To fight terrorism, Africa must save Libya

Africa still hasn’t forgiven France, Britain and the United States for its military intervention in Libya in 2011 and the way former strongman Muammar Gaddafi was “assassinated”.

In fact, African participants at a high-level meeting on African security in Dakar, Senegal, last week – including heads of state – blame the Nato intervention against Gaddafi for the current chaotic situation in Libya. This has created a vast ungoverned zone in the southern Libyan desert and a safe haven for terrorists where they can regroup, get sophisticated weapons and equipment and launch attacks across the Sahel.

High-ranking officials and military experts, both from the region and internationally, concur that to fight the scourge of terrorism in Africa, which “spreads like wildfire across the continent” it is imperative to solve the crisis in Libya.

Chad’s president Idriss Deby, while saluting France’s intervention in Mali in 2013, was among the most virulent critics of the French-led intervention against Libya, which he blames for the threats Africa is facing in the Sahel-Sahara belt.

Senegal’s president Macky Sall also told the French minister of defence, Yves le Drian during the closing session of the Dakar International forum on peace and security in Africa, that Nato’s intervention led to “the destruction of Libya and the assassination of Gaddafi”, but then left Africa to clean up the mess. “There was no after-sales service,” he said.

There is some disagreement, however, over what to do about the Libyan situation in the short term, with some advocating a military intervention and others favouring negotiations.

Pro-Islamist and largely secular militia’s, said to be backed by Egypt, are fighting it out in Libya’s main cities of Tripoli and Benghazi and there is at this stage two parliaments and two governments who claim to be running the country.

The African Union (AU) Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has appointed former prime minister of Djibouti, Dileita Mohamed Dileita, as her special envoy to Libya. The AU has also established an international contact group for Libya, which held its first meeting on December 3. The aim is to try and mediate some kind of solution with all the stakeholders in the country.

Others, meanwhile, believe attacking the terrorists’ camps and securing borders between Libya and Algeria, Niger and Chad could at least temporarily stop the influx of arms and combatants.

Bad repercussions
There are increasing signs of co-operation between the Sahel Islamic terror groups, Boko Haram in northern Nigeria and al-Shabaab in Somalia – both responsible for the most gruesome massacres against civilians Africa has known in recent times.

Earlier it was reported that France, which has 3 000 troops on the ground in the Sahel as part of its Operation Berkhane, had called for a new military intervention in Libya, this time in the south of the country.

However, Le Drian denies any such plans and said he was misquoted in the media. “I said we needed to act in Libya, which doesn’t mean attack, it means we have to do something. The solution to what is happening in Libya is to be found in the north of the country,” he said at the Dakar summit.

At a media briefing in Dakar, Le Drian admitted that the fall-out from the removal of Gaddafi was worse than anticipated.

“What is clear is that those who participated in the 2011 intervention over-estimated the capacity of the Libyan society to assume, without any difficulty, the necessary political transition. Let’s admit it.”

The AU strongly opposed the Nato intervention.

This time round, though, Le Drian says there is no disagreement between France and the AU on what should be done in Libya. The United Nations has appointed a special envoy to Libya, Bernardino Leon, who is charged with trying to engage with the political actors in the country. “We agree fully, also on the mission of Mr Leon,” he said.

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Liesl Louw-Vaudran
Liesl Louw-Vaudran
Liesl Louw-Vaudran is an independent journalist and Africa expert. She lived in Senegal for many years and has reported from over 20 African countries. She is a regular commentator on African issues in the local and international media. From 2002 to 2008 she was the Africa Editor at Media24 newspapers in South Africa and still contributes to newspapers such as the Mail&Guardian in Johannesburg. Liesl also works as a consultant for the Institute for Security Studies, notably as editor of the African Union Peace and Security Council Report.

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