Archbishop Desmond Tutu demands action on Libya

African Governments are “failing” Libyan citizens and all Africans


African Governments’ appalling lack of pressure to force Libyan Leader, Muammar Gaddafi, to halt the violence and step down, reflects persistent inadequacies in the African Union (AU). Their failure to act decisively threatens progress towards democracy and respect for human rights on the continent, according to leading African civil society activists speaking today at a press conference in Johannesburg.

“The response from African governments and the African Union took so long and was so feeble that it emboldens Gaddafi in clinging on to power by any means possible, and permits him to claim the protests are a Western or Al Qaeda conspiracy,” said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS.

“African leaders must realise that their failure to speak clearly and act promptly has real consequences and costs lives. Such apathy in the face of atrocities cannot persist,” she added.

Article 3 of the Constitutive Act of the AU lists the promotion of peace, security and stability on the continent as one of its key objectives. Despite this, civil society believes the AU and African governments have been slow to react.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Congress of South African Trade Union joined Srinath and more than 40 other signatories from civil society in a joint statement demanding action from the AU.

“The carnage in Libya must stop. A leader who crushes his own people does not deserve that name – or position,” said Archbishop Desmond Tutu. South Africa has a special responsibility to act

South Africa, Nigeria and Gabon currently represent Africa on the UN Security Council and as such have a special responsibility to ensure the protection of the Libyan people. Rajesh Latchman, Convenor of the Global Call to Action against Poverty in South Africa, singled out the South African Government’s need to act as a non-permanent member of
the UN Security Council since January 2011, despite their aspirations for a permanent seat.

“While an immediate and decisive response to the bloodshed in Libya is needed right now, the South African government needs to have a rapid response system to ensure diplomatic action when faced with such a crisis is not dependent on the push factor from civil society but driven by the values of our Constitution,” he said.

“For president Zuma in particular, this is not a call for you to imitate the out of office behaviour of your predecessor, it is rather a call to bring together a broad based but small collective of business, civil society and government leaders to act as a thought collective for the way our country acts when the rights of people outside our borders are violated.”

A horrifying example of an ongoing problem Latchman’s comments echo those of other civil society representatives at the press conference.

Noel Kututwa, Special Advisor with Amnesty International said that Amnesty International has accused the international community of failing the Libyan people in their hour of greatest need as Colonel Gaddafi threatened to “cleanse Libya house by house”. “The response of the UN Security Council fell shamefully below what was needed to stop the spiralling violence in Libya,” Kututwa said.

Amnesty International has called for an immediate arms embargo and assets freeze and the African Union and its member states to immediately investigate reports that armed elements are being transported from African countries to Libya, acting to secure the land borders into Libya and monitor suspicious flights.

While the situation in Libya is of immediate priority, it is also serving to highlight inadequacies on the part of the AU and African governments to respond when the security and human rights of people across the continent are threatened.

The joint statement from civil society will be distributed to the AU and African governments. It is one step in an ongoing campaign from civil society to support and protect the people of Libya as they strive to assert their democratic and human rights.

Civil society leaders pledged solidarity with all those struggling for freedom across the globe.

(For more information please contact: Rowena McNaughton, CIVICUS Media Officer, [email protected], +27 82 768 0250;