March 2

The King of Libya

From London, Pierre Prier described Libyan Crown Prince Muhammad al-Sanusi watching a TV report of   Libyan insurgents brandishing the flag of the United Kingdom of Libya, red, black green and with a star and crescent, rather than the all green Gadaffi republican flag.

He was reporting for the leading Parisian newspaper, Le Figaro on 28 February, 2011.

At 51, Crown Prince Muhammad al-Sanusi is heir apparent to the throne of Libya. His great-uncle King Idris I was overthrown by Colonel Gaddafi  forty-two years ago.

This great popular revolution will ultimately be victorious, thanks to the unity of the Libyan people," he told Le Figaro.


Does Muhammad al-Sanusi  dream of a restoration?

Speaking to Le Figaro in Paris in December 2007, he had left the door ajar, " If the Libyans were to  choose the monarchy, I would be available . If they make another choice, I will respect it. "

Muhammad al-Sanusi was installed in a Paris hotel, 300 meters from Gaddafi's flamboyant tent, which he brought with him on an official visit to Paris.


…vengeful republicans….

The heir to the throne was then a soft-spoken man, with a short beard and wearing a dark well cut suit. Pierre Prier syas that at that time, he  trying to make his  voice heard, without much success.

 He said he had been threatened on the Champs-Elysees.  He remembers seeing his father, Hassan Reda, Libyan television signing the death certificate of the monarchy while King Idris I was abroad.

"My father told me afterwards that they  had put a gun to his head," he recounted.  

After two years in prison, Hassan Reda and his family lived under house arrest in Tripoli until one night in 1984. On that night militants of the revolutionary committees ordered them out and burned their house down.


In exile in London, Mohammed al-Sanusi sees himself as a possible rallying point, "an umbrella for all the opposition groups."

He is prepared to talk to everyone – except the armed Islamists.

…the future?

In this 24 February interview with Al Jazeera's Barnaby Phillips, the Crown Prince asks the international community to help remove Gaddafi from power and stop the ongoing "massacre".


[Continued below ]

What is the monarchy’s impact today in Libya?   

In his comment in Le Figaro, Mr. Prier says that the resurgence of the flag does not indicate support for a restoration, but simply the desire of the people to replace Gaddafi’s completely green flag.

Mr. Prier thinks that the absence of political life for forty-two years makes it difficult to measure the popularity of the monarchy.

The prestige of the Sanusi is nevertheless still alive, especially in the liberated regions of the East, because the royal family was also the head of a religious brotherhood of warriors, the Senousists.

Present in several countries in the region, they fought against the colonial powers, including the French in Chad.

The Senousists call for a return to the fundamental principles of Islam. But  unlike the Saudi sponsored Wahhabism, it does not go to  extremes.

“There is a nostalgia in those regions for the brotherhood ( the Senousists) which has been transmitted from generation to generation,” says French researcher Olivier Bend, who has lived in Libya.

Mr. Prier says that we will  probably have to wait for the liberation of all of  Libya to see whether that nostalgia has a future and will lead to a restoration.


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