El-Keib struggling with rival militias as he seeks to rebuild Libya

January 3, 2012
By Bill Krueger
Photographer: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images

Photographer: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images

Establishing a stable government in Libya has not been an easy undertaking for Abdurrahim El-Keib ’84 PhD.

El-Keib, who studied electrical engineering as a doctoral student at NC State, was chosen last fall to be Libya’s interim prime minister following the death of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in October. El-Keib was a surprising choice, given that he had spent several years as a professor at the University of Alabama and not been home to Libya for years because of his fear of the violence there.

One of the chief challenges facing El-Keib so far are the dozens of militias that control various regions of the country in northern Africa. CNN reported today that militias clashed recently over control of a government building in Tripoli. In November, militias fought at a Tripoli hospital.

“Since the liberation of Tripoli the government has engaged in a multi-phased process to encourage militias to either leave the city or integrate into official military or law enforcement bodies,” El-Keib said in a statement in December when government officials met to discuss infighting among rival militias. Other media outletshave reported that El-Keib is trying to recruit former rebels to join the nation’s army and police.

In December, Libya celebrated the 60th anniversary of the country’s independence from Italy and France. It was the first time the country had celebrated the occasion in more than four decades — Qaddafi had scrapped the celebration under his rule.

“Today we begin the building of Libya as our forefathers have done,” El-Keib said during the celebration, according to an account by The Associated Press. “We call on our sons to build Libya after its destruction.”

The Associated Press reported that thousands of people flocked to Tripoli ” in hopes of breaking bread on an 7-mile-long (11-kilometer-long) set of tables planned along Tripoli’s coast as part of the ceremony.” The dinner was canceled, though, due to security concerns.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited Libya earlier in December. Panetta applauded the country’s efforts to overthrow Qaddafi, but warned that a lot of work remained to be done, according to CNN.

“This will be a long and difficult transition, but I have confidence that you will succeed in realizing the dream of a representative government and a more secure and prosperous future” Panetta said.

Read more about El-Keib and his time at NC State in the upcoming issue of NC State magazine.

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