Date: Sun Mar 20 2011 - 21:05:56 EST
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20 March 2011
African Union demands end to military strikes on Libya, skips Paris meeting
March 19, 2011 (WASHINGTON) – The African Union (AU) on Saturday criticized
the launching of military operations by U.S. and European countries on Libya
to enforce a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution adopted this
French planes fired the first shots, destroying tanks and armored vehicles
in eastern Libya eight years to the day after U.S.-led forces headed across
the Iraqi border in 2003.
Hours later, U.S. and British ships and submarines launched more than 110
cruise missiles against air defenses in the oil-producing North African
CBS news network said that three B-2 stealth bombers dropped 40 bombs on a
major Libyan airfield.
Today’s attacks were designed to cripple Libyan air defenses as the West
tries to force the Libyan leader Muammar from power who has unleashed his
forces to crush a popular uprising since mid-February that eventually turned
into an armed rebellion that managed to control large parts of the country.
The Libyan opposition leadership, Arab League and Arab Gulf states have
demanded that the international community intervene militarily by imposing a
no-fly zone to prevent Gaddafi from using his air force against civilian
The United Arab Emirates and Qatar are reported to have dedicated fighter
jets in the military operations.
It was only the African Union (AU) that issued a statement earlier this
month saying it opposed "any foreign military intervention, whatever its
Despite this position, the three African countries sitting on the UNSC voted
in favor of the resolution which authorized member states "to take all
necessary measures ... to protect civilians".
But an AU panel established to seek a peaceful end to the crisis called
today for an "immediate stop" to air strikes stressing that it rejects "any
kind of foreign military intervention" in the north African country.
The situation in Libya "demands urgent action so an African solution (can be
found) to the very serious crisis which this sister nation is going
through", said Mauritanian President Ould Abdel Aziz who is one of the panel
A solution must take into account "our desire that Libya’s unity and
territorial integrity be respected", he said.
The AU committee on Libya is composed of five African heads of state. But
the meeting in the Mauritanian capital was only attended by the presidents
of Mauritania, Mali and Congo.
South Africa and Uganda were represented by ministers. The Chairperson of
the AU Commission Jean Ping is also believed to have been there.
The panel was scheduled to travel to Libya on Sunday but it revealed today
that they have been unable to get international permission to fly there.
Ironically South African officials expressed doubt whether the AU panel
would be impartial and even questioned the wisdom of sitting on it.
"There are concerns here at home about this panel and whether South Africa
should be part of it. It’s almost a given what they will say, given their
relationship with that man [Gaddafi]," a senior government official told the
*Mail & Guardian* based in South Africa.
The newspaper said that government officials in Johannesburg are worried
that should the panel return with a recommendation to the AU that favors
Gaddafi, it will spoil the image president Jacob Zuma wants to portray on
the continent — that of himself as a statesman who believes in brokering
peaceful solutions that do not merely serve its strongmen.
Western countries and NATO have initially insisted they will not intervene
militarily in Libya without the approval of regional organizations such as
the Arab League and the AU and a clear UNSC mandate.
However, references to AU’s prior consent were later dropped and Western
officials only spoke of Arab League decision.
Today an emergency summit of world leaders in Paris called to discuss the
implementation of no-fly zone over Libya was skipped by the AU for unknown
reasons despite being invited and no African leader was present.
In a related issue, the government of Equatorial Guinea today said that
Libyan television had misrepresented a telephone call between the country’s
president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, and the Libyan leader.
Nguema who is the rotating AU chairman this year, only called Gaddafi to
gain guarantees for the security of the AU Observation Committee that was to
travel to Libya.
"Contrary to what some information disseminated by the Libyan television
seems to suggest, the telephone contact established by H.E. Obiang Nguema
Mbasogo, President of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and holder of the
current Rotating Presidency of the African Union, with the current President
of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi, was due, solely and exclusively, to his
responsibility as mediator of the AU, and was for the precise purpose of
guaranteeing the security of the Heads of State comprising the Observation
Committee that will travel in the next few hours to the areas of conflict".
"This Government also wishes to recall that the current rotating President
of the African Union has already declared that he will not state any
personal opinion, or show any unilateral support to any of the parties, in
Libya or in other places of conflict within the African continent, since as
Rotating President of this institution, his opinion is ascribed completely
to the agreed official posture established by the organizations of the
The South African president came under fire in his country last week over a
call he made to Gaddafi. Libyan TV had quoted Zuma as telling his
counterpart that that the AU should investigate the “conspiracy” against him
and the world should not believe what foreign media were saying about Libya.
The Ugandan government on Thursday said it opposes “foreign interference” in
Libya and declared it will not freeze Libyan-owned assets in the country.
Libyan generosity and Gaddafi’s role in the creation of the African Union
could explain the continents cautious stand, experts say.
The AU was born in the 1999 Sirte Declaration, named after a summit hosted
by Gaddafi in his hometown on the Libyan coast.
The declaration said its authors felt inspired by Gaddafi’s "vision for a
strong and united Africa."
"The AU as an organization has benefited significantly from Gaddafi’s
wealth," said Fred Golooba Mutebi of the Institute of Social Research at
Kampala’s Makerere University to Agence France Presse (AFP).
Delphine Lecoutre, a researcher with the French Center for Ethiopian
Studies, pointed to the AU’s weak statement as an example of the PSC
timidity in facing up to the behavior of its leaders.
"There was a Peace and Security Council meeting on Libya, which resulted in
a cosmetic communiqué hardly condemning the violence in Libya and putting it
in a [clever] way, loss of human life and destruction of property, but
nothing regarding the political situation in the country," said Lecoutre.
"It is difficult for the AU to deal with that case."
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