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Africa is failing Libya, say NGOs

African governments are “failing” Libyan citizens and all Africans, according to civil society organisations on Friday.

“African governments’ appalling lack of pressure to force Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi, to halt the violence and step down reflects persistent inadequacies in the African Union (AU),” said Civicus, an international civil society organisation in a statement.

A group of civil society organisations held a press briefing in Rosebank, Johannesburg, on Friday to discuss Africa’s role in the Libya uprisings. Civicus, Amnesty International, Global Call to Action against Poverty and African Democracy Forum made up the panel.

They said Africa and the AU needed to take a stand against what is happening in Libya.

Ingrid Srinath, secretary general of Civicus, said urging African states to respond was not in isolation of the rest of the international community.

“The response from African governments and the [AU] took so long and was so feeble that it emboldens Gadaffi in clinging on to power by any means possible, and permits him to claim the protests are a Western or al-Qaeda conspiracy,” she said.

“African countries have a particular responsibility. Libya is part of the AU … There’s a need to send a message across Africa about what the AU stands for. If the AU is going to be the last to respond, what does it say about its legitimacy?”

United States of Africa
Gadaffi was elected chairperson of the AU in February 2009 for a one-year-term. On his appointment he made clear his interests in pursuing his vision of a United States of Africa.

For Noel Kututwa, who deals with foreign policy at Amnesty International, the international community has failed the Libyan people in their hour of greatest need. He said the AU should start showing concrete action towards African conflicts. Kututwa said it was important to remember that it was the Libyan people who orchestrated the uprising against their Gadaffi, and that should be respected.

Rajesh Latchman of Global Call to Action against Poverty said the crisis in Libya presented an opportunity for Africans to solve their own problems.

“We are asking that the South African government consider a rapid-response system to be set up comprising of business, civil society and government,” he said.

“For President [Jacob] Zuma in particular, this is not a call for you to imitate the out-of-office behaviour of your predecessor, it is rather a call to bring together a broad-based but small collective — to act as a thought collective for the way our country acts when the rights of people outside our borders are violated,” said Latchman.

The group sees the AU’s failure to act decisively on the Libya issue as threatening progress towards democracy and respect for human rights in Africa.

The call however was not only to the AU. The organisations noted that South Africa, Nigeria and Gabon represent Africa on the United Nations Security Council and therefore had a role to play regarding the protection of the people of Libya.

“The failure to act against what’s going on in Libya sends a message to the rest of Africa,” said Srinath.

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