African Union snubs Libya talks in London

Wednesday March 30 2011

Members of the Pan-African Youth of Uganda hold up signs during an anti-war protest on March 29, 2011 in Kampala to urge an end to the war in Libya.

Members of the Pan-African Youth of Uganda hold up signs during an anti-war protest on March 29, 2011 in Kampala to urge an end to the war in Libya. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last week denounced the West's military action against the regime of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, terming it hypocritical and urged negotiations to end the turmoil. 

By Tabu Butagira & Argaw Ashine

Kampala/Addis Ababa

The gulf between Africa and the West on how to tackle the Libya crisis widened yesterday with African Union representatives boycotting a scheduled summit in London on the subject.

Mr Jean Ping, the AU chairman, was scheduled to lead the six-member high-level Ad hoc delegation, comprising five foreign ministers, but they made no show in the British capital where some speakers stressed regime change in Tripoli.

The Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Sam Kutesa, one of the six AU emissaries, explained that their invites arrived late and there appeared to be differences of opinion among various stakeholders.

“Our (AU) agenda is to have an immediate ceasefire which is monitorable (sic); undertaking initiatives for dialogue; having an interim, inclusive arrangement, creating a corridor for humanitarian assistance and embarking on reforms that would allow constitutional changes and proper elections,” he said.

South Africa, Mauritania, Mali and Congo Brazzaville are the other AU member countries assigned to defuse the escalating situation in Libya, and all want talks, not guns, to extract a win-win endgame.

The UK and France, under the central command of American military, have, until early this week when NATO took over the operations, been raining bombs to disable Gaddafi’s air defences and fail his troops that assaulted the rebel bases in the east.

Citing UN resolutions 1970 and 1973 authorising protection of civilians, the foreign armies struck at key military installations in Tripoli and columns of tanks advancing on Benghazi city, the de facto capital of the Libyan rebel forces.
However, less agreement and more split up on Gaddafi - from NATO headquarters in Brussels to the Great Lakes region – is stressing diplomats and political executives alike.

President Museveni, whose NRA guerrillas Col. Gaddafi supplied with arms in the 1980s, penned a vitriolic missive published by local/regional newspapers a week ago, in which he criticised the West of manifesting “double standards” by choosing to attack, the Libyan leader’s failings notwithstanding.

His Rwandan counterpart, Paul Kagame, on the other hand, told this newspaper in an interview in London that the falling bombs which have virtually crippled Gaddafi’s military was necessary because the situation in Libya had moved “beyond” AU mandate. Protagonists offer no panacea, not even a clear blue-print, for what next if Gaddafi were to go, as it appears likely. Yesterday, Minister Kutesa said they had decided to “see what they (West) are saying at the UK summit and we can assess if our agendas can be harmonised”.

Consensus lacking?
In Addis Ababa, AU officials said they disengaged from the London conference due to “organisational reasons”, but gave no specifics. However, other sources point to lack of consensus among African players. Western coalition forces called yesterday’s summit to discuss political transition in Libya and glue faltering global diplomatic opinion. Speaking in London yesterday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said their swift military strikes had helped avert a probable “massacre” and declared that Col. Gaddafi, has “lost the legitimacy” to lead Libya.