Once again, Karl Marx’s instructive statement that history repeats itself, “the first as tragedy, then as farce”, is at play in Europe.
The first Berlin Conference of 1884 to 1885 united imperialist powers in sharing the spoils of colonialism by breaking up Africa into the current 54 fragmented countries.
The usual suspects, joined by the resurgent Russians and Turks, met once more in Berlin to hold a summit that sought to find a peaceful solution to the raging conflict in Libya.
African representation and voice at the imperialistic gatherings has been mute other than Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi who will be handing over the AU chair to President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 33rd AU Summit in Addis Ababa from February 9 to 10.
El-Sisi, who will be leaving a dubious record as the AU chair, championed the continent’s agenda of silencing the guns during the day and supplying guns to the notorious butcher of Tripoli, General Khalifa Haftar – a client of foreign powers, during the day.
The Libya file will be the hottest among the many Ramaphosa will get from his predecessor. Libya could be either a redeeming or a poisoned chalice for Pretoria. It is thus pleasing to see Ramaphosa abandoning the UK-Africa Investment Summit to prioritise the mammoth task of preparing the handover of the chair to South Africa.
There are many reasons why South Africa’s move is smart. First, Ramaphosa being paraded among African leaders in London and shaking hands with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson would have looked bad.
Second, although the UK remains a strategic partner for South Africa and Africa, it is not China. The UK’s economic and diplomatic power after Johnson’s Brexit is on the decline.
Third, South Africa was complicit in the bombardment of Libya by supporting the France-UK-US sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 1973 which used “all means necessary” to destroy Libya. South Africa as AU chair and a champion of the African Agenda 2063 cannot be seen mingling with forces that pretend to be Africa’s friends while aiding the destruction of the continent.
Ramaphosa will be reinforcing the theme for 2020 – “Silencing the Guns”. In Libya, Russia and Turkey are reported to have mercenaries on the ground. When the US was under Barack Obama’s leadership, the UK and the EU bombed Libya under the pretence of spreading democracy. The real reasons was to control its oil.
Although Russia and Turkey were not part of Libya’s initial destruction, it appears their interests are converging with those of the UK, US and France. The initial countries that brought us to the situation pretend to be peacemakers and mediators but support General Haftar. The AU has been rendered toothless by foreign powers jockeying for control of Libyan oil.
In 2011, the AU wanted the crisis to be resolved peacefully through negotiation and power sharing. The AU pleaded with Western countries to give peaceful resolution a chance.
Perhaps Ramaphosa ought to revive an African approach to peace in Libya? The start would be to take ownership of the peace process under the AU’s auspices. The Berlin Summit failed to bring any tangible agreement for foreign powers to stop interfering in the conflict by deploying mercenaries and dumping weapons. It also failed to uphold a UN arms embargo.
Haftar’s Libyan National Army rebels, backed by Westerners and Russia, appear to have the upper hand. They have controlled some ports and oil pipes. The UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli might not last long. It is supported by weaker powers like Turkey, Italy and the AU.
Ramaphosa should reach out to all parties in Libya. The AU should reassert its authority over African matters and thus avoid summits that seek to undermine the African Agenda.
Henceforth, Ramaphosa should not attend Berlin, London and the earmarked Russian summit to discuss African matters. He should find a neutral venue in Africa and invite all parties to the conflict to negotiate a peaceful resolution – a move that could assist to silence the guns in Africa.
* Monyae is the director of Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.