Hoeven: New Libya Faces Substantial Challenges

Country Has Resources to Make Progress

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven today said Libya faces significant political and humanitarian challenges in the post-Moammar Gadhafi era, but the nation has made progress toward recovering its oil economy to help meet those challenges. Challenges include planning for upcoming national elections, integrating the various regional militias into a unified national army, providing humanitarian aid to assist the thousands of wounded and ensuring human rights for all Libyans after the war for freedom. 

Hoeven returned late Thursday from a Middle East mission with a bipartisan group of senators, including Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and other U.S. senators to advance United States national security interests and to promote good relations between the United States and the various national leaders they met with. In addition to Libyan leaders, the senators also met with top officials in Egypt, Afghanistan, Israel, Libya and Tunisia. 

In Libya, the group met in Tripoli with military and government leaders, including the head of the National Transitional Council Mustafa Abdel Jalil and Abdelhakim Belhaz, who heads the Tripoli military council, as well as representatives of the Mustafa military council. 

Ensuring Credible Elections 

Hoeven said one of the most formidable challenges facing the nation is holding credible upcoming national elections, currently scheduled for June, which will establish a 200-member national assembly, a new prime minister and draft a new Libyan constitution. So far, only Misrata, the nation’s third largest city, has held elections. Hoeven and the other senators offered U.S. technical assistance to help ensure fair and independent elections.

 “The hallmark of any free and democratic people is free and fair elections,” Hoeven said. “As the Transitional Council works to organize those elections, we assured their leadership that the United States stands ready to help in any way we can with technical assistance.” 

Integrating Regional Militias and Forging a National Military 

A second challenge following the revolution is the integration of the various regional militias into a cohesive national military, capable of defending the nation’s borders and protecting the population. The Misrata military council controls more than 250 militias, which need to be integrated with militias from other major Libyan regions such as Tripoli and Benghazi. 

“Cross border arms smuggling and regional loyalties still factor into Libya’s political environment, and a strong, cohesive military devoted to the new national government will be a key to their success in forming a stable and effective government,” Hoeven said. 

Ensuring Respect for Human Rights 

Alleged human rights abuses are another challenge the new government must overcome. Hoeven and the delegation visited a refugee camp in the town of Tawergha near Tripoli, where thousands of displaced Libyans, including many who are presumed to be Gadhafi supporters, have been housed and allegedly abused. That has prompted concerns about human rights abuses, a third challenge facing the nation. 

“National reconciliation and respect for human rights need to be part of Libya’s national agenda for the country to truly meet its democratic, social and economic aspirations,” Hoeven said. “The world will be watching very carefully to ensure that fundamental rights and freedom from retribution are extended to all citizens in the new Libya.” 

Humanitarian Medical Aid 

The war also resulted in as many as 50,000 wounded, 20,000 seriously, which Hoeven said represents a serious national challenge that the United States can help address by providing American military medical expertise in treating combat wounds and helping to establish rehabilitation centers in the country. 

Energy Production Resuming  

          To the country’s advantage, Hoeven said, Libya has rebuilt its oil industry to near pre-war levels, with production now at 1.2 million barrels per day, close to the 1.4 million barrels per day it was producing before hostilities began in February 2011. 

          “Although Libya faces a host of serious challenges in the coming months and years, the Libyans truly appreciate the help that the United States of America provides them, and they are working to establish a democratic government,” Hoeven said. “We are on track toward building a good relationship with an emerging democracy in the Middle East.”