The South African government will be sending an aircraft to Libya to evacuate some 40 citizens trapped in that country, where violent fighting is taking place between anti-government protesters and forces loyal to strongman Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation says the situation in Libya has deteriorated to the extent that an evacuation of non-essential staff and dependents from the mission in Tripoli has become inevitable. The department however said a core group of dedicated officials under the leadership of Ambassador Mohammed Dangor shall remain in place.
“The dire circumstances of between thirty and forty South Africans in Libya and their inability to depart has been of great concern to Government. “Government has accordingly activated the process for a relief flight to Tripoli to fetch those nationals to safety,” the department said on Thursday.
“Arrangements are being coordinated between the South African National Defence Force and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, in close liaison with our Embassy in Tripoli,” the department says. It is unclear what aircraft will be sent as none in South African Air Force service have the range for a direct flight. A charter flight is unlikely for reasons of insurance, meaning a military aircraft with a military crew may need to be used. The only aircraft suitable for this is the Lockheed Martin C130BZ, but this will have to refuel in a third country.
The opposition Democratic Alliance meanwhile says President Jacob Zuma should also withdraw Dangor. “The Zuma administration should immediately withdraw our official recognition of a government that fires on its own people and orders military attacks to suppress democracy,” the party’s Shadow Deputy Minister of International Relations Stevens Mokgalapa said in a statement.
“In the past week, the Libyan people have revolted, protesting for a new democratic government and the removal of the dictator who has ruled their country with an iron fist for more than 40 years, Muammar Gadhafi. Gadhafi has responded to them by using deadly force,” Mokgalapa added. “As his speech to the world on Tuesday evinced, he has declared open war on his own people, unleashing the full power of the Libyan military on protestors. Hundreds of people have already died and Gadhafi shows no sign of curbing his deadly rampage.”
The US intelligence business, Stratfor forecasts that the violence will continue. In an analysis mailed to subscribers, they say Gadhafi “does not intend to step down, ever. … Libya has now crossed a threshold from which it will be difficult to retreat. It is likely that chaos is on the horizon in the country.
“It is difficult to predict at this point whether the events of the past week will lead to the outright collapse of the Libyan state or whether Gadhafi will be able to ride out the wave. It will certainly not be easy for him to retake the east, which is no longer under the control of the government in Tripoli. With signs of the army splintering and the tribes turning against him, Gadhafi is perhaps facing the most daunting challenge of his 41 years in power. No matter what befalls the Libyan leader, however, it is clear that Libya faces a high likelihood of civil war.
“This could take the form of a west vs. east dynamic (in which Libya would revert to division between the core coastal regions of Tripolitania, the western region surrounding modern day Tripoli, and Cyrenaica, the eastern region around Benghazi), or it could see a series of localised fiefdoms fighting for themselves. It could also be a hybrid scenario, in which the main division is east vs. west, but where intra-tribal warfare creates images of Somalia.
“Italy is more concerned about this latter scenario than anyone else, due to its energy interests in Libya and fears of the resulting wave of Libyans and other African immigrants who would wash up on its shores. There are other long-term concerns for many nations about what lawlessness in Libya (particularly the eastern region) could mean, however. The primary danger is that Libya could potentially become a new jihadist haven, with Libyans who honed their skills in Iraq and Afghanistan employing them on the streets of their home country.
“Libya is in flux … (and) there is the potential for the first true case of regime change (which did not actually happen in Egypt and Tunisia) since the wave of unrest in the Arab world began late 2010.”