SA recognises NTC as Libya’s legitimate leaders

South Africa joined the African Union in recognising the National Transitional Council as Libya’s de facto government on Tuesday, after its concerns over representation and the safety of African workers were addressed.

The move further strips away diplomatic support from ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The AU, which has frequently been criticised for its ponderous reaction to events on its doorstep, said on Tuesday it was ready to support the NTC in its efforts to build an inclusive government.

It also urged the NTC to protect African migrant workers following reports of black Africans being targeted by militia units hunting down mercenaries loyal to Gaddafi.

National unity
In its statement, the AU said it had received assurances from the NTC’s leadership concerning the new Libyan government’s commitment to the African continent, and that the council would “give priority to national unity and to bring together all Libyan stakeholders, without any exception, to rebuild the country”.

According to the AU, the NTC also expressed its commitment to the African continent, and offered assurances on the safety of all foreign workers, explicitly specifying that this was “including African migrant workers”.

As of August 22, most European nations, the United States and Nigeria had recognised the NTC, while China official acknowledged the Benghazi-based group as Libya’s “ruling authority” on September 12.

The AU’s switch was likely to bring a modicum of pressure to bear on long-standing leaders such as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, who expelled Libya’s ambassador at the end of August after he switched allegiance from Gaddafi to the NTC.

Clayson Monyela, speaking for South Africa’s department of international relations and cooperation, told the Mail & Guardian that South Africa would now recognise the NTC in line with the AU’s stance.

President Jacob Zuma, as a member of the high-level AU panel on Libya, was part of the AU’s decision to formally recognise the NTC as the official government of Libya, he said.

“It was a collective decision,” said Monyela.

The NTC’s representative in South Africa, Abdalla Alzabedi, welcomed the announcement, telling the M&G: ‘We have been waiting for that news. Our brothers [in South Africa] are joining the rest of the world in recognising us. It’s good news.”

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