The Union shall have the right ‘to intervene in a Member State pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity’ – Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union.
The images of Tomahawk cruise missiles and bombs raining down on Libya from British, French, and US warplanes have ensured that many people now oppose the foreign military intervention in Libya. Yet, the same people were condemning the killing of civilians by the dying Gaddafi regime. On the surface, it may seem to be a contradiction to oppose both the West and Gaddafi, but this contradiction arises from the reality that there is no popular democratic force in Africa capable of mounting the kind of intervention that is necessary to translate Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act (the charter) of the African Union into action. There is no international brigade similar to the period of the Spanish Civil War when anti-fascist forces mobilised internationally to fight General Franco. There is no Tanzanian Peoples Defence Force (TPDF) with its tradition of supporting liberation that had the capabilities to fight and remove Idi Amin who was butchering Ugandans. The emerging new powers such as Turkey, Brazil, Russia, India and China are quite quick to do business in Africa but are quiet in the face of mass killings. In short, the world was willing to stand by as Gaddafi called those who opposed him ‘cockroaches’, ‘rats’, and ‘germs’ and vowed: ‘I will fight on to the last drop of my blood.’ The sight of the array of forces at the gates of Benghazi meant that this was not an idle threat.
Decent human beings who wanted to halt Gaddafi’s massacre welcomed UN resolution for a no-fly zone, especially the language of paragraph 6 which decided ‘to establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians.’ France, Britain, and the US quickly used this authorisation for a no-fly zone to give themselves a mandate that is wider than the UN resolution, particularly capitalising on the looseness of the formulation of ‘all necessary measures’. Although the Africa Union issued a statement saying that, ‘the situation in North Africa demands urgent action so that an African solution can be found,’ the AU dragged its feet and gave up its responsibility to prevent the massacre of civilians in Libya, thus giving justification to the Western intervention. After forming a committee comprising of Mauritania, South Africa, Mali and Congo and Uganda, the AU sidelined itself at precisely the moment when clarity was needed to both oppose the Western intervention and to intervene to stop the killing of humans that Gaddafi called ‘rats and germs.’ Read more