News reports that the Libyan rebels have welcomed an African Union offer to open talks without the direct involvement of Muammar Gaddafi are heart-warming. This is the first time that some commonsense approach is emerging for us to see how the Libyan crisis will be resolved through a peaceful, negotiated settlement, not through the fire-power of NATO’s military campaign. Shame unto the war-mongers and their tunnel-vision!
An AU summit at Malabo in Equatorial-Guinea agreed the offer on talks. In welcoming the AU’s offer, the rebels’ Transitional National Council said it was the first time the AU had recognized Libyan people’s aspirations for democracy and human rights, according to the BBC (July 2, 2011).
The AU also called for an immediate ceasefire and the lifting of the UN no-fly zone which paved the way for NATO’s military intervention. It said both parties should formally request the deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission in Libya to monitor the implementation of a cessation of hostilities.
Rebel representatives at the summit said they would need a number of guarantees from the AU before they could agree to a ceasefire. The Transitional National Council representative, Mansour Safy, told reporters that the rebels are prepared to end hostilities if Gaddafi steps down.
“If we see that Gaddafi withdraws, we are ready to stop and negotiate with our brothers who are around Gaddafi,” he said.
To all intents and purposes, these new developments should be welcomed by all peace-lovers. Even though Gaddafi is largely responsible for the problems that have driven Libya to its knees since the eruption of the mid-February insurrection against him, the massive destruction of the country by NATO with the collusion of the rebels is unacceptable. Thus, any move to resolve the crisis without any further violence and destruction should be received with open arms.
There are good reasons to appreciate the shift in the rebels’ position as a positive development. One is that the fighting hasn’t so far broken Gaddafi’s back; it has only ground to a stalemate despite the massive devastation of Libya’s infrastructure by NATO. The rebels must have realized that even if they succeed in overthrowing Gaddafi, they will be ruling from a position of disadvantage. The resources they need have so far been the object of NATO’s destructive fire-power.
Again, their main grievance, which is the absence of Gaddafi from the deliberations—something that an earlier AU’s political roadmap lacked—has now been met. In the circumstance, they have a good cause to view a political and diplomatic solution as the best course of action to take.
More pointedly, the rebels by now must have recognized the hypocrisy and duplicity of the West after having been fooled to believe that they would get all the resources, especially funds that they have been promised to strengthen their hands on governance only to be left in despair. The West has only indulged in futile rhetoric, denying the rebel leadership the funds that they need to operate.
Although they claim control over cities in the east that have oil facilities, the rebels can’t make any money from oil sale. They are unable to capitalize on the country’s vast oil wealth because of damaged infrastructure; thus, they depend on foreign largesse to pay for basic services and their largely volunteer-led rebellion. They know that without funds, they can’t run affairs, which will endanger their political interests. This situation doesn’t augur well for them and must be the forewarning they need to look elsewhere. The AU’s revamped political roadmap beckons.
Finally, although the rebels have denied several reports that they’ve engaged in secret talks with the Gaddafi government to end the hostilities, there is good reason to believe that something has already been initiated on which to build the AU’s political roadmap.
I have insisted all along that the Libyan crisis is a pure political problem that can be solved only through political and diplomatic means, not the flexing of military muscles and “conquistador mentality” with which the political leaders of the United States, Britain, and France have approached matters. Their insistence on using fire-power to eliminate Gaddafi has failed but they won’t admit it.
We know that Italy has been reluctant in directly participating in the destruction of Libya’s infrastructure and bombing of residential areas, which has killed civilians and reduced to absurdity the West’s claim of being in Libya to solve humanitarian problems.
Furthermore, apart from Qatar, none of the Arab League countries has directly involved itself in the military campaign despite their moral support for it. NATO has been egged on by the US’ Obama, Britain’s Cameron, and France’s Sarkozy—all of whom are politically immature and don’t yet know how to handle the first major task in office without creating more problems therefrom.
