News / Africa

AU's Slow Recognition of NTC Prompts Calls for Reform

The pre-Gadhafi Libyan flag flies in front of the United Nations headquarters during the 66th session of the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, Sept. 20, 2011.
The pre-Gadhafi Libyan flag flies in front of the United Nations headquarters during the 66th session of the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, Sept. 20, 2011.

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The African Union has finally recognized Libya's National Transitional Council, dealing another blow to ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi.   Some African leaders say the delay in acting on Libya shows the African Union is out of touch.

The African Union says it is ready to support the transitional council as it works to form an inclusive government in Libya.  In a statement Tuesday, the alliance called on the interim council to protect all foreign workers in Libya amid reports that some militia have targeted African migrants who they suspect of being pro-Gadhafi mercenaries.

The African Union has been slow to act on Libya. One month ago, the interim council was recognized by most European nations and the United States along with several prominent African governments including Nigeria, Ethiopia, Senegal, and Ivory Coast.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara says the African Union delay on Libya shows how little influence the alliance has.

"I must confess I am very disappointed with the African Union - the lack of efficiency, the lagging decisions, the fact that the different sub-regions are not well-connected into the decision-making process.  And I don't think the [AU] Commission really has any power or responsibility," said Ouattara.

On Libya, Ouattara says it has been as if the African Union does not know what is going on in the world when all you have to do is watch television to see that the National Transitional Council is in power.  The Ivorian president says it is up to regional alliances such as the Economic Community of West African States to improve the larger 54-member group.

"Getting the African Union to work better should be a priority," Ouattara added.  "And we at ECOWAS certainly have an ambition in that.  We comprise 15 countries.  I think we are better coordinated.  We are in touch with each other."

President Ouattara spoke at a session of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations in New York, where he shared the stage with Sierra Leone's leader Ernest Bai Koroma.  President Koroma says the response to the Libyan crisis shows the need to rework the African Union.

"The groupings within the Union are visible, and they may be responsible for a sluggishness of the Union," said Koroma.  "The position of some of us is that we have to transform the whole concept of the African Union, make it into an institution that will have a completeness in terms of mandate and decision-making.  It is not only the promptness of taking a decision but also having the authority of implementing decisions that are taken."

Gadhafi has long been the African Union's chief financier.  Taking the place of the Organization of African Unity, the African Union was founded at a summit in Gadhafi's hometown in 1999.

Human rights activist Shehu Sani is the author of the book "Civilian Dictators of Africa".  He says the African Union is embarrassed over Libya.

"The rebel government in Libya is being seen to be a pro-European and pro-Western establishment," said Sani.  "And the AU feel embarrassed and disappointed for the very fact that they have been ignored by the rebels and even by NATO.  There can't be any peace in Libya without such issues being tackled."

Given Gadhafi's financial generosity with governments and rebel movements across Africa, Sani says Libya's interim council must move quickly to isolate him.

"It must incorporate states that are around Libya," added Sani.  "It must also win the hearts of Gadhafi's friends in order to ostracize him.  If not, there can't be peace in Tripoli."

South Africa led the block of African Union members resisting recognition of Libya's interim council. But Jacob Zuma's government Tuesday followed the African Union announcement with South African recognition of Tripoli's new leaders.

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