AU defies expectations by not recognizing Libya’s rebels
By Omer Redi,
in Capital, Tuesday, 06 September 2011, Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
On Friday the African Union once again stood against, western positions by not recognizing the rebel movement in Libya – the National Transitional Council (NTC).
Despite wide-spread anticipation in the opposite direction, the defiant position came after a meeting in Addis Ababa of AU’s supreme organ, the Peace and Security Council (PSC), attended by three heads of state, senior UN and AU officials as well as diplomats from the 15 PSC nations.
The AU instead called for an immediate and complete cessation of hostilities and formation of a transitional government.
“Council encourages all Libyans to form an all inclusive transitional government that would be welcome to occupy Libya’s seat at the AU,” the communiqué read by PSC Commissioner, Rmtane Lamamra, stated. Some African countries including regional heavy weights Ethiopia and Nigeria have earlier unilaterally recognized the NTC as legitimate authorities in Libya.
“Countries who have recognized the NTC have done it based on their sovereign policy and interest,” South African President, Jacob Zuma, who chaired the meeting told reporters. “The AU is certainly united on its position,” Zuma added.
Over 35 countries including world powers US, UK and France have recognized the NTC since Libya descended into a devastating and mostly urban civil war for over six months in the aftermath of a rebellion against Moammar Gaddafi’s over four-decade rule. With Gaddafi still at large and his die-hard loyalists reportedly fighting rebels in Tripoli and other parts of the country, the conflict is expected to continue, even more fiercely in Gaddafi’s birth place of Sirte, causing fear of a protracted civil war.
NATO has been bombing Sirte throughout Friday but the AU hopes the war in Libya is about to end.
“Except for some small resistance here and there, this military phase of the Libyan crisis is now about to end,” AU Commission Chairperson, Jean Ping, said. He also admitted AU’s solution for the crisis that had been welcomed by Gaddafi but frequently rejected by the NTC and ignored by the west, has failed.
“It [the AU] has seized every possible opportunity to implement the roadmap to bring peace to Libya ... [but] for multiple reasons ... our efforts, unfortunately, didn’t yield the expected results.”
According him, however, there is a proliferation of arms in Libya posing a risk of “criminal and terrorist groups in such situations carrying on their activities of destabilizing in the Sahelo-Sahara and the North African region.”
Nevertheless, the AU still wants Libyan parties to negotiate. “Council encourages all Libyan parties to come to negotiations to find peaceful solutions,” the communiqué stated.
Despite alleged, immense pressure from western powers to recognize the NTC, the AU has come up with the decision after a deep division among its members who were reluctant to recognize NTC – spearheaded by South Africa – and another group pushing otherwise.
Delivering a message on Ban Ki-moon’s behalf, his deputy, Rose Migiro, had also pushed for a common position between the world and continental bodies in her speech ahead of the intense debate.
“When the UN and AU work together, we succeed,” Migiro had told the African leaders. “Together we must encourage the new leadership [in Libya].” Stating the war in Libya has been protracted, Zuma, nevertheless, stressed for a swift transition. “The conflict in Libya has taken a long time and there is a feeling from ourselves that we need to bring this to an end.”
Zuma and Museveni were said to have argued for a post-Gaddafi era inclusive of Gaddafi officials in the new government. “We are certainly concerned about the development; we believe there must be a swift movement to resolve the situation in Libya,” Zuma had said when the meeting opened.