The influence of African countries on the Libyan crisis is noticeable in two different ways, each of which is not part of the solution needed to resolve the conflict but part of what is complicating the crisis even more.
Let’s begin with the first one. The endorsement given by South Africa, Nigeria, and Gabon to the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 is a major hurdle that has prevented a concerted action by the African Union or peace-lovers elsewhere to present a common front on how to tackle the Libyan crisis without using the military option. Can the AU condemn the NATO devastation of Libya when three of its own members endorsed that very military campaign?
Now, to the second one. Even before the AU makes known its stance on whether to continue upholding the legitimacy of the Gaddafi or to recognize the Benghazi-based Transitional National Council as such, two of its member countries have taken the lead to give diplomatic recognition to the rebel leadership. With the addition of this diplomatic element, the situation seems to be complicated all the more and the AU is certainly hamstrung already.
These African elements in the strategies for tackling the Libyan crisis are not only shocking but also unexpectedly revealing of the lethargy that characterizes the operations of African leaders. Just a year ago, Gaddafi was the Chairman of the African Union, fighting hard to build the Union into a strong continental body that will be strong enough to shoulder the responsibilities emanating from international politics in this 212st century. He is now caught in a web and the AU can’t help the world solve that problem. Is the AU worth the expenditure made to support it?
Attempts to resolve the conflict are skewed and Gaddafi is at the receiving end. What seems to be working against him is the absence of any solidarity from African leaders or others elsewhere in the world with whom he had been commiserating prior to the eruption of the rebellion against his rule and the massive devastation that the International Coalition has wreaked on Libya so far. It is as if all of these people support the devastation that NATO is carrying out in Libya.
The last straw to break the Gaddafi government’s back is not the expulsion of some of his envoys from some countries (Britain, especially) but the diplomatic recognition that some countries are giving the TNC. The decision by France, Italy, and Qatar to give diplomatic recognition to the TNC didn’t surprise many people because these are three of the 24 countries that formed the International Coalition to commence the military campaign in Libya on March 19.
What is surprising has come from two African countries, which are neither members of NATO nor endorsers of the UN Security Council Resolution 1973. What is their motivation for recognizing the rebel leadership at a time that the African Union is still not done with its overtures for resolving the Libyan conflict? Are they recognizing the rebels to end the conflict?
The latest country to boost the chances of the rebel leadership is Senegal, according to the AFP.
Senegal announced Saturday it was granting recognition to Libya’s rebels, saying it regarded the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council as the country’s legitimate representative. The decision by President Abdoulaye Wade comes after he held talks with a top envoy of the Benghazi-based NTC rebels, his office said.
After consultations with the presidents of the two houses of parliament, Wade has decided to “recognize the NTC as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people and grants it authorization to open a representative bureau in Dakar,” said a statement from the President’s office.
Senegal’s action follows that of The Gambia, which was one of the first countries to recognize the TNC. The move comes after Wade had met in Paris on Friday with Ali Zeidan, a special envoy of the NTC’s supremo Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the statement added. Abdul Jalil spoke last week by telephone with Wade ahead of a key African Union meeting on the conflict in Libya when he asked for the support of Senegal and promised to “respect democratic principles, human rights and to pursue good relations with the AU and the states of Africa.” He also invited Wade to Benghazi, the headquarters of the rebels.
I call Senegal’s action a surprise because it is premature and pre-emptive, especially coming at a time that no word has yet emerged from the May 25–26 summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa that had the Libyan crisis as a top priority to tell us the AU’s collective decision. While we don’t yet know what the African Union might have decided to do, the announcement by Senegal on its decision will definitely throw everything out of balance. It will disarm the AU.
Once these two African countries have come out to recognize Gaddafi’s rebels, there is the likelihood that others will follow suit. But it doesn’t mean that the Libyan crisis is anywhere near being resolved. What this diplomatic recognition does is to further underscore the contradictions that characterize the workings of the African Union itself.
Any decision by an African country to recognize the rebel leadership closes the door of that country’s relationship with Gaddafi. It means that he is no longer recognized as the Libyan leader nor does it make the African Union’s intervention anymore necessary. Each country now seems to be making its own decision, depending on its expectations.
As a collective, the AU’s own position on the matter is not yet known; but indications are clear that the AU is a divided house, which can’t stand on its feet to make the world feel its presence. It is already falling apart as some of its members have begun taking unilateral actions to give legitimacy to the Benghazi-based rebels, damn any decision that the AU may make to the contrary.
With this broken front, we shouldn’t expect anything concrete from the AU to resolve the Libyan crisis. We must as well give up on this continental body because it is not designed to solve problems. It lacks credibility and cannot be trusted. With its doors now wide open, anything can go in or come out, depending on what each member country’s leader decides to do. The African Union may as well be described as DEAD!
But if its member-countries continue to give unilateral diplomatic recognition to the rebel leadership, enough justification may be provided by the West for anything it does to Gaddafi. That’s where we are now in our analysis of the Libyan situation, as we attempt interpreting the determination of NATO to “finish the job” in Libya. I am, however, pessimistic that what the two African countries (The Gambia and Senegal) have done is part of the solution that the world needs to resolve the Libyan crisis. The Gambia and Senegal have set a bad example, though.
By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor