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Center for Justice and Peacebuilding alumna named first female foreign minister of Libya

Najla El Mangoush
Najla El Mangoush. Photo by Howard Zehr .

Lawyer and human rights activist Najla El Mangoush has been named foreign minister of Libya. She is a 2015 graduate of Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding.

“The CJP community is proud that Najla’s gifts and talents have been recognized. We are happy to support her in any way possible as she takes on this challenging role in rebuilding the country she loves,” said Jayne Docherty, current executive director of CJP.

The appointment was announced March 10, 2021, as Libya’s parliament endorsed a new unified government. She joins four other women in the cabinet, including the justice minister. The inclusion was widely welcomed by Libyan women who have rarely been represented in seats of power, according to a Reuters report.

“Najla is moving into an extremely challenging role at a crucial time,” says former CJP executive director Daryl Byler, who met her when she arrived at EMU as a Fulbright Scholar in 2013. “ But she is well-equipped and up to the challenge. Her legal and restorative justice training, her deep understanding of Libya’s civil society, her ability to move easily and empathetically from one culture to another, and her demonstrated resilience will serve her well as Libya’s foreign minister.”

At EMU, she studied the intersection of restorative justice with the traditional Solha process. Her advisor was Howard Zehr, in one of his final advising roles before retirement. Najla also became a certified trainer with the Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) program.

In recent years, her connection to CJP has remained strong. Among other intersections, she contributed to a multi-phase United Nations Development Programme-funded project focusing on youth and academics in Iraq and participated among other global experts in a restorative justice consultation. She’s also been a special guest in 2016 with the Zehr Institute of Restorative Justice, presenting a webinar on a hybrid approach of integrating justice practices with restorative justice in Libya (read more in a special report published while working at USIP).

She is a PhD candidate in conflict analysis and resolution at George Mason University. She has served as the program officer for peacebuilding and traditional law at the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution in Arlington, Virginia, and was a country representative in Libya for the United States Institute of Peace.

This is not her first role in Libyan government: El Mangoush led the public engagement unit in the transitional council that briefly governed the country after its 2011 uprising.

Yet the country has been unable to form a stable unified government since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with divisions between the east and west of the country leading to fighting and institutionalised division, according to The Guardian. Countries that have backed different sides in the civil war welcomed the new government, and the two previous rival governments agreed to dissolve.

The Guardian predicts El Mangoush’s largest challenge to “navigate around the array of external actors including Turkey, Russia and the United Arab Emirates, many of which are in search of lucrative oil and reconstruction contracts.”

Read coverage in the Libya Herald.

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