Power people

Libya: Who are the five influential women ministers in the new government?

By Arianna Poletti

Posted on March 17, 2021 12:50

For the first time in Libya’s recent history, five women will hold important ministries in the new government led by Abdelhamid al-Dabaiba, including the key foreign affairs and justice posts.

A UN-sponsored transitional government backed by parliament has emerged in Libya after several years of failed attempts. Composed of 33 ministers and two deputy prime ministers, led by Misrati businessman Abdulhamid al-Dabaiba, it will succeed the Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Sarraj and is expected to lead the country to elections in late December.

Among the ministers chosen – 10 names have changed from the initial list proposed to the house of representatives following discussions in parliament – five women will be part of the government, with three of them holding key posts.

They are:

  • Najla Mangouch (Ministry of Foreign Affairs);
  • Halima Ibrahim Abderrahmane (Ministry of Justice);
  • Wafaa Abou Bakr Muhammad Al-Kilani (Ministry of Social Affairs);
  • Mabrouka Tuffi Othman Aoki (Ministry of Culture);
  • Houria Khalifa Miloud al-Turman (Minister of Women’s Affairs).

15% of Libyan ministers are women

At a session of the Libyan Political Dialogue in Geneva, Dabaiba promised a 30% quota for women in the government. In the end, they represent only 15% of the ministers, a record in the country’s recent history.

The new Prime Minister justified this shortfall by explaining that there were not enough female candidates for ministerial positions to meet his initial commitment. In his speech in the house of representatives, however, Dabaiba reaffirmed his support for women in politics.

For the first time since Libya’s independence in 1951, a woman will hold the post of foreign minister. Najla Mangouch will have the difficult task of guiding the foreign policy decisions of a country torn between the interests of international powers interested in Libya’s fate, including Turkey, Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

New face of Libyan diplomacy

A law graduate from Benghazi University, although originally from Tripolitania, Mangouch is a professor of criminal law. This peacekeeper also trained in the United States, where she attended the Centre for Justice and Peacebuilding at Virginia’s private Eastern Mennonite University before continuing her studies with a PhD in conflict resolution at George Mason University in Virginia. During the 2011 revolution, she was a member of the National Transitional Council (NTC), responsible for coordinating Libyan cities opposed to Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

According to the daily newspaper Al-Arabiya, Mangouch is a resident in Benghazi but has been living in Harrisonburg, Virginia, since 2012 and has worked in the field of executive training in several countries in the Arab world. Mangouch has also represented Libya at the United States Institute of Peace, an independent institute founded by the US Congress to resolve international conflicts.

Mangouch becomes one of the first women in the Arab world to hold this prestigious post, the fourth after two Mauritanians (Naha Bint Mouknass in 2009 and Vatma Vall Mint Soueina in 2015) and a Sudanese (Asma Mohamed Abdullah). Her name was a last-minute replacement for Lamia Bousadra, former undersecretary at the ministry of information under the government of Ali Zeidan (2012-2014), who appeared in the first version of the list of new Libyan ministers released on 6 March before the vote of confidence in parliament.

The post of justice minister goes to Halima Ibrahim Abderrahmane, a native of the town of Gharyan, about 100km from Tripoli. A law graduate, she has worked in the judiciary and in Libyan courts.

As for social affairs minister Wafaa Abou Bakr Muhammad Al-Kilani and women’s affairs minister Houria Khalifa Miloud al-Turman, they remain largely unknown.

This is not the case for the new culture minister, Mabrouka Tuffi Othman Aoki, who is from southern Libya. From the Toubou community, she has a degree in economics and is very active in civil society.

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