Following the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the ANC on Monday condemned the use of violence in resolving global conflicts.
In a statement issued by the ANC’s head of international relations, Ebrahim Ebrahim, the party said “world problems cannot be resolved through violence, but through peaceful means. There can therefore be no justification for the use of violence to resolve global challenges that we daily face.”
Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001 destruction of the World Trade Centre, was killed in a firefight with United States forces in Pakistan early on Monday, following a nearly 10-year manhunt.
“South Africa is today hailed as a model of a peaceful transition from the tyranny of apartheid to constitutional democracy because of our belief in resolving issues around the table and not through the bullet,” the statement continued. “It is against this background that — while we have noted reports of the death of Osama bin Laden — we hope that his death will greatly contribute towards a peaceful resolution in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.”
Political analysts however were conflicted on how to read the party’s statement.
University of Johannesburg’s deputy vice-chancellor Adam Habib said that the ANC statement reflects an uneasiness of some members within the party, who may still be trying to understand the implications of the killing, and a concern that political issues are being resolved by “taking people out”.
“Assassination is not the democratic way,” Habib said. “A humane society should not be dealing with perpetrators of atrocities through assassination.” He said many would have preferred to have seen Bin Laden captured, brought to trial and prosecuted for his crimes and that it would have been preferable if US President Barack Obama had made it clear that some attempt to do this had been made.
Habib also said that in many parts of the developing world there was a concern over the US’s predisposition to resolve issues through arms, and that this was also reflected in the ANC statement.
Political analyst Eusebius McKaiser, from the Centre for the Study of Democracy, also pointed out that it was not clear from the ANC statement whether, when it spoke of “the use of violence”, the party was condemning the use of terror by al-Qaeda to achieve political ends or the US’s use of violence to eliminate Bin Laden.
McKaiser said it was difficult to make any inferences concerning South Africa’s foreign policy in relation to the US from the statement as the language used was ambiguous.
“The statement is very ambiguous. It’s not clear whether they’re referring to the covert operation involving Bin Laden’s assassination or whether they’re referring to Bin Laden himself as part of a terrorist outlet that used violence,” he said.
However the key problem in unpacking the statement, he said, is that the country lacks a coherent foreign policy framework that informs actions and underpins political statements. Because the ad-hoc statement left so much unexplained, the South African public would be left to puzzle out whether the ANC’s stance was consistent with pacifist values or whether it was just arbitrary, he added.
“We’ve seen South African foreign policy statements at the UN to be very inconsistent and it’s difficult to know who the key officials are who make the calls when these statements are crafted,” he said.
McKaiser also said he found ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu’s earlier position, that it would not comment until evidence of Bin Laden’s body was made available, “comical” as it implied that the party did not trust US intelligence. “It’s just another symptom of how clumsy we are in how we deal with our foreign policy relations,” he said.
According to a Reuters report, US defense officials said Bin Laden was buried from a US air carrier in the North Arabian Sea, following an Islamic funeral. A senior intelligence official has stated that the body had been identified by one of Bin Laden’s wives and that DNA testing showed a nearly 100% match to relatives.