Maybe Nelson Mandela can resolve the Libyan civil war


Today and Thursday the African Union will hold a special meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to try to halt the merciless NATO bombings on Libya and again promote the AU’s plan to end the civil war which started in February.

Any decision made by African leaders in Ethiopia will have no impact and will be ignored by the United States, France and Britain; these countries have already disregarded an AU plan. This is because there is not a single African president that is sufficiently respected by the Libya Troika –the U.S., France and Britain– to be taken seriously. Most Western media will likely even ignore the special summit, just as the first one several weeks ago was locked out of the news cycles.

When South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma traveled to Libya earlier this year, together with three other African presidents and a foreign affairs minister to get the combatants to accept the AU plan, NATO continued to bombard Libya even while he was there, showing the utter contempt the Western organization has for Africa.

Only Nelson Mandela, even as a former president, would be able to stand up and tell President Barack Obama to call off the brutal NATO bombings. Mandela would also tell Obama that the U.S. Libyan policy was wrong and even vindictive. There are no U.S. national security interests at stake. Mandela would never accept the massive bombardment of any country in Africa.

Mandela, after all, was the single individual most instrumental in convincing Muammar al-Gaddafi normalize relations with the West, leading to the multi-billion dollar financial settlement of the Lockerbie tragedy and Libya’s eventual abandonment of its nuclear weapons program.

The war is bereft of any moral justification; at least George Bush, who took the U.S. into Iraq with bogus “intelligence” could argue that, at the end of the day, Saddam Hussein was a genocidal killer who had gassed his own people –the Kurds– and massacred thousands others in Iraq and during his invasion of Kuwait. In Libya, the West conveniently highlights casualties reported as committed by the Libyan army while ignoring the rebels and NATO’s.

Mandela is now frail and retired from politics. He is, however, very much alert–he voted early in South Africa’s local elections last week. Mandela must be painfully disappointed with President Obama’s conduct with respect to the Libyan war and his utter disregard for, and public humiliation of, the African Union. (Ironically, Obama got a taste of his own medicine this week when Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu embarrassed him –wrongfully, by the way– when he rejected the president’s call for a return to Israel’s 1967 borders as starting point for peace negotiations with the Palestinians).

In the absence of any African of Mandela’s stature, for any decision by the AU to have any significant impact on the Libyan conflict the matter will have to be taken before the United Nations Security Council. The Western countries that are now destroying Libya’s infrastructure with the massive bombings by NATO will not bring up the conflict before the Security Council.

Only China and Russia are in a position to do so–even then, it would be difficult to counteract Resolution 1973 since the Troika has the veto and the U.S. is now fixated on the removal of Gaddafi, rather than resolving the civil war. President Obama in a surprisingly amateurish manner has committed the U.S. even to the assassination of Gaddafi-authored an Op-Ed article together with France’s Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain’s David Cameron where the three men said Gaddafi “o go,” and he was to “go for good.” The only way Gaddafi can go for good is if he is killed.

NATO understood exactly what Obama’s comments in the Op-Ed meant. Subsequently, NATO stopped pretending it was there to “protect civilian lives”–NATO started bombing Gaddafi’s personal residence, even killing one of his son’s Saif Al-Arab Gaddafi and three of his grandchildren.

The AU proposal still remains a viable plan. It calls for: a comprehensive ceasefire by the Libyan army and the Western supported and financed rebels based in Benghazi; it calls for the creation of a humanitarian corridor, and; it calls for negotiations between the combatants for a new dispensation. This would be the creation of a constitution and democratic elections in Libya during which Benghazi, and all Libyans for that matter, get a chance to win a legitimate mandate untainted by NATO’s bombs.

Maybe the AU leaders could read a public letter from Nelson Mandela or play a videotaped message addressed to President Obama and to NATO calling for a halt to the bombing and an embrace of the AU plan.


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