South African President Jacob Zuma paid a state visit to Libya on May 30 that proved to be a fruitless effort to bring about a ceasefire in the war launched by Western-backed rebels and NATO forces, which have intensified their bombing of the capital of Tripoli and other areas of the country. Zuma was acting on behalf of the African Union, which held an extraordinary meeting on May 25 aimed at bringing an end to the war against Libya.
Although South Africa was one of the countries whose government voted in favor of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, which has served as the pseudo-legal basis for an all-out military onslaught against the North African state, Zuma has spoken out against the bombing and regime-change strategy that was the real motive behind the resolution. NATO has admitted that since March 19 nearly 4,000 bombing missions have been carried out against the Libyan people by the U.S., Britain, France, Italy, Canada and other imperialist states and their allies.
The NATO forces, which are providing arms, logistics, economic and political support for the rebel Transitional National Council, have stepped up airstrikes against Tripoli. At the same time the British and French governments have announced the deployment of Tiger and Apache helicopters, which will inevitably kill and injure more civilians.
U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron held a joint press conference in London on May 24 calling for the overthrow of the government of Moammar Gadhafi. Obama at first had said the war against Libya was limited, but he is now demanding immediate regime change. He faces growing opposition to the war inside the United States.
The U.S. Congress is being prodded to vote on whether the Pentagon should continue with the war in North Africa. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio is submitting a resolution in the House of Representatives challenging the legality of the war against Libya.
African Union holds special session on Libya
The extraordinary session of the African Union held on May 25 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, produced a statement calling for an immediate halt to the NATO bombing and the beginning of negotiations to end the war.
On March 11 the AU Peace and Security Council had issued a communiqué opposing foreign intervention in Libya. Numerous efforts by the AU and several Latin American states have been rejected outright by the imperialist states and their rebel allies operating inside eastern Libya.
The AU stressed that in light of the horrendous conditions facing Libyans and African migrant workers, who have been targeted in racist attacks by the counter-revolutionary forces, the NATO bombing should be immediately halted. Point five of the AU statement notes: “The continuation of the NATO-led military operation defeats the very purpose for which it was authorized in the first place, i.e., the protection of the civilian population, and further complicates any transition to a democratic dispensation in Libya.”
The opposition TNC forces that are fighting the Gadhafi government have not been elected by anyone, other than the Western imperialist states. The TNC is largely led by monarchists, defectors from the government, and numerous groups that have opposed the government for decades.
The AU statement addressed the deliberate failure of the rebels and their U.S./NATO supporters to acknowledge the role of the continent’s leaders in resolving the Libyan war, expressing “surprise and disappointment at the attempts to marginalize the continent in the management of the Libyan conflict” and recalled that “Africa, particularly the countries of the region, are those that bear the greatest impact of the conflict in Libya, both in terms of security and socio-economic consequences.”
The African National Congress Youth League of South Africa pointed out: “The rebels have wounded hundreds of black immigrants from the poorest African countries, who worked mainly as low-wage day laborers in Libya. From fear of being killed, some of them have refrained from going to a doctor. At the time of the outbreak of civil war, about 1.5 million black Africans were employed in Libya as laborers in the oil industry and the construction, agriculture and service sectors.” (ANC Today, May 27)
Conditions for refugees worsen
On May 25 a refugee camp in Tunisia housing more than 1,000 African migrant workers was attacked by the military and locals in the area, illustrating the precarious position facing those in border towns who have fled the fighting in Libya.
This camp housed African migrant workers from various countries, including Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia and Ivory Coast. It was reported that the tents providing shelter for the refugees were set on fire and the belongings of the inhabitants stolen; five Sudanese men were shot. (Guardian, May 25)
These attacks on refugees come amid reports of preparations for a land invasion by the U.S. and other NATO troops.
Manlio Dinucci wrote in Il Manifesto on May 28: “The U.S. has sent a naval attack group led by the most modern and powerful Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier, named George H.W. Bush. The ship is 333 meters long, 40 meters wide and has on board 6,000 personnel, 56 aircraft (which can take off at 20-second intervals) and 15 helicopters, and is equipped with sophisticated electronic warfare systems.” (Il Manifesto, May 28; translated from Italian by WW)
In the event of a ground invasion, the fighting inside Libya will intensify. With a purported “humanitarian” landing of European and U.S. troops, the war will enter a new and even more dangerous phase. Consequently, the anti-war and anti-imperialist forces in the U.S. and Europe must escalate their opposition to yet another war of occupation.
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