Thursday, 3 March 2011

Chavez To Make Peace in Libya?

The UN, the Arab League and the African Union are busy trying to figure out if, how and when to implement a no-fly zone over Libya, where battles still wage on daily between Muammar Gaddafi's loyalists (and mercenaries) and protesters who have been arming themselves in rag-tag units with limited weaponry to take on Gaddafi's well armed remaining forces. Thus far, it seems that Gaddafi has embarked upon a plan to capture the towns closest to Tripoli, in order to set up a layered defence within which he can last out longer. While preaching peace on the media stage, Gaddafi's forces are busy conducting attacks every night, which by the way, Muammar Gaddafi denies are occurring. He has accepted an offer from his friend and president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, to mediate in the crisis in Libya.

Yet Chavez has no mandate to mediate, either from the Libyan people, or their representatives (defecting diplomats, ministers, army, etc.) who have called for the immediate enforcement of a no-fly zone and attacks on key capabilities of Gaddafi. Indeed, most now believe that dialogue with Gaddafi is useless as he embarked upon a "shoot first, talk later" strategy, and has only decided to create sham negotiations now that he is under threat from international action. Nobody trusts Gaddafi's intentions. After his first speech - the now famous "zenga-zenga" (house to house) rant in which he shouted at the cameras for over an hour, there has been a gradual climb-down and a more relaxed, jovial, composed Gaddafi has emerged, calling for dialogue. Rightfully so, the protesters have given his talks the middle finger, and gone about securing more weapons to fend off the attacks against them, instead of mobilising to attend bogus 'talks'. It's hard to talk to someone who is bombing you, and who has threatened to put you all to death.

Privately, Gaddafi must be steaming at the African Union's decision to turn against him, as he sees himself as a key benefactor of African liberations (and indeed, he did provide support to many African liberation movements in the past). Yet his diabolical actions have led the African Union to take a strong stance against him. And who would know better, what the situation in North Africa is? Is it Chavez, who remains "unconvinced", and it seems is unable to procure any reliable intelligence about what is going on in Libya? Or is it the African Union, the nations that share the region with Gaddafi, and have direct intelligence on activities that are unfolding in Libya and the region? The African Union has moved in to attempt to salvage a situation through regional action, attempting to take action while relieving the US of the unenviable position of being the global policeman in Libya, which would feed into Gaddafi's obscure US-Al Qaeda conspiracy theory. Gaddafi has probably turned to Chavez because he has lost all his support in Africa.

To be clear, the African Union has moved quickly on this issue precisely to show that this is a critical issue for regional security and that Libya's continental neighbourhood are showing support for the Libyan people, and are denouncing the Gaddafi regime. There is no mistaking that this is the position that has been adopted, otherwise there would be no talk of enforcing a no-fly zone by the African Union. 

So if mediation and negotiations for peace are to be conducted, shouldn't it be by the African Union themselves? Who is Chavez to embark upon his own mission, in partnership with Muammar Gaddafi, to bring about 'peace' in Libya? Indeed, who, from our region, has invited the great Hugo Chavez onto African soil to solve our problems? His arrogance reminds me of that of George Bush, weighing in like a cowboy into a war-zone that he does not understand yet. Quite simply, Chavez has already adopted a position - that he "is not convinced", and will stand by Gaddafi, so how indeed is he supposed to act as a mediator. The first rule of a mediator is to be neutral, yet Chavez has not acknowledged the legitimate demands of the Libyan people and their leaders who have stepped down to join them, choosing to blame it all on the US's oil greed instead. He already has apriori positions on the matter, and his 'peace-keeping' mission is just another attempt to elevate his own international status by wading into Africa to 'save the day'.

Well, simply put, nobody from the region, or the international arena, or indeed any respected body has requested Presidente Chavez's help. Nobody except Muammar Gaddafi (his friend) has invited him into Libya, so the only conclusion that can be drawn is that Chavez will be drawn into a highly chaperoned visit to Libya, in which he will be used to whitewash Gaddafi's actions, which have already gone too far, and which should not be rewarded with feeble 'talks' but should be met with concrete actions instead. His involvement in Libya is more likely an attempt by Gaddafi to slow down the processes that are unfolding within and outside Libya to bring an end to the violence and to establish a representative government in Libya.

Chavez needs to ask himself a question, that is; why has the African Union come out so strongly against Gaddafi (who at one stage headed the organisation)? If Libya's neighbours have taken such a strong stance, who does Chavez blame now - is he still on the US conspiracy tune? The chessboard has been re-arranged, and regional support for action against Gaddafi has clearly been sounded - so what in heavens is Chavez doing? Indeed, his actions smack of the same arrogance that his erstwhile detractors (George Bush) displayed when wading into foreign affairs with little knowledge or appreciation of the regional and global sensibilities that have emerged on the situation. Does Hugo Chavez presume to walk all over the African Union to set up his own little charade in Libya, a self-glorifying 'mission' that will only prolong the inevitable - that Gaddafi has to go, and the Libyan people need to set up a new government. That much, the Libyan people, Gaddafi's neighbours and the international community have made clear.

Chavez's actions are no different to that of an international cowboy, acting on his own judgement and arrogance, to intervene in a situation that nobody, except the villain, has invited him into. He is showing how much he mirrors those he has attacked in the past for acting unilaterally to take international action, namely, the actions of George Bush in manufacturing consent for the war on Iraq. It is arrogant and irresponsible to take actions that are completely out of step with the African Union, which has the mandate of the nations in Africa, to take action in Africa. With all due respect, who the hell is Hugo Chavez to impose his 'help' on a continent to which he does not belong, and which has it's own representation? Is he not acting in the same manner as the US did to prop up unwanted dictators in their countries in the past? Indeed he is simply mirroring his old cold-war enemies actions by,  taking these unilateral and arrogant actions to save his friend, while a whole nation is fast descending into a deeper and deeper humanitarian crisis.

Libya is heading into a war that could render it a failed state. If the violence continues, Libyan towns will resemble the Beirut of old, shelled out buildings, thirteen year olds running around with AK47s. Already, over 150 000 refugees have streamed across the border, and it is clear that this situation is set to worsen. While the AU is considering ways to set up a no-fly zone over Libya, Robert Gates seems hesitant, warning that enforcing a no-fly zone starts with attacks on Libyan installations. Well, Chief Gates, that is exactly what Libyan representatives are calling for to stop the bloodshed, torture and killings that the monstrous Gaddafi regime is using to secure what little territory they have left - they have clearly requested that a combination of air strikes and patrols are necessary to stop the violence now, and have appealed to the UN for help in this regard.

Why on earth would anyone want to prolong what is already an unacceptable situation that is only going to get worse, and which could have the ultimate effect of fracturing Libya in half - just so Gaddafi and his retinue can remain in power? Their days are numbered - democracy will eventually come to Libya, and anybody that stands in the way of that democracy will eventually be overtaken by the national and regional momentum that is underway, sooner or later.


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