Loyalty out the window as AU, SA ditch Gaddafi

2011-09-20 22:53

Johannesburg - Ousted Libyan leader saw the last two bastions of key diplomatic support turn their back on him on Tuesday, as his country's interim leader was welcomed with open arms by world leaders gathered in New York.

Both the African Union, which Gaddafi helped build, and the organisation's key player South Africa, recognised the National Transitional Council (NTC) as Libya's de facto government.

The pan-African body, which has frequently been criticised for its ponderous reaction to events on its doorstep, said in a statement it was ready to support the NTC in its efforts to build an inclusive government.

It also urged the NTC to protect African migrant workers following reports of black Africans being targeted by militia units hunting down mercenaries loyal to Gaddafi.

South Africa, the continent's pre-eminent economic power which has a major say in AU policy, said it would also recognise the NTC, ending a long-standing relationship with the ousted leader.

"The South African government, hereby announces that it recognises the NTC as the representative of the Libyan people as they form an all-inclusive transitional government that will occupy the Libyan seat at the African Union," the international relations and co-operation department said in a statement.

South African support for Gaddafi had its roots in a long-standing relationship between the two countries based on Libya's backing for the ANC in its struggle against apartheid rule.

President Jacob Zuma has led AU delegations trying to broker a peace deal for Libya.

Zuma has criticised the European Union and Nato for using force to bring about change in Libya and has called for Gaddafi's officials to be a part of a transitional government.

Most European nations, the United States and Nigeria recognised the NTC from August 22, while China officially acknowledged the Benghazi-based group as Libya's "ruling authority" on September 12.

The AU's switch is likely to bring a modicum of pressure to bear on leaders such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, who expelled Libya's ambassador at the end of August after the envoy switched allegiance from Gaddafi to the NTC.

Stand together as one

Meanwhile, in New York, US President Barack Obama met Libya's interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil for the first time, and said the world would stand with his liberated country as it solidifies its freedom.

The president met the leader of the National Transitional Council on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, ahead of talks between the United States and its allies on Libya's future.

In the international meeting, Obama called on those fighters still supporting ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi to lay down their arms, warning that the Nato mission in the country would continue.

With the new Libyan flag flying over the United Nations building in New York, Obama also announced the return of the US ambassador to Tripoli and that the US flag would be raised again over a reopened American embassy.

"Today, the Libyan people are writing a new chapter in the life of their nation. After four decades of darkness, they can walk the streets, free from a tyrant," he told the meeting, also attended by the country's interim leaders.

Credit for the "liberation of Libya, belongs to the people of Libya", he insisted, but stressed the international community was not pulling out yet.

"Libya is a lesson in what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one," he said.

"Important, too, is how this effort succeeded - thanks to the leadership and contributions of many nations. The United States was proud to play a decisive role, especially in the first days, and then in a supporting capacity."

"This is how the international community should work in the 21st century."

Read more on:    au  |  ntc  |  nato  |  eu  |  barack obama  |  muammar gaddafi  |  jacob zuma  |  robert mugabe  |  sa  |  us  |  china  |  libya  |  nigeria  |  libya protests  |  west africa  |  southern africa  |  uprisings
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