Recently in South Africa, Julius Malema- the leader of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), and Bantu Hlolomisa- the leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and various other political commentators have come out publicly criticizing the South African government led by president Jacob Zuma for voting in favour of the United Nations (UN) Security Council resolution 1973 which allowed for the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya. Voting in favour of UN resolution 1973 is equal to supporting the invasion of a sovereign African state, they say.
On the other hand, some political commentators are criticizing the United States of America and western powers generally, suggesting that the powerful nations of this world represented in NATO only take action against oppression when they are directly able to benefit, and this is why, it is alleged, they only involve themselves militarily in oil rich regions and not in countries like Muammar, North Korea and Zimbabwe for example.
It seems that prior to the enforcement of the no fly zone over Libya, Colonel Gaddaffi’s forces were indiscriminately bombing rebel targets. Yet, as we all know, the Libyan insurgents are hardly organised, let alone recognizable, and therefore Gaddafi’s ‘rebel targets’ almost certainly included civilians and we cannot be sure how many civilians died as a result of Gaddafi’s air-strikes.
Ironically, the NATO air strikes aimed at Gaddafi’s forces and bases are also allegedly killing civilians. And at this point, the air-strikes haven’t really benefited the rebels, who are still under heavy fire from Gaddafi’s forces. As a result president Obama and his pentagon advisors are allegedly mulling over equipping and training the rebel forces. Does Julius Malema therefore have a point when he says that the South African government’s support of UN resolution 1973 is tantamount to supporting regime change and invasion?
The events in Libya have a greater significance closer to home. At the Southern African Development Community (SADC) troika summit in Livingstone Zambia on the 31st of March 2011, the Zambian president – Rupiah Banda emphatically stated that the events in Libya and other parts of the Maghreb demonstrated what could happen if leaders continue on their own courses without considering their people. This writer agrees with president Banda, and having deduced that it is impossible to anticipate how any given country will vote at the UN Security Council, it is especially important that the Zimbabwean leaders across the political divide, and their regional counterparts ensure that what is happening in Libya does not happen in Zimbabwe.
While we don’t know the definite numbers, we can imagine that thousands of Libyans have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced in that conflict. One can imagine that in Libya, homes have been destroyed, livelihoods have been wrecked, wives have been widowed and children have been orphaned- we don’t need more of this in Zimbabwe. At the troika summit President Jacob Zuma suggested that SADC pressures all parties in Zimbabwe to fulfil all their Global Political Agreement (GPA) commitments before elections should occur. If that’s what it takes to avoid bloodshed, then it seems wise for all parties in Zimbabwe to heed to this call.
Tau Tawengwa is the Secretary General of Zimbabwe Renaissance Society.