gaddafi, with this tyrant who has never stopped attacking free Libya?

Is the West, in the name of a blind realism -- the handy excuse for all those who are far too ready to give up -- going to diminish the support that has saved as, measure it, and then tie our hands altogether? We need more time to win our freedom. We have waited 40 long years for this moment to come: we now need just a little more time. I am hereby urging our foreign friends not to jeopardize, because of weariness or impatience, our fight for a free Libya and for all the people hungry for freedom and justice.

Moustapha Abdel Jalil is the head of the Libyan National Council. A former Justice Minister under Gaddafi, Jalili was one of only a few politicians who used to openly criticize the regime.

Photo - Al Jazeera

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