LIBYA: WHEN NIGERIA AND SOUTH AFRICA DISAGREE
The foreign Affairs Ministry has always given African nation reasons to criticize Nigeria. It is a good sign. No one bothers with a toothless, lame dog. Someone, for once, feels somewhere that there is a Nigeria that has its own mind, its own distinct voice. And what happened? Libyans stood up and demanded freedom after forty two years of one-man dictatorship. They took up arms, then announced that they had kicked their leader, Muamar Ghadafi out of power. Nigeria made a call to the new controllers in Tripoli. The call implied that the nation has accepted the new group in power. South Africa said Nigeria jumped the gun, that it was not right for Nigeria to jump the gun, and that the call it made to the new group in Tripoli - saying it would back any efforts targeted at instituting democratic rule and enforce the rule of law – was contrary to what African Union, AU, members agreed on.
There is no doubt that there has been notable changes in the conduct of the nation's foreign affairs in more recent times, especially from the time of the immediate past foreign affairs minister, Odein Ajumogobia. He tried to add vive to the nation's foreign policy initiatives. Where the nation had been criticized for abandoning its citizens in crises spots on the continent, the ministry took steps to assist Nigerians return home.
Where the nation says its foreign policy is Afro-centric, and as such has been criticized as not having much to show for this in return, foreign affairs ministry is now talking an investment driven foreign policy. When the actors within the nation's foreign policy establishment have been criticized for not having a coordinated strategy, the ministry and the presidency now make efforts to coordinate and clean up the stable. And in circumstances that the officials kept quiet in the past when the nation should be heard loud on the international stage over issues that would eventually require Nigeria's involvement after things must have gone upside down, Nigeria's new foreign affairs minister, Olugbenga Ashiru, has begun to speak up concerning them, and at the right time too. Libya is one of such.
That nation has been in chaos for a while. Its leader, Muamar Ghadafi, once said he didn't know that his army killed Libyans on the streets. Later he said he would deal with rebels that wanted to get him out of power after forty two years. And latterly, when fighters took hold of Tripoli, the capital, he said he would fight even to the death. Now he said he wanted to negotiate, a proposal the fighters had rejected, and had countered with an ultimatum to Ghadafi's supporters to surrender in the few cities where they still have a presence. It could not have been more obvious that the man in charge in Tripoli for decades had finally lost out, and that it is a matter of time before his fate is decided by the Transitional National Council, TNC, which has control over much of that country. Such control has its advantage because a power vacuum is dangerous, and it is one thing that should not be allowed to happen in Libya.
A power vacuum is a political term used to describe a vacancy or weakness in the power structure of a nation or region. Iraq is an example of a power vacuum.
And Somalia is another, because both are examples of what happens when a long time dictator is ousted or displaced for whatever reason. However, a power vacuum may also occur after a civil war or other insurrection where various factions rise up to demand more control over their own governance. A civil war may leave a country without leadership or with a weakened government, allowing the most powerful of the fighting forces to take over. Another cause is coup d`etat. And a power vacuum may also follow a constitutional crisis. Here, a vacuum is created because a high number of government officials step down at once for some reasons. This is referred to as a non-violent revolution, yet it can end up leaving the government in chaos, because the sudden exit may lead to arguments over succession. It can leave a government vulnerable as the ability to fill various leadership positions is hindered.
With the situation in Libya, it was clear that the TNC is the natural successor, ready to fill the vacuum that Ghadafi's exit would have created. Every African nation knows this. They also know that a Libya with no known group in control of government machinery is the last thing the continent needs. Yet when Nigeria made official statement that indicated a recognition of the TNC, South Africa reacted negatively. The country led Zimbabwe and Uganda to claim that the AU's Constitutive Act does not allow the Union to recognize the TNC because it is an illegal force, and that any government in Africa can only be removed through constitutional process. Meanwhile, Nigeria and other African countries said Constitutive Principle is the last listed in Section 14 of the Constitutive Act, that it cannot be implemented in isolation of other principles such as democracy, good governance, respect for human rights and social justice, and that Libya has never being ruled under any known constitution since Ghadafi arrived power in 1969. In the event, Nigeria is of the view that the Constitutive Act cannot apply to Gaddafi who had never had a constitutional government.
One, where South Africa is not, in term of peace keeping operations in trouble spots on the continent, Nigeria is. What Nigeria does not offer in other aspects, South Africa does. Both are the two foremost countries that other African nations look up to; both countries complement each other.