“The letter was signed by more than 200 prominent Africans, including ANC national executive member Jesse Duarte, political analyst Willie Esterhuyse of the University of Stellenbosch, former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils, lawyer Christine Qunta, former deputy foreign affairs minister Aziz Pahad, former minister in the presidency Essop Pahad, Sam Moyo of the African Institute for Agrarian Studies, former president Thabo Mbeki’s spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga, and poet Wally Serote.” — “Concerned Africans Criticise Nato,” 24 August 2011
We, the undersigned, are ordinary citizens of Africa who are immensely pained and angered that fellow Africans are and have been subjected to the fury of war by foreign powers which have clearly repudiated the noble and very relevant vision enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.
Our action to issue this letter is inspired by our desire, not to take sides, but to protect the sovereignty of Libya and the right of the Libyan people to choose their leaders and determine their own destiny.
Libya is an African country.
On March 10, the African Union Peace and Security Council adopted an important Resolution (3) which spelt out the roadmap to address the Libyan conflict, consistent with the obligations of the AU under Chapter VIII of the UN Charter.
When the UN Security Council adopted its Resolution 1973, it was aware of the AU decision which had been announced seven days earlier.
By deciding to ignore this fact, the Security Council further and consciously contributed to the subversion of international law as well as undermining the legitimacy of the UN in the eyes of the African people.
In other ways since then, it has helped to promote and entrench the immensely pernicious process of the international marginalisation of Africa even with regard to the resolution of the problems of the Continent.
Contrary to the provisions of the UN Charter, the UN Security Council declared its own war on Libya on March 17, 2011.
The Security Council allowed itself to be informed by what the International Crisis Group (ICG) in its June 6, 2011 Report on Libya characterises as the “more sensational reports that the regime was using its air force to slaughter demonstrators”.
On this basis it adopted Resolution 1973 which mandated the imposition of a “no-fly zone” over Libya, and resolved “to take all necessary measures . . . to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. . .”
Thus, first of all, the Security Council used the still unresolved issue in international law of “the right to protect”, the so-called R2P, to justify the Chapter VII military intervention in Libya.
In this context the UN Security Council has committed a litany of offences which have underlined, the further transformation of the Council into a willing instrument of the most powerful among its Member States.
Thus the Security Council produced no evidence to prove that its authorisation of the use of force under Chapter VII of the UN Charter was a proportionate and appropriate response to what had, in reality, in Libya, developed into a civil war.
It then proceeded to ‘outsource’ or ‘sub-contract’ the implementation of its resolutions to NATO, mandating this military alliance to act as a ‘coalition of the willing’.
It did not put in place any mechanism and process to supervise the ‘sub-contractor’, to ensure that it faithfully honours the provisions of its Resolutions.
It has made no effort otherwise to monitor and analyse the actions of NATO in this regard.
It has allowed the establishment of a legally unauthorised ‘Contact Group’, yet another ‘coalition of the willing’, which has displaced it as the authority which has the effective responsibility to help determine the future of Libya.
To confirm this unacceptable reality, the July 15, 2011 meeting of the ‘Contact Group’ in Istanbul “reaffirmed that the Contact Group remains the appropriate platform for the international community to be a focal point of contact with the Libyan people, to coordinate international policy and to be a forum for discussion of humanitarian and post-conflict support.”
Duly permitted by the Security Council, the two ‘coalitions of the willing’, NATO and the ‘Contact Group’, have effectively and practically rewritten Resolution 1973.
Thus they have empowered themselves openly to pursue the objective of ‘regime change’ and therefore the use of force and all other means to overthrow the government of Libya, which objectives are completely at variance with the decisions of the UN Security Council.
Because of this, with no regard to UNSC Resolutions 1970 and 1973, they have made bold to declare the government of Libya illegitimate and to proclaim the Benghazi-based ‘Transitional National Council’ as “the legitimate governing authority in Libya.”
The Security Council has failed to answer the question how the decisions taken by NATO and the ‘Contact Group’ address the vital issue of “facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution. . .”
The actions of its ‘sub-contractors’, NATO and the ‘Contact Group’, have positioned the UN as a partisan belligerent in the Libyan conflict, rather than a committed but neutral peacemaker standing equidistant from the Libyan armed factions.
The Security Council has further wilfully decided to repudiate the rule of international law by consciously ignoring the provisions of Chapter VIII of the UN Charter relating to the role of legitimate regional institutions.
The George W. Bush war against Iraq began on March 20, 2003.
The following day, March 21, the UK newspaper, the Guardian, published an abbreviated article by the prominent US neo-conservative, Richard Perle, entitled “Thank God for the death of the UN”.
But the post-Second World War global architecture for the maintenance of international peace and security centred on respect for the UN Charter.
The UN Security Council must therefore know that at least with regard to Libya, it has acted in a manner which will result in and has led to the loss of its moral authority effectively to preside over the critical processes of achieving global peace and the realisation of the objective of peaceful coexistence among the diverse peoples of the world.
Contrary to the provisions of the UN Charter, the UN Security Council authorised and has permitted the destruction and anarchy which has descended on the Libyan people.
At the end of it all:
- many Libyans will have died and have been maimed
- much infrastructure will have been destroyed, further impoverishing the Libyan people
- the bitterness and mutual animosity among the Libyan people will have been further entrenched
- the possibility to arrive at a negotiated, inclusive and stable settlement will have become that much more difficult
- instability will have been reinforced among the countries neighbouring Libya, especially the countries of the African Sahel, such as Sudan, Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauretania
- Africa will inherit a much more difficult challenge successfully to address issue of peace and stability, and therefore the task of sustained development
- those who have intervened to perpetuate violence and war in Libya will have the possibility to set the parameters within which the Libyans will have the possibility to determine their destiny, and thus further constrain the space for the Africans to exercise their right to self-determination.
As Africans we have predicated our future as relevant players in an equitable system of international relations on the expectation that the United Nations would indeed serve “as the foundation of a new world order.”
The ICG Report to which we have referred says:
“The prospect for Libya, but also North Africa as a whole, is increasingly ominous, unless some way can be found to induce the two sides in the armed conflict to negotiate a compromise allowing for an orderly transition to a post-Qaddafi, post-Jamahiriya state that has legitimacy in the eyes of the Libyan people. A political breakthrough is by far the best way out of the costly situation created by the military impasse. . .”
When Richard Perle wrote in 2003 about the “abject failure of the United Nations”, he was bemoaning the refusal of the UN to submit to dictation by the world’s sole superpower, the US.
The UN took this position because it was conscious of, and was inspired by its obligation to act as a true representative of all peoples of the world, consistent with the opening words of the UN Charter — “We the peoples on the United Nations. . .”
However, and tragically, eight years later, in 2011, the UN Security Council abandoned its commitment to this perspective.
Chastened by the humiliating experience of 2003, when the US demonstrated that might is right, it decided that it was more expedient to submit to the demands of the powerful rather than honour its obligation to respect the imperative to uphold the will of the peoples, including the African nations.
Thus it has communicated the message that it has become no more than an instrument in the hands and service of the most powerful within the system of international relations and therefore the vital process of the peaceful ordering of human affairs.
As Africans we have no choice but to stand up and reassert our right and duty to determine our destiny in Libya and everywhere else on our Continent.
We demand that all governments, everywhere in the world, including Africa, which expect genuine respect by the governed, such as us, should act immediately to assert “that law by which all nations may live in dignity.”
We demand that:
- the NATO war of aggression in Libya should end immediately
- the AU should be supported to implement its Plan to help the Libyan people to achieve peace, democracy, shared prosperity and national reconciliation in a united Libya
- the UN Security Council must act immediately to discharge its responsibilities as defined in the UN Charter.
Those who have brought a deadly rain of bombs to Libya today should not delude themselves to believe that the apparent silence of the millions of Africans means that Africa approves of the campaign of death, destruction and domination which that rain represents.
We are confident that tomorrow we will emerge victorious, regardless of the death-seeking power of the most powerful armies in the world.
The answer we must provide practically, and as Africans, is — when, and in what ways, will we act resolutely and meaningfully to defend the right of the Africans of Libya to decide their future, and therefore the right and duty of all Africans to determine their destiny!
The AU Road Map remains the only way to peace for the people of Libya.
This open letter was first published by Pambazuka News on 9 August 2011 under a Creative Commons license. Cf. Peace and Security Council of the African Union, “AU Calls for Inclusive Transitional Government in Libya” (MRZine, 26 August 2011).