The man leading post-Gadhafi Libya — a country transitioning from a war-torn state — isn’t a politician. And he’s spent most of his life in the United States.
Abdurrahim El-Keib is serving as the interim prime minister of Libya. He has no former political science background, but he did receive his Ph.D. in electrical engineering 25 miles down the road at N.C. State University.
El-Keib, who received his doctorate in 1984, was chosen last week by the Transitional National Council — the temporary governing body of Libya — to serve as interim prime minister of the country.
According to McClatchy news reports, the NCSU alumnus garnered 26 out of 51 votes.
El-Keib’s American education is welcome to Libyans, said Andrew Reynolds, chairman of global studies at UNC-CH.
“My impression right now is that they are very excited for exiles coming back from overseas.”
Ali Tarhouni, another U.S.-educated Libyan, is the minister of finance and oil as well as deputy prime minister. Tarhouni was a professor at the University of Washington-Seattle for about 30 years, Reynolds said.
Any Libyan who had the opportunity for an education overseas left the country during the Gadhafi era, he said.
The Libyan rebels are grateful for U.S. and NATO support, and the fact that El-Keib is U.S.-educated should help legitimize his power, Reynolds said.
Reynolds advised the Libyan National Transitional Council to create its interim government and constitution.
John Grainger, El-Keib’s former thesis adviser, wrote in an email that as a student, El-Keib was poised, soft-spoken and a devout Muslim.
Grainger, a professor emeritus at NCSU, said El-Keib did not return to Libya for years after coming to the U.S. for his master’s and doctorate degrees. El-Keib would visit his family in Morocco in the 1980s rather than re-enter a Libya ruled by Gadhafi.
The electrical and computer engineering department at NCSU is excited about El-Keib’s new position, said Daniel Stancil, head of the department.
“The people who know El-Keib think very highly of him,” he said.
El-Keib’s has a history in electrical engineering education, teaching at several universities including the University of Tripoli, the University of Alabama and NCSU.
El-Keib has also served as chairman of the Department of Electrical Engineering at the Petroleum Institute in the United Arab Emirates, according to its website.
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