The U.N. Security Council will likely vote this evening on whether to release frozen assets amounting to £1billion, which is needed by Libya’s National Transitional Council for humanitarian purposes as well as the necessary funding to start running the country. Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil, the chairman of Libya’s rebel Transitional National Council called for funds to help with the humanitarian needs that are arising from the current conflict.
True to form, the sub-Saharan African countries are showing how out of step they are with the attempts of much of the international community to provide whatever practical help they can. South Africa in particular has failed to grasp the reality of the groundswell of Libyan support for ousting Qathafi – but then Qathafi did bankroll much of the African Union. Zuma and his government had agreed on Wednesday that Libyan money frozen by the UN at the outset of the uprising should be released for humanitarian purposes, but it has spoken out against releasing these funds to the NTC. It has steadfastly maintained that it would not recognise the NTC officially until President Jacob Zuma attends a meeting with the African Union on Thursday night, but the member states of the AU voting for progressive action in the new Libya would be like turkeys voting for Christmas: They clearly cannot get used to the new order which is Libya without Muammar Qathafi and the AU without their paymaster. Western countries have sharply criticised South Africa’s stance regarding this practical step. David Cameron, the prime minister of the UK has been urging Zuma to support the UN vote as well as pushing the AU to recognise the National Transitional Council.
Professor Shadrack Gutto, the head of African studies at UNISA, said South Africa’s refusal to vote for the release of the assets for the NTC was symbolic, as the motion would be carried, even if South Africa voted against it. However, Gutto said South Africa’s reasoning in opposing the move to help NTC financially was a way of standing up to the UN and repeating how unhappy it was with Nato’s military support of the Qathafi opposition, despite having voted in favour of UN intervention in Libya. Gutto also asserted that freezing Qathafi’s assets had hurt ordinary Libyan citizens. Outisde of Africa, most intelligent people consider those assets to belong to the Libyan people and not Qathafi. He was not the only African academic to voice concerns. Professor Chris Landsberg, head of department at the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Johannesburg also said that he was pleased to see some enlightenment in the South African government’s foreign policy. In an interview with the BBC he said that there was no reason for South Africa to vote with the motion. Being the sole objector didn’t make the South African government’s position wrong, he said. I suppose that statement passes for logic but it hardly recognises the monumental task that the NTC have before them. Like the politicians in sub-Saharan Africa, the academics too are going to have to get used to the new world order that is materialising from the burgeoning Arab Spring. Let’s hope that happens sometime soon, as the Africans have not done themselves any favours in world opinion by their attitude to the Libyan conflict. It seems to have escaped them almost entirely that the Libyan people no longer want their murderous despot.