TRIPOLI—Libya’s leaders on Monday elected a U.S.-educated engineering professor Abdurraheem el-Keib to serve as prime minister during the critical postwar period, in which the country will try to create an army out of hundreds of ragtag militias and launch its first democratic elections.
It is hardly democracy if he has been selected by a few dozen people who, let us remind ourselves, no one voted for in the first place.
The NTC voted in a live ballot; cameras and reporters were present, looking on as each member casted their vote, which was then accompanied by a round of applause. But this is all smokescreens and mirrors. While the NTC are presenting a romantic, rose-tinted image of Libya, saying all the right things to the West, the reality is far from perfect. Rebel fighters, still armed, are making their way around cities and forming their own militias.
Abdurraheem el-Keib, a dual U.S.-Libyan citizen, was chosen by members of the Transitional National Council who deposited ballots into a transparent box. The televised session was a stark sign of the change from the 42-year dictatorship of Moammar Gaddafi.
For 20 years, Abdurrahim el-Keib taught electrical engineering at the University of Alabama, El-Keib, now a resident of Tripoli, earned his PhD at North Carolina State University in 1984.
El-Keib lived in the United States for more than 30 years during Gadhafi’s reign, Beg said, and the two men had little contact since el-Keib left the university in 2005. He later worked as a professor and chairman of the electrical engineering department at The Petroleum Institute, according to the resume posted by the school.
Tim Haskew, who worked with el-Keib at the University of Alabama and is now interim head of its electrical engineering department, said el-Keib was “well-received” by students there.
el-Keib is a man of mystery in Libya, an unknown. a spokesperson for the National Transitional Council (NTC) told Reuters she did not immediately have any details on his background after he won the vote and joked that in Libya even a prime minister who nobody knows could be elected. He has not lived in Libya for several decades and as a result may be heavily reliant on others for ideas and governance.
While el-Keib was at North Carolina State University, his adviser John Grainger recalled him as a devout Muslim who dedicated his doctoral thesis to Allah. El-Keib talked little about the politics of his homeland and never visited Libya during his time in Raleigh, Grainger told The Associated Press by telephone.
“He was afraid to go back to Libya,” Grainger said. “He would go to Morocco and his family would meet him for visits. We never got into any big discussion about why he was afraid. All he said was the environment wasn’t good for him there.”
Grainger recalled visiting el-Keib’s home during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when el-Keib and his wife would serve food to guests but not eat until it was time to break the daily fast.
“He does carry himself very well,” Grainger added. “He was quite a debonair fellow in the sense of being refined.”
When Grainger heard that his former student had been named prime minister of the new government, it gave him hope that the post-Ghadafi forces in the country were serious about finding capable leaders. Still, he knows el-Keib has a formidable challenge ahead.
“He’s a quiet fellow but he really did have a great sense of humor,” Grainger said. “And that’s what he’s going to need from now on.”
Gaddafi may be dead, and a ‘free Libya’ has been declared, but the same fears are ever present. The NTC do not have control of the country, nor are they representative of the people.