Recent events in Libya should raise alarm bells about the threat to Africa’s hard won right to self-determination, former president Thabo Mbeki says. Addressing the Law Society of the Northern Provinces in Sun City, Mbeki said it “seemed obvious” that a few powerful countries were seeking to use the council to pursue their selfish interests.
They were determined to behave according to the principle that “might is right” and to sideline the principle of self-determination, the South African Press Association reported him as saying. “I must state categorically that those who have sought to manufacture a particular outcome out of the conflict in Libya have propagated a poisonous canard aimed at discrediting African and AU opposition to the Libyan debacle.”
He said this was done on the basis that the African Union and the rest of “us” had been “bought by Colonel Gadaffi with petro-dollars” and felt obliged to defend his continued misrule. He said all known means of disinformation were being bandied about, included an argument that Gadaffi’s Libya had supported the ANC during the apartheid struggle.
“The incontrovertible fact is that during this whole period, Libya did not give the ANC even one cent, did not train even one of our military combatants and did not supply us with even one bullet.
“This is because Gadaffi’s Libya made the determination that the ANC was little more than an instrument of Zionist Israel, because we had among our leaders such outstanding patriots as the late Joe Slovo.” Mbeki said Libya’s assistance to the ANC came after 1990, when it realised that the ANC was a genuine representative of the overwhelming majority of “our people”.
Assertions that the AU depended on Libyan money to ensure its survival were false and yet another fabrication. “The UN Security Council Resolution on a no-fly-zone said nothing about regime change. However the fact of the matter is that the NATO actions had everything to do with the overthrow of the Gadaffi regime.” The AU had in fact adopted a roadmap for the negotiated resolution of the conflict in Libya.
“To all intents and purposes the Security Council ignored the AU decision and later blocked the AU Panel on Libya from flying into the country to begin the process of mediating a peaceful resolution.
“Libya is an African country. In addition to this, in terms of international peace and security, the conflict in that country has impacted and will continue to impact directly and negatively on a number of African countries.” Despite this, the Security Council chose to ignore the AU, he said.
Mbeki’s comments are no longer universally accepted. In August UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, defended the body’s record in the Cote d’Ivoire. In a highly unusual public rebuttal, Nambiar said Mbeki – not the international community — got it wrong in the world’s top cocoa producer.
Ivory Coast’s long-time President Laurent Gbagbo was ousted from power in April by forces loyal to his rival Alassane Ouattara, who won the second round of a UN-certified election in November 2010, with the aid of French and UN troops. According to Mbeki — who was AU mediator there and who has also attempted to mediate (to little success) in conflicts in Sudan and Zimbabwe – there never should have been an election last fall in the country that was once the economic powerhouse of West Africa.
Mbeki wrote in an article published by Foreign Policy magazine at the end of April: “The objective reality is that the Ivorian presidential elections should not have been held when they were held. It was perfectly foreseeable that they would further entrench the very conflict it was suggested they would end.”
Ivory Coast was split in two by the 2002-3 civil war and the failure to disarm the northern rebels meant the country held an election last year with two rival armies in place, leading to a new outbreak of hostilities when Gbagbo rejected the internationally-accepted election results.
The solution to the conflict, Mbeki wrote, was not to insist that Ouattara take office as president, as the United Nations, France and others did at the time, but a political solution that would have satisfied everybody in the francophone nation. “The African Union understood that a lasting solution of the Ivorian crisis necessitated a negotiated agreement between the two belligerent Ivorian factions, focused on the interdependent issues of democracy, peace, national reconciliation and unity.”
The United Nations took nearly four months to come up with a public response to Mbeki, Reuters added. It finally appeared last week in an article in Foreign Policy by Nambiar entitled “Dear President Mbeki: The United Nations Helped Save the Ivory Coast.” In his rebuttal, Nambiar vehemently rejects the idea that that the world should have pushed Ouattara to negotiate a power-sharing deal with election-loser Gbagbo.
Doing so, Nambiar said, “would have set a dangerous precedent for the continent and undermined the principles of democracy. There should be zero tolerance for desperate acts by rulers seeking to stay in power against the will of the people.”
The post-election violence was not the result of the election or its timing, Nambiar said, but was caused by “Mr. Gbagbo’s refusal to accept defeat and his repeated rejection of all efforts to find a peaceful solution.”