AU stands on slippery path on recognition of Libya’s TNC

29 Aug

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin

The UN wants to be everything to its influential members and main financiers on Libya. To others, it shows smiles that do not seem to help it now. Of late, the fact that regional organizations are increasingly becoming afterthoughts is a problem in its own right, as we see it at this very moment. I think Ivory Coast a few months ago and Libya now demonstrate that the cooperation agreement between the UN and the African Union (AU) has totally collapsed and is in serious need of repairs.

As far as the United National Charter is concerned, it gives clear and distinct roles to regional organizations in cooperation especially with the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Economic and Social Council and the office of the Secretary General. Chapters VI, the pacific settlement of disputes, Chapter VII on actions needed with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression, Chapter VIII, regarding regional arrangements and Chapter IX on international economic and social cooperation have been enriched over the years through practical experiences and, thus, need not be lost in a region that carries the most preoccupations of the Charter.

In the case of Libya, one thing the UN forgot is to do its homework successfully to win over recalcitrant African leaders that now have put too much emphasis on principles in matters that costs them little. Before the bombing of Gadhafi’s forces by NATO, the support of the Arab League was solicited and the AU ignored, although the AU is the regional organization to which Libya belongs. Undoubtedly, this has offended some African countries more than others. As an African, I am extremely disheartened and since last December I have also been writing on consequences of the failed relations between the UN and the AU, starting with the situation in Ivory Coast.

The AU and the Libyan situation

On Libya, certainly the UN Secretary General is seriously concerned about the situation getting out of hand. That is because he is aware that once the end of Gadhafi is certified, the whole Libyan mess would eventually drop on his laps. Therefore, while the UN in a way sees reduced problems with the Libyan rebels entry into Tripoli, under the leadership of the TNC, it is equally nervous aware that most of Libya’s problems lie in the several months to come. In that regard, since the AU is the regional arm for the implementation of the Charter, the UN would need to find better ways to improve its relations with the AU to facilitate better understanding and outcome.

Even as recently as last week, it was unfortunate that the UN Secretariat and former South African President Thabo Mbeki, AU’s envoy and peace broker for Ivory Coast, were sparring in public, with neither side wining converts to itself. For all I know, both the AU and the UN have failed the people of Ivory Coast, even at such moments when mothers were being cruelly massacred by Gbagbo forces in cold blood in the streets of Abidjan. The Secretary-General failed to exercise the powers vested in his office under Chapter VII of the Charter the Security Council approved for Ivory Coast in good time.

We have seen it time and again, a divided AU could not muster a united regional position, the best example of which is Ivory Coast. Some stood with Gbagbo others with Ouattara, and still others took a position at the AU merely to advance their election concerns, despite the issue being Abidjan a stolen election, a thing that makes many government leaders in Africa uncomfortable.

The AU feels shortchanged on Libya

On Libya, the AU has been resentful of not being involved in the negotiations led by Western countries. The UN, therefore, is seen as trying to impose Western position on it. This view is shared between a few vocal countries that seek some role for their leaders, or some acknowledgement of their importance by the West. Thus, the AU’s continued opposition to NATO bombing, even as Gadhafi was mowing down his people, has its roots there. The AU is still stuck in that position, notwithstanding the fast evolving situation.

The problem with the UN is that it has made up its mind not to listen to the AU; nor has it succeeded in convincing it of the irrelevance of its fixation on ceasefire and peace talks by all parties a this time. Rightly or wrongly, however, this is interpreted as the AU being enamored with Gadhafi, which is not the case entirely. Usually such support is not principled and, thus, it does not go beyond the life of power or wealth, i.e., only to the extent that the concerned power remains affluent. The question to the AU now is, with whom do they want the TNC to negotiate, when they say ALL PARTIES? Is it Gadhafi in mind or his notoriously bloodthirsty and corrupt sons? If that is not the case, the AU ought to mention specific groups or individuals with whom the TNC should sit down to bring peace to that country. So far it has none in mind!

The UN and the AU Peace and Security Summit

The task of persuading the AU to change its stand has fallen on UN Deputy Secretary General Asha Rose Migiro. She was in attendance in Addis Abeba of the 26 August 15-member AU Peace and Security summit, chaired by President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. She implored the summit to recognize Libya’s new political reality and give their support to the TNC. In that respect, she said to the members, 
”We must help the country’s new leaders to establish an effective, legitimate government – a government that represents and speaks for all the country’s diverse people; a government that can deliver on its people’s hopes.”

Unfortunately, the UN that wanted to exploit her gravitas as an African and deputy secretary-general had miscalculated the depths of divisions within the AU member states on every conceivable issue. This untenable situation has suited some supporters of Mr. Gadhafi in some national governments, thereby depriving the Union of a common position, as in everything else within the Union. The AU Security Council, like the Un Security Council operates on the basis of consensus, a mechanism that is being abused with a great deal of irresponsibility.

Consequently, Ms. Migro’s appeal fell on deaf ears and instead the summit only called for ceasefire and chose to “encourage the Libyan stakeholders to accelerate the process leading to formation of an all-inclusive transitional government.”

There is no doubt that, where all sides in the Libyan conflict are involved, peace and security in that country stands a better chance of realization. As an African, I too want peace to fall on Libya, wherein all sides can come together to build the new order they want to live under in peace and dignity. But those AU words that seem to sound caring for Libya and its future are bogus. Its decision lacks a sense of time and appreciation of the changed realities on the ground in Libya. This has raised legitimate questions within and without Africa, whether those gathered in the summit have not used the opportunity, once again, to pay their debts to the Libyan leader, at a cost to the Libyan people.

