In line with arguments posited by other scholars such as Horace Campbell (2011) in his article for Pambazuka News entitled “Opposing Gaddafi’s massacres and foreign intervention in Libya” this think-piece argues that Gaddafi is by no means the anti-imperialist he claims to be. Gaddafi’s support of various the despots such as Charles Taylor, Idi Amin, and Foday Sankoh, all of whom he sponsored in their raids of terror against their own people, whilst pillage their countries’ resources are cases in point that expose the hypocrisy of his interface with non-Arab Africa. Revelations by Gaddafi’s son Seif al Islam that affirm Gaddafi’s hand in the funding arrangements of the election of French President Nicholas Sarkozy is one many examples that expose the contradictions of Gaddafi’s four decades in power, revealing the nature of the relationship between Gaddafi’s government and the very same West he’s proclaimed as enemy.
The Pan-Arab perspective referred to in this piece is by no means one that supports Gaddafi’s violent legacy in Libya. To the contrary, it is a perspective that holds that people have authentic rights to self-determination: just like Tunisians and Egyptians rid themselves of dictators, Libyan people have the same leeway in articulating freedom for themselves and achieving this freedom independent of external manipulation (Magadla, 2011).
It is also important to note that despite the fact that the African Union voted against the UNSC intervention in Libya, South Africa and Nigeria, the only two African countries in the UNSC voted for the intervention. Although now claiming not to have conceived the intervention to be at such large scale, two of Africa’s arguably hegemonic powers who have witnessed the failure of such Hollywood style interventions must not escape without blame. It is only now that South Africa has put its full weight behind the peace process devised by the AU’s High Level Adhoc Committee. In fact this inconsistency and double-mindedness of South Africa’s foreign policy engagement adds to this seemingly global belief that the AU’s perspective is irrelevant.
Furthermore, the AU’s failure to take seriously its own commitment to “intervene in a Member State pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances”, raises serious questions about the AU’s institutional capacities to predict, prevent and mitigate conflict in its bid to enhance continental security. It has to be asked undoubtedly, knowing what we now know: Did the AU not wait too long perhaps?
Questions of legitimacy versus legalization must remain at the heart of the resolve of the AU in this regard. It is important to remember the strategic locus of ‘Political Islam’ versus the ‘Pan-Arab’ narrative, as well as the strategic importance of the Arab-League as ‘player’ and ‘pawn’ in this regard. The Arab League has served as an important proxy for ‘indigenous consensus’ (Now that reports confirm there is no consensus amongst the Arab League itself, as well as members of BRICS] including those who initially voted in favor of UNSC resolution 1973, the African Union must capitalize on this opportunity to build meaningful solidarities, provided that important players are mobilized towards a shared consensus.
More generally, the African Union should try by all means to ensure that a dynamic strategy is put in place to mobilize all sectors of society, and not only those who claim political representation. This is particularly important as a means of ensuring a ‘bottom up’ and dynamic approach to peace-building. The AU should note in this regard that the process of‘fostering peace through consent’ is as important as the substance itself (UN Brahimi report, 2007). This will determine the extent to which contending groups can broker a political settlement for peace towards a strategic framework for change in the interests of the ‘common good’.
Bearing in mind that it remains uncertain whether or not the rebel group will succeed in displacing Gaddafi as the Northern Alliance did with the Taliban in Kabul, the likelihood of a protracted civil war is indeed worrisome. Even if they were to succeed, it remains unclear whether or not a small unorganized rebel group of this nature is capable of leading any transition into a democracy, and to re-constitute institutions of law and order in Libya. Bearing this in mind, the AU’s roadmap to peace should seek to establish a peace compact amongst Libya’s aggrieved elite, and establish a set of concessions between the aggressor and the aggressed in this regards).
An inclusive and exhaustive Libyan Transitional Authority (LTA), replacing the imposed National Transitional Council (NTC), should be set up to lead national consultations that will give ear, as well as give voice to a national response to civil grievances. This central locus of power should be established as the interlocutor of Libya’s peace-building and reconstruction process. The AU should capitalize on the willingness of rebel chief Mahmoud Jibril to engage in dialogue with Libya’s government: given due credence to legitimate national grievances, whilst asserting Libya’s rights to self determination. It should resist in any way possible any strategies geared at a solution based on popular expression, including efforts on the part of ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo that might derail this process and increase the barriers of negotiation.
The African Union’s peace roadmap should desist from paternalistic approaches to intervention and should instead move to ensure that the Libyan people are given greater latitude to charter their own development. Given the legacy of outside interference and paternalistic politics in Africa, the AU should instead ensure it plays the envisioned role of ‘mediator’, ‘facilitator’ and ‘broker’ providing only the much needed technical and resource assistance in order to ensure that the Libyan people are involved in the strategy design and priority settings of their own reconstruction The AU should therefore have a clear strategy that won’t only dictate its mode of engagement but will spell out the terms of exit in this regard.