بسم الله الرحمن
The Libyan Constitutional Union:
Its Establishment and Development
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 deals 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 has 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.
(First published in Arabic on
11th June 2006)
Quest to obtain King Idris’s consent
idea of writing this documentary article was dictated by Mr Faraj
El-Fakhri’s enquiry in his article “The Squandered
Opportunities” in which he asked:
“Why did the LCU not
succeed in attracting The Libyan opposition groups around its
slogans during that early period ? These are the same slogans
adopted and raised today by Libyan opposition movements. Chief
among these slogans was the call raised by the LCU at its inception
to rally around
King Idris I,
who was still alive then. This in reality was a call to rally
around the symbol of constitutional legitimacy of Libya
continued his article by expressing the hope that the LCU founder
members would undertake the task of explaining all the circumstances
that led to the squandering of the
opportunity that the
LCU provided the Libyan opposition with, in asking them to unite in
support of the Libyan Constitution. This demand which was
ignored 25 years ago has now become a key demand of the Libyan
further expands his narrative with the enquiry as to why the LCU was
not successful in realising its goals (mentioned above), and
followed that by asking another question of two parts:
“Was this failure due to the incompetence and the inability of
the leadership of the LCU, at that time, to explain and communicate
their idea to the others?
Or does the shortcoming arise as a result of the conflict of
concepts and ideas among the competing opposition movements?”
He concludes by asking
the founders of the Libyan Constitutional Union to provide answers
and explanations to an era full of events, facts and secrets which
in their totality are the reason behind “squandering that
Previously, I had
always had the intention and the resolve to talk about this
important era in the history of our homeland; however my fear for
the hurt that this might cause to the people who participated in its
events, due to their dishonourable stance, has prevented me so far
from doing so. I constantly delayed talking about this era and
waited for the time when the circumstances are right, more
accommodating and accepting for such an action. I consider the
current circumstances may be more suitable to deal with these
important events in our homeland’s recent history.
When I resolved to have
a written record about these important and thorny events I thought
it sensible to suggest to Mr Farag Elfakhri, whose
questioning gave rise to writing about these events, that he puts
together this record in a suitable writing style.
telephoned Mr El-Fakhri and suggested we meet to answer his
line of questioning, and asked if it was possible for him to write
and edit the answers then to send them to me to review for
publication on the Libyan web sites. Mr El-Fakhri’s response
to undertaking this difficult task was agreeable and welcoming. We
agreed to meet in Leeds to start the narration of the information of
this period to him while recording it on cassette tapes. Our
meetings started in October 2005 (Ramadan 1426) in the presence of
my brother Hisham. The narration took six separate meetings.
narrative will be in the first person pronoun in the same fashion it
was received by the editor.
When I decided, in the
early 1980’s, to convert the idea of establishing the Libyan
Constitutional Union, which was ripe in my mind for some time,
into a reality it was imperative that I get in touch with the late
King Idris (may Allah bestow His mercy on his soul) who
embodied the Constitutional legitimacy to rule Libya. He was
usurped of that rule by a group of low ranking officers who staged a
coup d’etat in September 1969.
It was important that
this should be the first step, as the issue of the Constitutional
legitimacy to rule is part of the foundation and one of the
principles upon which the idea of establishing the Libyan
Constitutional Union was based.
So I embarked on
attempting to gain access to King Idris. That was not an easy
task. It was an ordeal with many obstacles that I had to overcome.
The late King had been
living in Cairo as a political refugee since the staging of the
military coup in Libya, in a villa in the suburb of Dokki in Cairo,
which was assigned to him by the Egyptian Office of the President.
He was forbidden by the Egyptian authorities to deal with political
affairs or to receive any person active politically against the
military government in Libya. A team of Egyptian security
personnel, headed by a veteran officer was appointed to serve,
protect and keep a continuous watch over the king.
It was very difficult
to pass through the security cordon imposed on the King’s residence
and to reach him through the normal means. The very close watch over
the King’s person and his movements isolated him from the outside
world except for few relatives or old close friends.
Therefore, there was
no way for me to get in touch with the King except through one of
these few persons who used to visit him and his estimable family.
Contacting the King:
After getting in touch
with many in the circle of my personal connections and looking
carefully and persistently for information from every source, I
honest and dependable person from among the few who had direct
contact with the King. I asked this person to convey a message from
me to the King. I stated in this message my wish to visit His
Majesty to talk to him about my resolve to found The
Libyan Constitutional Union, and to renew -on behalf of my self,
my family and collegues- our pledge of allegiance to His Majesty as
the constitutionally legitimate ruler of
Libya. And to proceed
thereafter -with his permission-
towards urging Libyan
notables from various regions of the country to do the same in
public – by publicising it in the international media.
It is important to
the pledge of allegiance here does not imply that
the Libyan people’s pledge of allegiance
to the King before Independence had withered or that it had lost its
legitimacy, on the contrary, The King’s constitutional legitimacy
was rooted in the unanimous desire of the entire nation for him to
be their King and this constitutional legitimacy could not be
revoked by an illegitimate act.
Renewal of the pledge
of allegiance means the affirmation of the continuity of the old
pledge of allegiance, and proof that it has not lost its holding
force, for the new pledge of allegiance – in its essence- is
considered a symbolic pledge of allegiance re-affirming the old one,
and referring to its genuine legitimacy. Proving that the pledge of
allegiance to the King and calling on him to resume his role as
ruler of the country is a legitimate and constant right that time
has not erased, nor revoked by the usurping of authority by force.
And so this
praiseworthy person continued to convey my successive oral messages
to the late King. This had lasted for many months approaching a
whole year. I was careful in these messages to King Idris to
affirm my hope that he might not deprive his people of his blessing
and the bestowing of his legitimacy on our call upon him to be the
legitimate ruler of the country.
In all my messages to
King Idris, I was appreciatively and considerately aware of
his ascetic way of life, his reluctance to rule or hold power and
his loath to return to office and resume its burdensome duties.
However, there was an overwhelming necessity imposing itself
on this case and making his approval inescapable This necessity
went beyond the personal desires latent in this pious and devout
King, and would not accept from him –or anybody in his station-
compliance with his own personal preferences. This necessity
dictated that the late King consent to providing, the sacred task of
liberating the home land, with his blessings.
If it had not been for
the above mentioned necessity, I would not have dared to
approach the devout and pious king on the subject concerning the
legitimate right to rule the country
There was therefore a
heavy price for King Idris to pay, as he had no interest to
rule at his advanced age and he wished to spend the rest of his life
in worship and meditation.
Therefore, I took care
in my oral messages to King Idris to emphasize that his
consent to give this noble task his blessings was imperative to open
the way to liberate Libya. Thus providing this endeavour with legal
and legitimate support which the world would pay attention to. And
on the other hand this approval would create the leadership and
symbol which the Libyan Opposition was in dire need of.
In my successive
messages, I affirmed to the late King my full consideration to his
weak health and old age. Further, at that time I thought that, and
in keeping with my belief that only Allah knows when one dies, The
Creator might not give him the time to witness the
struggle for the liberation to its end.
However, it was of the utmost importance to obtain his blessings
for the call upon him to be the legitimate ruler of the country, for
he would provide, by giving his consent, blessings and an honourable
seal to the struggle to regain the freedom of the country with its
necessary means and materials. And even if Allah willed that he
would die before the end of this struggle, then the struggle would
definitely continue with the authority derived from his
I made sure that my
oral messages were detailed enough to cover all aspects of this
matter which would neither strain the King nor burden him with too
much responsibility. Further, it would not breach his undertaking to
the Egyptian authorities concerning his non-involvement in politics.
On the spiritual
front, I was adamant that he not leave this world before remedying
the hurt and injury he was feeling as a result of his people’s
failure to defend him when he was affronted by the dregs of
society. I was seeking his forgiveness of the Libyan people in the
hope that through it they would find a way out of their ordeal.
So at this stage it
only remained to meet His Majesty, and this meeting would implicitly
mean his approval of the content of my messages. This was the
beginning of another arduous journey, for as I have explained
before, his meeting was very difficult to arrange. For there were
not only the Egyptian security apparatuses watching the King 24
hours a day but also “Haj Mohammad El-saifat” who, as a result of
his old relationship with the King, gave himself the right to decide
who should visit the King and who should not.
To be continued….
Mohamed Ben Ghalbon
Part two of “The Squandered Opportunities”, posted on “Libya Our
Home” on 23rd September 2005.