Especially this time, as the chairman and as a democratic country, South Africa’s Jacob Zuma ought to give the much-needed leadership by upholding the principle of support for freedom, instead of beefing up the camp of those that no matter are either willing to declare their allegiance to the former Libyan dictator, a certified psychopath, or do their calculations how they could benefit from this situation. It is unfortunate that the South African president said, “The African Union would not recognize the NTC as the legitimate government as long as the fighting continues.” I am afraid this remark would haunt Mr. Zuma throughout his political life.

Gadhafi has helped the ANC, when it was struggling against the apartheid system. That is a brave action on the part of the Libyan people, and to be appreciated in the former Libyan leader too. It is time to make sure that the debt to Libya is now paid with principle in sight and to the people of Libya that fight to free themselves from Gadhafi’s 42-year dictatorship.

Today, the statement by the AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping was all over the media uses the indiscriminate killing of black people in Tripoli by the rebel forces as one of the reasons why the AU refused to recognize the TNC, according to CBS/AP. This is not only a lie. But also is an attempt to justify the erroneous stand of the AU. As far as those crimes are concerned, mercenary or not, it is a crime against humanity to persecute helpless people migrant workers and shoot them on sight like wild animals.

On Friday 26 August, I was extremely infuriated with the BBC playing chorus for those preparations for the killing having watched the reporting by Wyre Davies from Tripoli. In the rush for the news, within a few minutes he had made up his mind about those people showing the images of black Africans, whom he sentenced as ‘African mercenaries.’ The BBC is guilty as those assassins said to have committed such a horrendous crime in the 21st century. He [they] did so, without even establishing who they are and investigating their circumstances. That same day, I protested to the BBC in an email about the racism it was fanning, inviting murders and maims of Africans in Libya.

It is unfortunate for Mr Ping should go that route now to justify his organization’s unacceptable stand and inability to lead by example. If Mr. Ping were right, the AU could have stood long ago as a matter of principle in support of the voice of African peoples across the region during elections, instead of siding all these years with those that steal elections and certified murders.

What this shows is the growing irrelevance of the AU. Is it not a fact that, when all this happens already more than twenty African countries have recognized the TNC on a bilateral basis. What does it say about the AU, as an organization?

In a surprising turn around, the VOA quotes Mr. Ping this afternoon saying to the TNC:

    “The seat is waiting for you in the African Union, the seat is waiting for you, for the new Transitional Authorities. What we are asking from them is a few things, assurances, that this will be inclusive,” said Ping. “Inclusive has never meant for us bringing Gadhafi there. We are saying inclusive and consensual, which means it should reflect the whole Libya.”

Nothing about the AU should surprises me anymore!

Africa’s troubles hatched in Tripoli

Many in Africa would be wiser also in remembering how dearly many African countries have paid dearly for the Libyan leader’s sick ideas and flighty mind over the years. He utilized Libya’s rich resources to buy loyalists and slavishness of many within African governments by arming and bankrolling causeless Africans to destroy those that choose to stand against his bizarre ideas.

Ethiopia is one country that has suffered immensely in the hands of Gaddafi, through his support for Eritrean secessionists. Also because of Christianity as its dominant religion, in the 1980s Gadhafi wanted to change its religious composition. For that with the Sudan, Syria, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia, they established an unholy alliance that paid ETB 300 and built mosques for people in Western Ethiopia along the Sudanese border if they converted to Islam.

When that did not work for him, for several decades he tried every means to move the OAU and its successor, the AU from Addis Abeba. Apparently that became one last straw that diminished him in the eyes of Black Africa. Moreover, he had the dream of the United States of Africa only to make himself its president. Under Gadhafi, Africa would have returned Africa to the era of region-wide civil war and reenactment of the era of the trade.

I am so pleased that Ethiopia is one of the twenty countries that have recognized the TNC. As a host country to the AU, its stance on Libya must be embarrassing for it; it could also cause it a lot of problems in respect of treating former diplomats of the regime it does not recognize and witnessing the door shuttered on representatives of the new Libya. That must be one reason why in its statement of recognition of the TNC, the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry urged the “AU and its members to be consistent by extending to the NTC the type of support and recognition that was extended to Tunisia and Egypt.”

All said and done, the decision by the AU Peace and Security Summit only reflects either total lack of realism or disregard of responsibility. It is always acknowledged that the quality of international and regional organizations is a reflection of its membership. In the last several years, this has been seen consistently in the failure of the AU on the question of peace and security, respect for human rights and democracy. Not surprisingly, in a region where election rigging is commonplace, there is no single moment in the history of the AU since it started monitoring elections when it stood for genuinely free elections; it never dissociated itself from those that stole elections. This makes it clear that the voice of the people is only a nuisance for the AU. The question of TNC’s recognition cannot be seen any differently from that history.

At the same time, there is no doubt that we have to wait and see who the members of the TNC are and what they stand for. The hope is that they would be better of Gadhafi, since they know that what he stood for has not worked for him or for Libya. Only time would tell, if they would ever become a force for good, or choose like Gadhafi to experiment with strange ideas of their own.

Edited version

%d bloggers like this: