SA takes France to task

2011-07-16 15:32

South Africa has reported France to the sanctions committee of the United Nations after it became known that France was dropping weapons in Libya to aid the rebels’ war against Libyan leader Muammar ­Gaddafi.

In a move that may sully the relationship between South Africa and France, the South African mission complained to the UN that France had overstepped the boundaries of Resolution 1970, which imposes an arms embargo on Libya.

This means no country is allowed to give or sell arms to the Libyans because they could be used to kill civilians.

Several government officials and diplomats told City Press that South Africa feels France was not justified in delivering the arms to the rebels.

France is also a member of Nato, which South Africa feels is overstepping its boundaries in Libya.

“Nato says it demobilised the military infrastructure of Gaddafi, so why are they continuing the bombing?” a South African government official said.

Although South Africa voted in favour of resolutions that allow for a no-fly zone in Libya, it shortly afterwards said nations like the US and France are ­using the resolutions to effect regime change, which overreaches the intent of the resolutions.

Back home, President Jacob Zuma had a hard time explaining to locals why South Africa voted in favour of a no-fly zone, which effectively gave Nato the go-ahead to bomb Libyan towns.

South African diplomats claim that although resolution 1973 – which mandated the no-fly zone – was pushed too far by Nato, it stopped Gaddafi from carrying out threats to “wipe out” civilians in Benghazi and Misrata which were seen as rebel strongholds.

Zuma received criticism in an ANC Youth League statement in particular for agreeing to ­“undermine the sovereignty of another country” and for “being used by the United States”.

This became a lightning rod for ANC youth league leader ­Julius Malema, who is extremely critical of Zuma and wants him ­replaced as ANC president next year, and an example for him of Zuma’s weak leadership.

Although officials say the South African government holds no brief for Gaddafi, it is suspicious of the transitional national council which has been recognised by some European countries and the United States.

“Who are these people, where do they get their instructions from? That’s what we want to know,” a member of Zuma’s ­executive asked.

City Press was told that several African leaders, including the presidents of Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Rwanda and Senegal, agree with the Western countries that Gaddafi must go, but are hesitant to come out publicly and say so.

“They say they’ve had enough of this, Gaddafi must leave. But they want to be careful not to say it out loud because they know that some day it might be them,” a senior diplomat said.

The dependancy of some African countries on Gaddafi’s generosity also plays a role in their reluctance to act.

“Mali, Mauritania, Uganda and the [Democratic Republic of] Congo are all on the payrolls of Gaddafi,” a senior diplomat said.

The department of international relations and co-operation declined to comment.

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