The Libya conflict could have been stopped much sooner if the western world had listened to African leaders, former South African president Thabo Mbeki said on Saturday.
“The peace-makers could not go in to make peace,” Mbeki told students and guests at the Africa Arise Summit in Bloemfontein.
Mbeki said the African Union (AU) had a peace plan which the Libyan government accepted but the continent’s leaders were overruled by major powers, who decided on a no-fly zone over the country.
A new student movement Student Empowerment Movement at the University of the Free State, with the institution and the Empowerment Temple Bible Church invited Mbeki to speak on “The Effects of Leadership Bankruptcy in Africa”.
Mbeki said the one unavoidable aspect of the conflict in Libya was that its citizens at some stage would sit and decide their own future.
“The sad part of it, many people would have been killed by that time and lots of infrastructure would be destroyed.”
Mbeki told the gathering of mostly students that Africa had solutions for its own problems and this must be respected by others.
He said the west should rather support the continent’s efforts.
“International support must compliment Africa’s efforts and support.”
Mbeki said African leaders must also address the “highly dangerous situation” in Libya and recently in the Ivory Coast, where western powers decided how problems should be handled.
Replying to student questions, Mbeki said South Africa must talk about its mines.
“It’s a debate the country must have, what to do about the mines.”
He said the debate should be against the background of defeating poverty. “We must talk.”
‘Don’t be victims of stereotypes’
The former president urged students not to become “victims” of the negative “stereotyping of Africa” by others, which was inherent in the theme of the talk.
Mbeki said the youth as leaders would be better empowered to handle the advancement of the continents “African agenda” than those before them.
“First students must try to understand themselves as Africans and not to listen to others telling us that we are failures, because we are not.”
On a question whether a student’s life should be that of being “embroiled in politics”, Mbeki said studies should come first.
“The task of a student is to study. That’s the first thing to do.”
However, more should be done to link student movements in Africa.
Mbeki said “transformation” was a naturally inherent character for students and they should be the critics of what was “going wrong” in Africa.
Students should be the “agents of change” and be the group that contributes to the change of Africa, within its own context.
“We need to be able to fly to the moon,” said Mbeki, adding that Africa’s universities must supply it with its future leaders. — Sapa