Desperate Libya asks Zuma for help

2016-09-23 12:36


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New York – South Africa has been asked to share its nation-building secrets with strife-torn Libya, which has been struggling to unite since the death of ruler Muammar Gaddafi.

News24 has learnt that the African Union convened an urgent meeting of its Peace and Security Council on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly this week.

This was to discuss the possibility of reconstituting the AU high level ad hoc committee on Libya, which worked with Gaddafi in an effort to resolve the conflict in the country.

The committee was led by President Jacob Zuma and its work ended with Gaddafi's death in 2011.

The AU meeting, which went on late into Wednesday night, was called a day after Libyan President Fayez al-Sarraj reached out to Zuma in a bilateral meeting requested by Libya.

It is understood that Zuma was reluctant to agree to the request as he already had numerous commitments, but South Africa's permanent representative to the United Nations, ambassador Jerry Matjila, told News24 South Africa had to get involved.

African model of reconciliation

"We can tap [into] our pool of expertise," he said, referring to figures such as Roelf Meyer, who helped negotiate South Africa's transition in 1994.

Matjila said the process would be similar to the way South Africa helped with reconciliation in Northern Ireland, Lesotho and, currently, Mozambique.

"Both in our history and involvement we showed that we can reconcile, build a nation and expand services," Matjila said.

Libya didn't want to "rely more and more on the west, and I think an African country can be the best model, and a benchmark of some kind".

Matjila said Libya's parliament was struggling to constitute a government, while various tribal groups controlled parts of the country by force.

The lawlessness in Libya meant small arms were being smuggled through the country, and the resultant violence could affect African countries in the region, and eventually also reach South Africa. Terrorists also consider the country to be a safe base for them.

The AU's Peace and Security Council at its meeting called for an urgent intervention in Libya to implement its roadmap to peace, Matjila said.

Zuma critical of regime change

Former Tanzanian president Jikaya Kikwete was asked to be the AU's special envoy to Libya, Matjila said.

Diplomats at the UN this week issued a joint communiqué saying revenue from Libya's oil, which had started flowing again for the first time in two years, should be used to support a new unity government and strengthen Libya's economy.

A fragile new government recently emerged following UN-brokered talks.

Zuma has been slammed by critics like EFF president Julius Malema for voting in favour of the no-fly zone resolution which resulted in a Nato military intervention in Libya that bolstered anti-Gadaffi forces and led to the Libyan leader's death.

Zuma has been critical of the forcible regime change which happened in Libya, and in a speech to a UN refugee summit on Monday said North Africa was at peace with itself but "it was the manner in which we handled the Libyan question that has given rise to refugees coming from that country and crossing to Europe".

"I think it says to us we must therefore, when we take actions when there are growing problems, we must think carefully and look at what could be the consequences of such actions."

Read more on:    un  |  au  |  jacob zuma  |  libya  |  libya protests  |  north africa

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