Libya, a free lesson for Africa

OPINION – United Nations Resolution 1973 has not only diminished Colonel Gaddafi’s four-decade stranglehold on power but also exposed duplicity of African leadership. Hardly a week after the African Union endorsed Gaddafi despite the atrocities committed against protestors, members of the UN Security Council including South Africa, unanimously voted against one of the world’s longest dictatorships.

The Arab League, by showing unwavering support for the uprising in Libya, demonstrated commendable leadership qualities unprecedented in recent history, never mind the latest prevarication by some which is nothing but damage control.

The development, seemingly a departure from the norm, makes us wonder if there is now some deviation from the dismal notion of "African solution to African problems" whose actual meaning is "turn a blind eye for as long as we are in control". South Africa must be applauded for taking the lead by casting a conscience vote despite a myriad of criticisms now levelled against it by retrospective analysts. Russia and China, themselves strangers to true democracy, did not surprise anyone by displaying ambivalence. India, known as the world’s oldest democracy, also folded its arms, the net effect of which was tacit approval of practical action against the notorious North African dictator. Such action reminded us of the story of Pontius Pilate, probably quite befitting as we count down to Easter.

Libya’s brutal and protracted autocracy was just overdue which deserved to be stopped at some point, by any means necessary. It is not surprising that those with skeletons in their cupboards have started making the most noise, notably China and ZANU PF. Rugare Gumbo is not even mortified to say that Gaddafi is being persecuted for representing "African values". So dictatorship, killing of defenceless civilians, crushing of dissenting voices and overstaying in power are the epitome of African values?

It appears a good number of leaders across the African continent were left with egg on their faces when United Nations Security Council overwhelmingly voted for no-fly zone. With some progressive African leaders now trying to shake off the tag of embodiment of bad governance, there is no doubt that those who are still stuck to the past have been thrown into panic mode though in public they will continue to put on a brave face. Despite the duplicity and cowardice that has characterised African leadership for decades, there seems to be some paradigm shift, if the Libyan case is anything to go.

A great statesman, Madiba, once observed that there was "tragic failure of leadership" referring to the Zimbabwe crisis. It is our aspiration that the level-headed will continue to rise as they seek to reinvent and brighten the African image. Interestingly, when the UN does nothing about a crisis, it is labelled a toothless dog, when it does something, it is criticised as a puppet of the West. Talk of regime change, oil, African values or imperialism is a mantra that will always be recycled and redeployed by paranoid "outposts of tyranny" (to borrow from Condoleezza Rice) in their bid to try and defend the indefensible. While nobody should celebrate war because of its obvious consequences, if it is the only language that dictators understand, it is only fair to give it to them! Gaddafi’s case is quite emblematic. This must serve as a useful and free lesson to leaders across Africa, especially those with similar propensity.

chambokom@gmail.com