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AU, Arab League and EU to meet on Libya

An ad-hoc panel of leaders from African Union countries is set to meet with European Union and Arab League officials tomorrow to discuss the way forward in Libya.

The panel, which includes heads of state from South Africa, Uganda, Mali, Mauritania and Congo, along with AU Commission President Jean Ping and current AU Chairman Teodore Obian Nguema Mbasogo, could help negotiate a diplomatic solution to the crisis should the opportunity present itself.  The mission for the cash-strapped body is being funded by the European Union to the tune of 265,000 euros, according to Uganda’s Daily Monitor.

The African Union has been largely shut out from any decision making by the international coalition now fighting against Colonel Gaddafi’s forces in support of the opposition rebel movement, despite the fact that three African members of the United Nations Security Council, South Africa, Gabon and Nigeria, all voted in favor of the resolution authorizing a no-fly zone.

On Sunday, AU officials denounced the U.S.-led operations, calling for an “immediate stop” to hostilities while emphasizing the need to ensure “humanitarian aid to those in need” and “put in place a mechanism for consultation and concerted action.”

Some, however, question the AU’s ability to intervene in a country led by one of its most eccentric and supportive heads of state.  A longtime champion of African unity, Gaddafi helps underwrite many of the African Union’s activities, allegedly even paying member dues for a number of countries.  “The AU as an organization has benefited tremendously from Gaddafi’s wealth,” Fred Golooba Mutebi of the Institute of Social Research in Kampala told the AFP.

Indeed, the African Union’s founding document, the 1999 Sirte Declaration, was signed in Libya.

In an analysis from Inter Press Service, Dr. Paul-Simon Handy of the South African Institute for Security Studies said confusion within the AU on a policy towards Libya was largely due to the reliance on Africa’s Regional Economic Communities.  “In the case of Cote D’Ivoire, the body relied on the Economic Community of West African States,” to reach a common approach condemning the incumbent president.  “We are not hearing that in North Africa,” he said.

Some Africa observers believe the Arab League has overshadowed African regional and continental voices in influencing the Western powers behind the intervention.  “Most Arab speaking African Countries tend to regard highly their membership [in the Arab League] and that is why they are most likely to listen to it than the AU,” writes Edris Kiggundu in The Observer of Uganda.

On Friday, though, the AU will join for the first time the EU and Arab League at the table.

“There is a lot of common ground in the approach taken by both unions and that is the common ground we want to build on to achieve the solution that we all want, said Nick Westcott, an Africa adviser to EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton in an AFP report.  “An end to the killings and an inclusive political process.”



Robert Nolan
Robert Nolan

Robert Nolan is Editor-in-Chief of New Media at the Foreign Policy Association and a writer and producer of the Great Decisions Television Series on PBS. A former Peace Corps volunteer in Zimbabwe and graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, he has interviewed numerous heads of state, Nobel Prize winners, artists and musicians, and policymakers.