Condemning NATO for its intervention in Libya, Mbeki made no secret of his mission to the university. He went there to promote the African Union, and given, as he said, the university’s “goals to stimulate dialogue, encourage critical thinking and reach for a more transformed campus” he gave a bizarre overview of the Arab uprisings using the most Machiavellian and implicitly contradictory logic.
Firstly, he argued rather lamely that both Tunisia and Egypt achieved their democratic transformation through their own home-grown uprisings. This happened because the police, army, and security forces were weak and there were no Western interventions.
Secondly, Mbeki argued that while both Egypt and Tunisia allowed successive fraudulent elections and were endemically corrupt, that finally contributed to the pot boiling over. Their respective leaders stayed in power far too long and maintained by extensive repressive machinery, their overthrow was long overdue.
Thirdly, Mbeki argued further that these youth uprisings “have served to advance the African democratic revolution”. How – we still do not know how.
Fourthly, he invited students to get to grips with the all-Africa policy of the African Union, its charters, policy documents, and protocols and he further advised students to make links with their North African peers, to strive to transform the University of Stellenbosch into an African Centre of learning, teaching and research and to transform it into a “vital centre for the progressive fundamental transformation of our Continent, and therefore its renaissance.”
Libya, on the other hand, as far as Mbeki was concerned was entirely a “different kettle of fish” and would have achieved its own organic revolution had NATO not interfered and intervened. He then cited pages of quotes from journalists and international players who seem to confirm his views even though the dates they made these utterances were quite significant and way before Gaddafi declared civil war on Libyans.
Secondly, Mbeki deliberately and selectively made comparisons between Tunisia and Egypt overlooking the historical differences and peculiarities between them. For him the major Western powers intervened in Libya “to advance their selfish interests, using the instrumentality of the UN Security Council”; “they were and are bent on regime-change in Libya, regardless of the cost to this African country, intent to produce a political outcome which would serve their interests.”
Not once did Mbeki subject Libya to the same scrutiny as he did Tunisia and Egypt. He refrained from calling Gaddafi corrupt, a family dynasty, and a repressive tyrannical regime. He refused to mention that Gaddafi was a dictator, in office for over forty years, a terrorist and human rights violator, par excellence.
Implying that the African Union could have sorted out Libya without interventions from the UN Security Council and NATO, Mbeki once again beat out his hackneyed refrain of the African Renaissance, of Africans finding their own solutions to their own problems, even when they cannot or will not do so in Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Swaziland, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Somalia.
Swallowing this when he propped up and entrenched Robert Mugabe’s tyrannical rule in Zimbabwe despite his many fraudulent elections; when he supported Laurent Gbagbo who lost the democratic elections in the Ivory Coast against Alassane Quattara who legitimately won the contest; and when he failed to sanction the Swazi Monarch for abusing his powers against the citizens of his country, is a bit hard, to say the least.
Mbeki’s appearances on campuses calling on students to join him in his elusive African renaissance are highly suspect. The comeback kid is not to be trusted.