Bloomberg News

Nigeria Breaks Africa Ranks on Libya, Sparking Criticism

August 23, 2011

(Updates with Zuma’s comments in seventh.)

Aug. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Nigeria’s government broke ranks with other African nations in recognizing the National Transitional Council as the legitimate authority in Libya, sparking criticism from South Africa’s ruling party.

The rebel-led council is “the legitimate representative of the Libyan people,” Viola Onwuliri, Nigeria’s minister of state for foreign affairs, told reporters in the capital, Abuja, today. The new leaders should “establish an all-inclusive and broad-based administration” to work towards elections and Muammar Qaddafi must relinquish power immediately, she said.

The 53-member African Union is yet to decide whether it recognizes the authority of the Libyan rebels following their entrance into Tripoli on Aug. 21 to battle government forces. South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy, didn’t declare its backing for the insurgents yesterday, calling instead for an inclusive “political dialogue” between them and the government of Muammar Qaddafi.

“Nigeria is jumping the gun in recognizing the rebels as representatives of Libya,” Gwede Mantashe, secretary-general of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, told reporters in Johannesburg today. “The AU position stays.”

High-Level Committee

The AU’s Peace and Security Council met yesterday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, without issuing a statement. The AU’s High-Level Panel on Libya, which includes leaders from South Africa, Mali, Uganda, Mauritania and Republic of Congo, will meet on Aug. 25, followed by a Peace and Security Council follow-up meeting on Aug. 26.

South African President Jacob Zuma today said airstrikes by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization went further than a United Nations resolution to protect civilians in Libya and undermined Africa’s role in seeking a cease-fire.

“The situation in Libya has been of concern as it has been accompanied by the undermining of the African continent’s role in finding a solution,” Zuma told reporters in Cape Town after meeting Ghanaian President John Atta Mills. The UN resolution “has been abused.”

Mills said Ghana hasn’t decided whether to recognize National Transitional Council as Libya’s authority.

“Ghana is studying the situation and will take an appropriate decision,” he said.

--With assistance from Sikonathi Mantshantsha in Johannesburg. Editors: Nasreen Seria, Karl Maier

To contact the reporters on this story: Elisha Bala-Gbogbo in Abuja at ebalagbogbo@bloomberg.net; Mike Cohen in Cape Town Nef at mcohen21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net


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