By Sami Zaptia.
London, 4 October 2017:
Condemnation has been growing of the comments made by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Libya. Speaking at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester yesterday, Johnson said that the Libyan city of Sirte could become the next Dubai – as soon as they ‘‘clear the dead bodies away’’.
Johnson said that ‘‘There is a group of UK businesspeople actually, I don’t know whether you’ve come across this, wonderful guys who, they literally have got a brilliant vision to turn Sirte into the next – with the help of the Municipality of Sirte – to turn it into the next Dubai. The only thing they have to do is clear the dead bodies away.’’
It is not clear whether Johnson was referring to dead bodies in general, those of Libyans who had sacrificed their lives fighting IS in Sirte or specifically the hundreds of IS bodies buried under rubble in that city.
Either way, whether he was referring to the bodies of the dead IS terrorists under rubble, much of which was brought down by US bombing strikes by AFRICOM forces, or not – his comments have been seen to be insensitive and flippant towards dead human bodies.
It will be recalled that at a press conference in Tripoli last week (28 September) the head of Investigations at the Libyan Attorney General’s Office (AG), Sadek Assour, confirmed that besides the 780 IS dead bodies being held by authorities in mortuary refrigerators, there were hundreds of IS bodies still buried under the rubble in Sirte.
Speaking to Libya Herald by phone from Benghazi this morning, angry House of Representative (HoR) member Salah Suhbi said ‘‘It is cruel and unacceptable that the head of British diplomacy speaks and behaves in such a manner.’’
‘‘Is this a reflection of the British government’s current views on Libya? Because this is not the UK that I know’’, added Suhbi who would be considered a friend of the UK having held a high position previously at the British Council in Tripoli.
‘‘Keeping Boris Johnson or sacking him will be the difference between seeking ties and investments in Libya that are built through mutually beneficial partnerships and respectful friendship with Libyans – or built on “their dead bodies” if Boris gets his way!’’
Referring to the comments by the Foreign Secretary, Suhbi concluded ‘‘This is unheard of!’’
Meanwhile, Johnson has also been receiving condemnation in the UK too. Conservative Members of Parliament (MPs) have been lining up to condemn Johnson. Conservative MP for Cambridgeshire, Heidi Allen said ‘‘100% unacceptable for anyone, let alone foreign sec. Boris must be sacked for this. He does not represent my (conservative) party.’’
Conservative MP for Broxtowe Anna Soubry said ‘‘as I said yesterday Boris Johnson is embarrassing & PM should sack him’’, and conservative MP for Totnes Sarah Wollaston said ‘‘Demeaning jokes about real people murdered in Libya would be crass even from a stand up (comic); appalled to hear this from our Foreign Secretary’’
There have been ongoing calls for the resignation of Johnson at the Conservative Party Conference today.