Speech by Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Ebrahim I Ebrahim, on the Occasion of a Public Lecture on "Libya, the United Nations, the African Union and South Africa: Wrong Moves? Wrong Motives?", University of Pretoria, 15 September 2011

Article excerpt

Programme Director, Prof Africa, Fellow Speakers on the podium, High Commissioners and Ambassadors here this evening, Prof Crewe, Vice-Rector of the University Prof Schoeman, Head of the Department of Political Studies, Professors and Lecturers with us, Members of the media, Students and staff, Ladies and Gentlemen

Please allow me to take this opportunity to thank the University of Pretoria for organising this public lecture and extending the invitation to us. By organising this public lecture through the Centre for Mediation in Africa, the Department of Political Sciences, and the Centre for Human Rights, this University is sending out a clear message that it is about time that we familiarise ourselves with the fundamentals of our foreign policy objectives.

Programme Director,

Our President, the Minister, Deputy Minister Fransman and I have used the chief instruments of Public Diplomacy such as lectures, electronic media, publications etc to put across and make known South Africa's engagements and thoughts on the Libyan crisis. Because we have already highlighted our public diplomacy strategies, I believe ours tonight is to make some reflections on and around the developments in relation to the crisis in Libya. I will also share some perspectives on what I regard as the wider implications of the response of the Western powers on the kind of a world that we as a country wish to see. In order to enrich our discussions this evening, I will conclude my lecture by sharing with you the outcomes of the Ad Hoc Committee meeting of the African Union (AU) High-Level Panel on Libya, held on 14 September in Pretoria.

You may have noticed that in all our Public Diplomacy engagements, we have continued to condemn the actions of NATO towards Libya. It is very well known that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) misused the United Nations (UN) resolution 1973 to carry out its bombing escapades on a defenceless African country. In our view, this action completely ignored the other important aspects of the resolution.

Although we have criticised the manner in which NATO has decided to interpret the resolution, however, within the context of the AU position, we remain committed to working with the UN, the League of Arab States, the European Union (EU) and others in order to find a lasting solution to the crisis in Libya. We have also insisted that the foundations for laying a lasting peace could only come from a negotiated and inclusive political settlement leading to democratic elections.

Programme Director,

Inspired by the Freedom Charter, the South African Government has always believed that every citizen of the world is entitled to enjoy their fundamental human rights and freedom, including the right to live in dignity. This is a right, which we wish not only for the peoples of Libya, and Syria, but equally for the peoples of Bahrain, Yemen, and other countries which in the recent past have seen their people rising up. I say this because, for whatever reason, there seems to be concerted efforts to selectively focus on the issue of Libya, as well as Syria, while ignoring other situations right now in the Middle East and North Africa whose challenges may require similar, if not more, attention of the international community.

I am of the view, and perhaps we can debate this further during the question and answer session, that the situation and the case of Libya, has long ceased to be characterised within the broader developments which have come to be popularly known as the Arab Spring, especially the events that unfolded in Tunisia and Egypt. This is the case, because the people of Egypt and Tunisia, who took to the streets demanding their freedom, did so peacefully. In the case of Libya, what we had was an armed insurrection and it was therefore necessary for the AU to intervene to bring all stakeholders together to address the legitimate demands of the people through dialogue and negotiations. …

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