I walked down the hallway and saw their faces and for the first time I felt like it wasn’t the time to approach them demanding answers. I continued my straight in the same direction and walked the red carpet into the hall. I was immediately overwhelmed. There they were; the newly elected GNC and on the left its predecessor.
Members of the executive board, the National Transitional Council and of course the General National Congress began to fill the hall. Walking around the back of the round hall I made a semi-circle but my head was fixed in their direction.
The seating arrangement was perfect for my trace of thought as I had a split-screen in my mind comparing our old legislative body to the new. On the right people who took the initiative to lead Libya at a time where everything was unknown. It was a relief to finally see their faces; reassuring to know that behind the notorious NTC acronym there were real people. It was even more amazing to see how happy they were at the hand-over of power, contradicting the power-hungry impression we sometimes scare ourselves by.
On the other side I could see campaign banners come to life in real figures. I could recognize many of their faces and I gave them the widest grin for they were the results of our choices, the Libyan people’s choices, made reality.
The ceremony began with the recitation of the Holy Quran, followed by the Libyan National Anthem. At that moment when the scouts started playing the all-so-familiar tune it was suddenly all the party colors, all the slogans were washed out by one slogan. You could see Libya spelled out in each of everyone’s eyes and nothing but the colours red, black and green shown through. It made all the arguments during the elections campaign of who was a liberal, an Islamist or a nationalist completely irrelevant. That set the tone for the night, it was a night for all Libyans to get on the same page again and to celebrate their success.
Mustafa Abdul Jalil, head of the NTC, then got on the stage and began his speech. After which it was time for a historic moment, Libya’a first peaceful authority hand-over and I could not but help think back to one year ago. Back then the streets were full of tanks, anti-aircrafts launchers, Tripoli was being liberated, Gaddafi was on the run and yet here we were one year later peacefully handing over power.
Our two-hundred elected members stood up, and were sworn in all at once pledging alliance to Libya. Seeing them all repeat the oath at the same time gave me hope that despite all the different ideologies these men and women carry it is possible for them to work together. I hope that it also reminded them that ultimately we are all working towards the same goal and that is towards a prosperous Libyan nation.
I was face to face with the head of the NTC when he announced that power has officially been handed over and he gave a final wave to the Libya people. Involuntarily I waved back at who I believe is and will always be a heroic man. The non-Libyan cameramen next to me gave me astounded looks, and I just thought to myself they would never understand how far we’ve come. That night I wasn’t just a journalist, I was also part of the story.
The ceremony was soon over and it was overwhelmingly beautiful to see these people who the world has been watching for almost a year and a half celebrate. Political boundaries were put aside as members of different political factions were ecstatic hugging and congratulating one another. I kept telling myself, “tonight we are all Libyans” and the notion kept taking me back to the revolutionary days where we all stood indiscriminately side-by-side.
One thing that I will never forget is going up to NTC members and asking them how they felt. With the biggest smile on their faces they would say, “alhamdulilah it’s over” relieved of the burden they’ve had to carry. These men and women succeeded in handing over Libya united and whole to the GNC, a challenge deemed impossible by a countless number of analysts, politicians and media outlets.
There was nothing more to do but take out my flag and reassuringly wrap it around myself. I was proud of these men and women, I was proud of my people. Our journey to freedom is still ongoing and we have much to do before we achieve our dreams and aspirations. I’m not worried though; for dreams do come true, Libya is living proof of that.