US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking to the African Union in Ethiopia:
There is, of course, another country whose security matters to all of us, and that is Libya. Libya has been the subject of many of our discussions during the past few months. And I believe there is much on which we can agree. There is little question that the kind of activities that, unfortunately, have affected the Libyan people for more than 40 years run against the tide of history. And there is little question that despite having the highest nominal GDP in Africa, thanks to oil, Libya’s wealth was too concentrated within Qadhafi’s circle.
But of course, all the countries here are not in agreement about the steps that the international community, under the United Nations Security Council, have taken in Libya up to this point. Having looked at the information available, the Security Council, including the three African members, supported a UN mandate to protect civilians, prevent slaughter, and create conditions for a transition to a better future for the Libyan people themselves.
Now, I know there are some who still believe that the actions of the UN and NATO were not called for. And I know it’s true that over many years Mr. Qadhafi played a major role in providing financial support for many African nations and institutions, including the African Union. But it has become clearer by the day that he has lost his legitimacy to rule, and we are long past time when he can or should remain in power.
So I hope and believe that while we may disagree about some of what has brought us to this place, we can reach agreement about what must happen now. For as long as Mr. Qadhafi remains in Libya, the people of Libya will be in danger, refugee flows by the thousands will continue out of Libya, regional instability will likely increase, and Libya’s neighbors will bear more and more of the consequences. None of this is acceptable, and Qadhafi must leave power.
I urge all African states to call for a genuine ceasefire and to call for Qadhafi to step aside. I also urge you to suspend the operations of Qadhafi’s embassies in your countries, to expel pro-Qadhafi diplomats, and to increase contact and support for the Transitional National Council. Your words and your actions could make the difference in bringing this situation to finally close and allowing the people of Libya, on an inclusive basis, in a unified Libya, to get to work writing a constitution and rebuilding their country. The world needs the African Union to lead. The African Union can help guide Libya through the transition you described in your organization’s own statements, a transition to a new government based on democracy, economic opportunity, and security.
Clinton’s speech follows a trend of leaders in the Sahel, some of whose countries border Libya, breaking with Qadhafi. These include Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who chairs an AU committee on Libya, but as Reuters notes, “the AU’s position has been murkier and the organization — long itself the beneficiary of Gaddafi’s largesse — has declined to join calls for Gaddafi’s ouster, instead accusing Western nations of undermining its own efforts to find a solution to the conflict.”
The momentum, in Africa, appears to be with those leaders who are turning away from Qadhafi. Clinton’s urgings may have little relevance to heads of state whose calculations are made on the basis of their own interests, and not the United States’. But to the extent that a trend is underway, and that some countries may believe siding with the US against Qadhafi is actually in their interest, Clinton’s speech may help tip the balance.