By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Dr. Emmanuel Kwesi Aning, a security analyst at the Kofi Annan International Peace-Keeping Training Centre, may be concerned about the proliferation of all manner of weapons on the continent as a result of the mayhem in Libya. He may also be concerned that retrieving such weapons will help curb any security threat.
But his condemnation of President Mills’ pronouncement concerning his government’s intention to monitor happenings in Libya before taking a definite stand is unjustified. Again, his claim that this pronouncement is a shirking of Ghana’s leadership role in Africa is unacceptable.
I strongly disagree with him, especially for claiming that “it is unfortunate that Ghana has decided to abandon its leadership role in ensuring the cache of weapons that have littered the streets of Libya are not used to destabilize the rest of Africa.” (Myjoyonline, August 25, 2011).
Dr. Aning believes that “the potential dangers posed by the lethal weapons strewn on the streets of Libya are too dire for the continent and bad for a country as critical as Ghana to virtually say it is watching and waiting and will take a decision later.”
President Mills had told his South African counterpart, Jacob Zuma, at a meeting during his visit to South Africa early this week that his government was keenly monitoring events in Libya and would make its position public at the appropriate time. That position, he said, would be in the best interest of the people of Libya.
Dr. Aning’s stance suggests that he expects Ghana to play a leadership role in the Libyan case and to use it as an opportunity to bounce back as a force to reckon with in international affairs. But I don’t see how Ghana can be expected to play a leadership role in a crisis situation created and worsened by external forces that refused to heed calls to resolve that crisis through negotiated peaceful means supported by Ghana, in the first place.
Any attempt to ascribe leadership role to Ghana in this case is overblown, especially within the context of contemporary developments on the African continent. Dr. Aning seems to have bitten off too much for Ghana to chew. We must admit that Dr. Nkrumah’s resounding efforts had put Ghana among the prime-movers of politics on the continent, which must be sustained; but the country cannot be expected to take on the role that Dr. Aning is suggesting.
I think the real issue hidden behind Dr. Aning’s criticism is the inference from President Mills’ pronouncement that Ghana won’t rush into recognizing the rebel National Transitional Council as the legitimate government of Libya, especially after the rebels had fought their way into Tripoli.
And on that score too, President Mills is right. Many events that happened to bring Libya to this sorry state justify the government’s decision to continue monitoring the situation in that country.
The battle for absolute control of the country is still raging on, even in central and many parts of Tripoli, although the NATO-led bombardment of pro-Gaddafi forces and installations seems to have given the rebels an edge over the Gaddafi administration.
The situation in other cities is still dicey to the extent that the rebel leaders themselves aren’t sure whether they can relocate in Tripoli this week to establish themselves in office or whether they can exert their influence on the entire country to curtail anarchy. They are even not sure how acceptable they will be to the citizens of the country or whether they are united at all to administer affairs in tandem.
Gaddafi’s forces have lost some vital grounds but it doesn’t mean that they have been totally defeated or that the government’s influence has been wiped out completely. What we have now in Libya is two-fold: an emerging political authority (the National Transitional Council) based in Benghazi and overseeing the fragmentation of the country into territories it claims to be under its control and a crumbling but not totally defeated Gaddafi administration and loyal territories (Sirte and Sabha).
Libya is in a complete mess at the moment, especially in the sense of its administrative machinery being thrown into disarray such that law and order cannot be enforced. To worsen the situation, the rebels’ overrunning of pro-Gaddafi installations and the ransacking of arms depots has resulted in all kinds of weapons being let loose. In the hands of all manner of people, these dangerous weapons are difficult to trace and retrieve, which puts the country in a more terrible security situation.
It is reported that some of the weapons have found their way into Egypt where they are being sold on the black market. Others are alleged to be reaching al-Qaeda elements. The overarching security implications of this arms proliferation as a result of the breakdown of law and order in Libya, following this rebellion, shouldn’t be lost on us. But what leadership role can Ghana play in handling this situation?
Internally, Libya faces very dire consequences. Until such a time that the Gaddafi menace is totally eradicated, fears will continue to abound that Libya is unstable and faces a bleak future. The country lacks a government worthy of any serious consideration. Until the rebel leaders relocate in Tripoli to stamp their authority on the entire country, nothing warrants optimism that country is out of danger. The Libyan state is not functioning.
In this circumstance, then, any move to give diplomatic recognition to the rebels and their National Transitional Council as the legitimate governing body is a mere exercise in diplomatic nicety. It is within this context that the latest decision by countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea, and Nigeria to recognize the NTC as Libya’s government is nothing but part of the herd mentality. Of course, the precedent has already been set by the 30 countries grouped into the Libya Contact Group—which are behind NATO’s frontline role in the Libyan conflict.
The diplomatic recognition being given the NTC is part of the overall anti-Gaddafi strategy to present it as an alternative administration to superintend over Libya. Indeed, such a recognition is a potent measure that has reinforced the military campaign and garnered sympathy and support for the rebels to achieve the ultimate, which they did on Sunday by entering Tripoli and locking horns with the Gaddafi administration.
In all honesty, then, catapulting the NTC into office through the channel of diplomatic recognition in principle defeats the norms of diplomacy that guide the countries quickly supporting the rebels. For instance, although Britain has made it clear that under its foreign policy, it recognizes COUNTRIES and not governments, the Prime Minister (David Cameron) brazenly violated that norm in the case of the Libyan rebels, claiming that recognizing the NTC will weaken Gaddafi’s hold on power. Other countries have justified their move with such an explanation.
Ghana doesn’t have anything to gain by rashly recognizing the Libyan rebel leadership. Nor does it have anything to lose. A careful appraisal of the situation should help us know that the government’s decision not to rush into recognizing the rebel leadership is likely to be in consonance with the African Union’s approach to the Libyan conflict, which the West and Arab League spurned to create enmity between them and the AU—and to create the problem that Dr. Aning is suggesting Ghana’s leadership role in controlling.
So far, the AU has held a brief meeting in Addis Ababa but decided not to recognize the TNC until after a second meeting to be held soon. No one knows what will transpire at that meeting or the outcome. We may not like the AU’s performance but let’s not give it a bad name just because we want to hang it.
Probably, a collective decision will be taken for us to know where the AU stands. Despite its initial foot-dragging and seemingly lethargic approach to resolving the Libyan conflict, the AU’s efforts finally gave us clear glimpses into how it wanted the crisis to be peacefully resolved. But the intransigence of NATO and the rebels thwarted those efforts. The AU may be justifiably peeved and want to exhaust all possibilities for peace-making before declaring its stance. Ghana is right in biding its time on that score too. It’s not a matter of failing to use the opportunity to play any leadership role.
One may wonder why Nigeria and Morocco have already given diplomatic recognition to the rebels. I am not in the least surprised that Nigeria would do so. After giving its backing to the UN Security Council resolution 1973 that authorized what has been happening in Libya since March 19, could Nigeria turn round to do otherwise?
Indeed, Nigeria has joined The Gambia and Senegal as members of the 54-member AU that have taken a unilateral action to support the rebels. It’s only the governments of those countries that can best tell us why they’ve chosen that path, which doesn’t reflect the collective position that their membership of the AU would entail over this Libyan crisis.
Nigeria presents a sorry face, especially in this matter. Its 3-year civil war (1967–1970) resulted from a rebellion by those in Eastern Nigeria against domination and exploitation. In contemporary times too, those Nigerian citizens in the oil-producing parts of the country have taken arms to protest against discrimination, exploitation, and virtual alienation only to be brutally attacked by the government’s military set-up. If rebellion in Libya is worth supporting, what makes it an anathema in Nigeria or elsewhere? Jonathan Goodluck has a lot to learn from the lesson that history teaches.
Although South Africa and Gabon also endorsed the NATO-led military campaign, the conduct of South Africa’s President (and government) suggests that he preferred a peaceful resolution of the conflict under the auspices of the AU’s political road-map. But defeated by the more belligerent voices, the AU’s option fizzled out. South Africa hasn’t given up yet. We are told that it has stood against moves at the UN to defreeze part of Libyan funds to be given to the rebel leadership. But for this objection, the resolution would have been passed. That’s a resolute stance by South Africa to indirectly register the AU’s concerns about the West’s attitude to the Libyan conflict. Gabon has remained silent ever since.
We can tell from the circumstances surrounding the Libyan conflict that any rash move to join the chorus of those recognizing the rebels and their NTC may have its own dire consequences. At least, by stating his government’s perspectives on the issue, President Mills hasn’t left us in any doubt that Ghana has more to consider before making its position known. That’s what one should expect at this stage. Until the dust settles, we need to hasten slowly.
Nothing makes it binding for Ghana to rush into recognizing the Libyan rebels or positioning itself to play a leadership role in retrieving weapons from the wrong hands in Libya! Did those who armed those rebels consult Ghana before doing so? Why should it be Ghana’s responsibility to oversee the retrieval of those weapons? Let’s not go all out to find fault where there is none.