Sunday, August 7, 2022

Botswana breaks ranks with African Union over Libya

Botswana has broken ranks with the rest of Africa by inviting the Interim National Transitional Council (NTC) of Libya to open an embassy in Gaborone. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Phandu Skelemani, says the invitation is Botswana’s way of trying to restore diplomatic relations between Libya and Botswana which were severed in February of 2011.

“We have decided to recognize the NTC as the Interim Administration as it seems to have control of most parts of Libya, and nobody knows where Gaddafi is,” said Skelemani.

The Botswana Government joins other members of the international community in recognizing the NTC because the country feels that Colonel Moammar Gaddafi’s “oppressive regime has lost legitimacy in the country”.

Skelemani revealed that he did not know how Botswana’ s decision will be received by member countries of the African Union (AU) who made known that they do not recognize the rebels as the government of Libya.

In what is believed to be a spurn to the South African government for their apparent support for Gaddaffi, Libyan diplomats who have been kicked out of Zimbabwe for defecting to the NTC on Friday turned down an invitation from the South African government for a transit visa to fly through Johannesburg and instead chose to drive 480 kilometers to Botswana.

The Libyan Ambassador Taher al-Megrahial allegedly received a call from his counterpart in Botswana guaranteeing him refuge here.

Libyan diplomats were ordered to leave after they swore allegiance to the rebel-led National Transitional Council in Libya that Zimbabwe does not recognize.

Colonel Gaddafi was chairman of the AU in 2009 but lost his seat to Bingu Wa Mutharika, the President of Malawi the following year. Earlier this year, Botswana’s opposition parties snubbed the latter’s visit to the country after labeling him a dictator. According to recent media reports, the AU’s Peace and Security Council held an emergency meeting in Addis Ababa on the 26th of August where it decided not to recognize the NTC as the legitimate government of Libya. Neighbouring countries such as South Africa have also decided not to recognize the NTC.

“We acted independently because this issue is a matter of principle and we cannot agree with everything the AU decides on. How the decision we took will affect our relationship with the African Union in future will depend on them and how they view our decision,” said Skelemani.

Skelemani said that Botswana took its time to watch events as they unfolded and has made the decision to call upon Gaddafi’s forces to lay down their arms to avoid a further loss of human lives and be part of the reconstruction and reconciliation process led by the interim NTC.This will pave the way for a new democratic dispensation for the good of the Libyan people, Skelemani concluded.

Asked to comment on the issue, the Leader of the Opposition, Botsalo Ntuane, said that his party, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) is yet to discuss the issue. He, however, sounds as if in agreement with the stance the Botswana government took. He said that the BMD as a party that “espouses values of democracy: good governance, respect for human rights and zero tolerance for dynasties and dictatorship, has no sympathy for Gaddafi and his sons.”

“We celebrate his removal from power; therefore we will take our chances with the NTC. They represent the victims of Gaddafi’s repressive rule of 42 years. The NTC should be much better than Gaddafi, but if they misbehave we will denounce them,” said Ntuane.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper