Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – The popular uprising in Libya against the Colonel Gaddafi regime, which has been ongoing since 17 February, has brought a number of new faces to prominence, not least official Libyan spokesman and Information Minister Moussa Ibrahim.
Many in Libya were surprised by the emergence of Moussa Ibrahim, who is today serving as the Libyan Minister of Information and the official spokesman of the Libyan government. Moussa Ibrahim, who was not well-known by many Libyans inside or outside of the country prior to the uprising against the Gaddafi regime, has today become a familiar face in the media. In just a short period of time, Ibrahim has found himself in the media spotlight, and his position as the official face of the Gaddafi regime has ensured that he is viewed as one of the most prominent government officials within Libya, becoming a familiar face to millions around the world.
Initially, Moussa Ibrahim – who is a member of the Gaddafi family and tribe – appeared as an Arabic – English translator, standing beside a number of government officials during official press conferences, including former foreign minister Musa Kusa, who defected from the Gaddafi regime, as well as his deputy Khaled Qaim, and the Libyan Armed Forces spokesman.
Moussa Ibrahim was later introduced to media representatives in Tripoli as the official spokesman of the Libyan government, and since then he has appeared on a daily basis to offer the Gaddafi government perspective about what is happening in the country, and answer foreign journalists’ questions. Ibrahim succeeded Libyan journalist Mohamed Amer Bayou in this position, after Bayou resigned following the outbreak of popular unrest in the country in protest of the Gaddafi regime’s use of force against unarmed civilians.
Not much is known about Moussa Ibrahim, perhaps in an attempt to conceal his background as a member of the Gaddafi family, with the surname of “Gaddafi.” Moussa Ibrahim Gaddafi was born in 1974, and he lived in London for 15 years, and has boasted of “know[ing] every street in London.” He is known to be married to a German national and has a young son. Ibrahim did not mix with the large Libyan expatriate community present in London, particularly as the majority of them are opponents of the Gaddafi regime. Moussa Ibrahim studied Politics at the University of Exeter, and he continued his academic career studying towards a PhD in Media Arts at Royal Holloway, University of London, completing his final exam in May 2010. Some people have claimed that Ibrahim possess British or German nationality, however whatever the truth, nobody can doubt his loyalty to the Gaddafi regime, on a personal and tribal level.
Some people view Moussa Ibrahim Gaddafi as being “the new [Saeed] al-Sahaf of Libya” in a reference to Saddam Hussein’s Minister of Information during the US invasion of Iraq. Al-Sahaf was known for making outlandish claims during press conferences during the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, famously claiming that Iraqi forces were routing the US forces and were on the verge of victory. However Ibrahim is no mere figure of fun, as al-Sahaf later became, as seen by his icy statements which aimed to discredit Iman al-Obeidi, the Libyan woman who claimed she was raped by pro-Gaddafi soldiers. In fact, Ibrahim has offered a range of defamatory accusations against al-Obeidi’s character, variously claiming that she was drunk, mentally ill, a criminal, and even a prostitute.
Ibrahim continues to desperately defend the Gaddafi regime that is showing signs of collapse, and which many senior officials have defected from. In light the absence of a large number of members of the Libyan government, which is led by Libyan Prime Minister al-Baghdadi Mahmudi, Moussa Ibrahim Gaddafi has become the focus of attention; with journalists and media representatives chasing him for comments in response to the ongoing events in the country.
Those close to Moussa Ibrahim have described him as a serious and even intense figure. Others have noted that Ibrahim does not wear a tie, like most other Libyan government figures, perhaps following the example of Iranian government figures.
It is known that Moussa Ibrahim was previously questioned by Jordanian intelligence for a number of hours, during a university trip to Amman in 2000, after he was accused of filming the heavily-fortified US embassy from the university mini-bus. There have also been reports that during the same university trip to Jordan, he was almost arrested after throwing an ice cream at a street vendor at the archeological site Petra.
Although Ibrahim Moussa is continually shown to be smiling whilst trying to fend off the difficult questions of foreign journalists in Tripoli, Ibrahim appeared angry when responding to Asharq Al-Awsat’s repeated requests for an exclusive interview. This appears to be a character trait of the intense Libyan spokesman, who one former University Lecture described as being “a nice guy but with a short fuse.”
Nobody is quite sure of Moussa Ibrahim’s fate should the Gaddafi regime fall, but certainly he will remain an interesting and potentially divisive figure, from his quick rise to prominence, to his potentially even quicker fall.