Zuma on Libya: End the carnage


South African President Jacob Zuma says its time to end the carnage in Libya. Welcoming the African Union High Level Ad Hoc Committee on Libya to Petora for a meeting yesterday, Zuma said that in spite of all efforts the crisis there continues to escalate.

“On the ground, there is a military stalemate which we cannot and must not be allowed to drag on-and-on, both because of its horrendous cost in civilian lives and the potential it has to destabilise the entire sub-region. The continuing bombing by NATO and its allies is a concern that has been raised by our committee and by the AU Assembly because the intention of Resolution 1973 was to protect the Libyan people and facilitate the humanitarian effort.
“The intention,” says Zuma, “was not to authorise a campaign for regime change or political assassination. Our ministers made this point patently clear at their meeting with the UN Security Council.
“Civilian lives have been lost due to these bombings, and civilian infrastructure has suffered untold damage. You will recall … the extraordinary session of the AU Assembly of 25 May ‘demanded an immediate pause in the fighting and in the NATO-led air campaign, to provide respite to the civilian population, alleviate its suffering and make it possible to deliver the much-needed humanitarian assistance to all those in need of it’.
“Therefore, Your Excellencies, we meet at an exceptionally grave time for Libya. The people of Libya are looking up to us to end this carnage! The people of Africa want to see an immediate end to the conflict in Libya and the beginning of the process towards a democratic dispensation there.”

Zuma noted the basic premise of the AU roadmap is that the solution to the situation in Libya has to be political and lies in the hands of the Libyan people. “Our Libyan brothers and sisters – those in authority [Gaddafi] and those in the TNC – have to act boldly and show leadership,” he added to an audience that included President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania (who chairs the committee) as well as presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali.

President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo was represented by his Minister of Foreign Affairs. Also in town was AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ramtane Lamamra, who took part in the meeting on behalf of the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr. Jean Ping.
“Your Excellencies, the extraordinary sessions of the AU Assembly that I referred to earlier also ‘stressed that the ceasefire should lead to the establishment of a consensual and inclusive transitional period during which the necessary reforms to meet the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people would be carried out, culminating in elections that would enable the Libyans to choose freely their leaders’,” Zuma continued. “Our Committee has the responsibility to ensure that this outcome is realised.”

The committee, in a communiqué, issued by Zuma’s office after the meeting, “reiterated AU’s deep concern at the continuing fighting between the warring Libyan parties and at the NATO-led aerial bombardment.”

The committee “noted the dire humanitarian situation created by this situation, including loss of life among civilians, forced displacement, both within and outside Libya, shortages of basic necessities, the destruction of vital civilian infrastructure and the worsening problems faced by the African migrant workers, including the death at sea and in the desert of hundreds of them, which is compounded by the violation by some countries of the humanitarian principle of non refoulement,” the principle in international law, specifically refugee law, that concerns the protection of refugees from being returned to places where their lives or freedoms could be threatened.

The Sunday Times meanwhile reports South Africa’s top diplomat has admitted SA voted in favour of a UN resolution authorising a no-fly zone in Libya without understanding how it would be enforced. The paper reports foreign affairs director-general Jerry Matjila told MPs during a briefing on international matters on Friday that SA was in the dark about the intensity of the bombardment that would be required to enforce a no-fly zone.
“I don’t think we explored thoroughly the modalities of the how, [such as] how do you ensure no-fly zones? All of us were moved by the carnage we saw in Libya. We were moved by the extent of destruction of civilian life and I think truly to the [AU] and South Africa, and correctly so, we thought now we must protect ordinary people. But the modalities were left, I think, unresolved conclusively and those who have the means then developed their own means to enforce the 1973 resolution,” said Matjila.

UN Resolution 1973 was passed by the world governing body’s Security Council shortly after Muammar Gaddafi ordered ground and air strikes to quell a popular uprising in the country he has ruled for 42 years. The bombing campaign has since intensified, with NATO – in charge of the operation – shelling Gaddafi’s compound and other targets in the capital Tripoli, which they consider to be military targets. One of Gaddafi’s sons was killed during NATO’s bombing of a compound.

South Africa and other African countries have since cried foul over the NATO operation, arguing that bombing Gaddafi’s compound amounted to a regime change, the Sunday broadsheet reports. Matjila said there were not enough discussions at the UN Security Council about how the resolution would actually be enforced.

He said, however, that the government and the AU would oppose any plans to send in ground troops into Libya. Matjila added that South Africa had stopped all arms sales to Libya and had issued restrictive permits to several countries that might ship South African made weapons to Libya.