Monthly Archives: April 2011

gambia leads the way


Last week Gambia became the first African nation to recognize Libya’s Transitional National Council as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people. Simultaneously, Gambian authorities froze Moammar Gadhafi‘s investments in their country while denouncing his human rights abuses.

This development is largely symbolic, but meaningful nonetheless. Tiny Gambia has long been one of Gadhafi’s closest allies in West Africa. Since his rise to power in 1994, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has looked to Gadhafi as a benefactor and mentor, even claiming inspiration from Gadhafi’s Green Book. If Gambia can switch its allegiance to a rebel-led Libya, why are others on the continent so reluctant to do so? One reason is that Gadhafi’s ouster would mean a major shift in Libya’s strategic and financial relationships with sub-Saharan Africa. Gadhafi represents a Libya that has distributed its patronage southward over the last 20 years, while the rebels would almost certainly turn their attention and future petrol dollars to the north and east. Additionally, many of Africa’s strongmen fear encouraging a precedent that could lead to uprisings and international intervention in their own countries.

Others are justifiably hesitant to take an overtly anti-Gadhafi stance while their own migrant workers are essentially trapped in Libya. Therefore, most of the African Union’s member states would be risking certain short-term interests in recognizing the Libyan rebels. But they would also be taking a step towards the long-term payoff of ending Gadhafi’s meddling in their societies, and bringing the AU greater legitimacy in diplomatic circles. This helps explain the murky “neutrality” that the AU has sought to project regarding Libya. Its mediation mission to Tripoli this month docilely fulfilled Gadhafi’s bidding, casting him as a “man of peace” while attempting to portray the rebels as warmongers by deliberately offering them a “peace plan” they could not accept.

This was all the more disappointing after theAU’s dramatic falling-out with Gadhafi in January 2010, when the Libyan leader attempted to run for an unprecedented second term as AU president. That, followed by the events of the last few months, led some observers to expect that the AU was finally ripe to overcome its members’ divergent interests and make an emphatic anti-Gadhafi turn.

But its “mediation” in Libya earlier this month only underscored the AU’s
impotence. It appears that the AU delegation did not even decide to intervene
until it was invited by Gadhafi. The AU delegates then fulfilled the role he
assigned them, proclaiming that Gadhafi had accepted their “road map”
to peace before they even presented it to the rebel side.

Particularly puzzling was South Africa’s involvement in this charade. Although Gadhafi’ssupport for Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress was essential to their success in the 1990s, South African President Jacob Zuma cannot be described as a Gadhafi stooge. South Africa voted in favor of the U.N. Security Council Resolution that called for a humanitarian no-fly zone in Libya. That Mr. Zuma left the AU mission prior to its conclusion may show that he realizedthat the mediation would come to naught, and didn’t want to be overly associated with its failure.

Yesterday the AU initiated a new round of talks in Addis Ababa, promising to meet with both rebel and regime representatives, and to try and bridge their demands. The AU’s track record in conflict resolution—from the Ivory Coast to Madagascar to Somalia—has not been promising so far. Nonetheless, the AU could conceivably make a real breakthrough in Libya, particularly if it would leverage its institutional connections to mediate an exile arrangement for Gadhafi and his family.

Before that can happen though, more African states would need to publicly call for Gadhafi to go, and follow the Gambian example by recognizing the rebels. South Africa could play a key role in this process by hardening its stance on Gadhafi and attempting to rally other potentially receptive African nations, such as Nigeria and Gabon—both of which also voted in favor of the U.N. no-fly zone in Libya.

The upheavals in Libya and across North Africa represent a golden opportunity for the AU to inaugurate a new era of institutional clout. The Arab League’s early calls for a no-fly zone breathed new life into that once-moribund organization. Both Africa and the world would benefit from a more internationally respected AU that could advocate for Africa on issues ranging from agricultural subsidies to peacekeeping. But for the AU to find a new role on the world stage, it must first decisively escape Gadhafi’s long shadow.

By Jason Pack.

Mr. Pack researches Libya at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University.

culled from wall street journal


laurent gbagbo is gone but ….


The arrest of the defiant Laurent Gbagbo will undoubtedly send warning signals to other dictators bent on disrespecting the will of people to understand that the world can no longer sit back and watch them.

laurent gbagbo struggling with tears

These leaders – whose democratic belief is only a lip service – organize elections to win at all cost even if it means burying hundreds of  innocent people six feet deep. Like Mr. Gbagbo, these so-called leaders choose defiance, refusing to step down. Instead they rely on the full backing of the judiciary and security to shamelessly cling on to power. As if their blood lacks blood, they remain loyal to the dictator until they find themselves in muddy waters.

Mr. Gbagbo has clearly lost the polls but could not swallow his pride and give up power to Alasane Dramane Outtara. The former president is known for mastering the art of stalling; he has stalled everything, including  the Cote d’Ivoire elections several times. He only organized it against his will, and continues his tricks of stalling four months after losing the November 28 presidential elections, sparking a rebellion in the country that claimed over 800 lives.

The capture of Mr. Gbagbo has automatically lifted a blockade on president Outtara and his administration holed up in a lagoon hotel in Abidjan.  Intoxicated with power – some say under the influence of his iron lady wife, Simone – Gbagbo refused to step down peacefully. Television footages of the former president and wife symbolized their frustration and low self-esteem. But that was the price of stubbornness they should be ready to battle head on.

Mr. Outtara, affectionately called A.D.O, should now set the machinery to prosecute Mr. Gbagbo and his allies. President Outtara must be applauded for promising to treat the former leader, his wife and allies with dignity, though he had denied his opponents that right.

Mr. Gbagbo’s call for cease-fire should be respected by his remaining loyal forces in the country. Ivorians have only one preoccupation: how to repair the wreckage cause by war. Mr. Outtara has a great challenge to move the country with shaky pillars. Cote d’Ivoire’s situation is murkier and can get pretty messy if it’s not properly managed. That’s why A.D.O.’s plan to institute the South African-style truth and reconciliation commission is a good step. But this does not mean those who commit atrocities and war crimes must enjoy amnesty. Nothing can take the place of justice; it must not be compromised for whatever reason.