By insisting on only the military option, they’ve rushed their countries into needless expenses and incurred the displeasure of their opponents. Obama’s problems with his own party members and those in the Republican camp should teach him the lesson he needs to learn in order to grow in politics.
I am satisfied with the positive response from the rebel camp and hope that it will not end in words alone. It must be pursued to achieve the desired result so that Libya can be restored to normalcy and its citizens given the chance to live their lives in an atmosphere of renewed hope for a brighter future. All the devastation going on will not serve anybody’s interests but those of the very people causing it. Business entities in the West may be lining up by now for juicy contracts to rebuild Libya. That’s not a good way to spend the country’s oil revenue.
Had the rebels listened to reason—and had Gaddafi himself been reasonable and honest enough to accept the fact that he had overstayed in government—the situation would have been handled amicably long before this time. We cannot quantify the cost of the NATO-led devastation of the country’s infrastructure nor can we restore to life the victims of this insurrection or good health to the maimed; but we can at this point heave a guarded sigh of relief that both parties—the Gaddafi government and the Benghazi-based rebel leadership—will build on this AU initiative to work toward a negotiated settlement.
They need to operate in an atmosphere of flexibility so that concessions can be made to reach that peaceful settlement for mutual benefits. It is only then that they will be able to curtail any further destruction of their country and its people. They have an imperative responsibility to restore their country to its former status as an economic giant and a safe haven for the millions of migrant workers and others looking for the opportunity to earn their living.
In the steps toward negotiations, it is important for Gaddafi to recognize the fact that he is a major problem for the rebels and must take the lion’s share in working hard to solve the problem. From what has happened so far, he must have read and understood properly the strongly worded message that his hold on power is over. He must give way to a new order. It is only then that the negotiation can succeed.
The rebels too will have to see themselves as a part of the national problem and work toward toning down on their aggressiveness so that the new order to be established in the country will not be used for witch-hunting. Any slight indication they give to suggest that they will go after those they perceive as the cause of their woes will not be conducive to solving the problem.
Finally, those bent on using NATO to solve the problem must begin to retrace their steps out of the conflict. The humanitarian problems that they claimed to be solving at the initial stages of the crisis would have been effectively tackled had they not rashly taken sides to prolong the conflict. Now that signs are emerging that the two Libyan factions are gradually beginning to see things clearly and want to resolve their national problem through dialogue, the West has no business using its military campaign any more.
NATO must reduce its force level and allow those who have conflict-resolution capabilities to step into the thick of affairs. Those negotiators will be depended on to use their skills to bring both parties together for a negotiated settlement. If NATO continues its airstrikes, nothing beneficial can be achieved through negotiation.
The efforts toward resolving the crisis at this stage require mutual trust and patriotism, which NATO lacks as far as the Libyan situation is concerned. It must be relegated to the background to play a peace-keeping role only if it becomes necessary. I wonder how today’s war-mongers can all of a sudden turn themselves into peace-makers or keepers. In this sense, it is clear that NATO is no longer needed. It must fold up and leave the shores of Libya.
A departure by NATO suggests a big role for the African Union. It is imperative for the Union to begin moves toward assembling contingents of African peace-keepers to support the ongoing measures being contemplated to resolve the crisis. It is clear that the AU’s political roadmap can be reinforced by an African peace-keeping force whose presence on the ground should curtail any incursions by one faction into the other’s territory. The UN can lick its wounds and team up with the AU on this score.
Until such time that the problem is completely solved, it will be good to have a buffer zone somewhere to keep the pro-Gaddafi forces and their rebel counterparts away from each other. The intention is to prevent any flaring of the fighting. A ceasefire must be declared and strictly enforced while the negotiations begin as expeditiously as the time-table for peace will allow.
It is clear that if all parties involved in handling this Libyan crisis do their work conscientiously, a workable solution can be found to prevent further deterioration of the situation. In the end, the country should be back on its feet to play its role in international affairs and restore self-respect to its citizens and the African continent in general. We hope to see better things henceforth. Hurray to commonsense!!
By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor