The circumstances surrounding the inhumane murder of ‘Brother Leader’ Col. Gaddafi in Libya a decade ago are veiled in political obscurity. They cut across the politics that defines modern day international relations matrix and Africa’s capability to proffer actionable solutions to her problems. A number of narratives have been put forward to demonize the person and character of the late Pan-African leader so much so that, even the inhumanity that characterized his slaughter tend to be overlooked.
Gaddafi’s leadership is like a buffet of diverse political attributes that range from radical Pan-Africanism to staunch autocracy and repression of civilians. The legacy of Gaddafi is a diluted mix in the eyes of different political observers. While all this can be an analysis of Gaddafi the person, one cannot dismiss the fact that, at the top brass of African leadership with an African institutional memory, the name Colonel Gaddafi resonates. However, worrisome to date, is the manner in which the life of a man who had a United States of Africa dream was put to an end by NATO and Libyan rebel forces.
NATO’s role in the Gaddafi capture.
NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, also known as the North Atlantic Alliance. It is an intergovernmental military alliance between 28 European countries, 2 North American countries and 1 Asian country. Its role is to ensure peace and security, acting in the interests of its principal member States. In some instances, NATO can function to execute certain United Nations peace-keeping missions on request from the parties. It has a two-pronged function; one in defense of its member parties’ interests and also when sanctioned by the United Nations. In the first Libyan civil war in which Brother Leader Gaddafi was executed, NATO acted under the auspices of United Nations Resolution 1973 of 2011.
On 20 October 2011 after the Battle of Sirte , Gaddafi was found west of Sirte after his convoys were attacked by NATO aircraft. This was contrary to what South Africa as the leader of the AU peace keeping mission in Libya had mandated to this powerful military body. After the death of Gaddafi, Jacob Zuma condemned the bombing, saying NATO forces had distorted the mandate of the resolution by trying to topple Gaddafi instead of remaining neutral and protecting civilians. The African Union also expressed reservations over the NATO bombings.
The attack on Gaddafi’s convoy, though vehemently said to be unintentional and out of ignorance by the NATO commanders, exposed Gaddafi to the mercy of vengeful rebels. Visual and pictorial images of Gaddafi’s capture are proof that he was tortured to death. In one of the horrific videos that circulated over social media, Gaddafi is sodomised by one of the rebels using a bayonet.
A prominent Cameroon Professor at the Institute of International Relations, Jean-Emmanuel Pondi documents that, it is clear that the aim of the NATO intervention, sanctioned by United Nations Resolution 1973, was primarily to get rid of Gaddafi and not to save the lives of civilians. ‘As soon as Gaddafi was dead, that was the end of the NATO intervention, even though violence was still ongoing. Civilians were still being killed,’. Soon after Gaddafi’s demise, Libya became increasingly chaotic and violent, with more than 1 700 militias operating in various parts of the country – some better armed than the police and the army. NATO’s role proved to be limited to Colonel’s capture than to the general welfare of Libyans.
The AU’s diplomatic impasse in Libya
Following a concerted effort by Gaddafi and his supporters to dismiss possibility of stepping down or moving into an external territory, NATO forces had to settle for a military offence aimed at Gaddafi’s capture. In implementation of Resolution 1973, NATO ordered a No flying zone on Libya coupled with a military threat for any opposing move. Prior to the advancement NATO, the African Peace and Security Council members (then constituting Nigeria, Gabon and South Africa) preferred a peaceful settlement of the conflict in Libya.
In promotion of the Ezulwini Consensus, most African States such as Uganda and Zimbabwe had pressured the peace-keeping member States to settle for a political agreement which would spare Brother Leader’s life. After notifying the UN of the mooted grand plan, Africa’s P3 were given greenlight to go ahead, but their efforts were thwarted. NATO warned the African Union diplomatic emissaries from flying into Libya since Libya had become a no-flying zone. This technical obstruction made it virtually impracticable for Africa to decisively act on resolving the chaos in Libya. Western countries should have left the African Union to resolve the situation in Libya, giving the continental body an opportunity to solve an African problem.
The exclusion of the AU in Libyan civil war made the African Union seem like a weak body politic in as far as peace keeping is concerned. It marked a locus classicus precedence of a regional failure to unite and defend one of its own.
Given that Libya was one of the largest contributors to the African Union budget, some political analysts still feel that the AU did not do more to protect one of its own from NATO’s western assignment. Arguments surrounding the rationale for Africa not vetoing the UN Resolution 1973 which in the first place, fueled NATO to proceed into Libya have sparked debate. Be that as it may, did NATO own the right to overreach its mandate in Libya, pitting it against the regional administration?