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Nigeria, South Africa in cold war over Gaddafi’s fate

11 years ago | 7883 Views

A cold war is brewing between Nigeria and South Africa over the fate of the embattled Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

While Nigeria is backing the rebel-controlled Transitional National Council (TNC) in Libya, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa is supporting Gaddafi.

But the Federal Government has been trying to manage the situation to avoid it degenerating into a major crisis.

There was however concern and panic over the likely release of Henry Okah, who is standing trial as a mastermind of the October 1, 2010 bomb blast in Abuja.

Investigation by our correspondent revealed that the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has maintained a parallel position with President Zuma over Gaddafi’s fate.

But while Nigeria’s position on the TNC is being supported by 34 African countries, only Uganda and Zimbabwe have teamed up with South Africa to align with Gaddafi.

Although South Africa initially headed an Ad hoc Committee on Libyan crisis, the panel could not achieve much.

It was learnt that a meeting held last week in Addis Ababa also broke the AU into two camps but with Zuma being humiliated because of a large following Nigeria attracted against Gaddafi.

A top government official, who spoke in confidence, said: “Nigeria has a sharp disagreement with South Africa on how to address the Libyan crisis but we would not allow it to degenerate as to affect the cordial ties between the two countries.

“South Africa and two others are claiming that the AU’s Constitutive Act does not allow the Union to recognize the TNC because it is an illegal force. They are  saying that any government in Africa can only be removed through constitutional process.

“Nigeria and other African countries are maintaining that Constitutive Principle is the last listed in Section 14 of the Constitutive Act and the Act cannot be implemented in isolation of other principles like democracy, good governance, respect for human rights and social justice among others.

“Nigeria and others have said that Libya under Gaddafi has never being ruled under any known constitution since he took over in 1969. The last constitution Libya had was under King Idris, who was deposed by Gaddafi.

“So, we are also arguing that the Constitutive Act cannot apply to Gaddafi who had never run a constitutional government.

“Apart from that, the Constitutive Act did not take into account popular revolt as being witnessed in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya when it was drafted. It only applied to military regimes.

It was also gathered that Nigeria challenged South Africa why it accepted the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt and decided to raise eyebrow on Gaddafi.

Another top source added: “We are suspecting that Zuma has his own agenda because Gaddafi supported him to replace ex-President Thabo Mbeki. It is payback time.

“It was the same thing Zuma did in Cote D’Ivoire when a committee he headed merely recommended a recount of votes instead of outright validation of Alassane Quattara’s mandate.

“I think this rivalry between Nigeria and South Africa also has to do with a jostle for seat in the UN Security Council. Both countries are after the slot.

“So, those who are against the TNC within the AU are in two groups. They are those benefitting from Gaddafi’s largesse directly or who are his friends and countries being governed by autocrats.”

As at press time, there were fears that the cold war between Nigeria and South Africa may affect the ongoing trial of an ex-militant leader, Henry Okah, who is standing trial over the October 1, 2010 bomb explosion in Abuja.

A reliable source said: “South Africa may end up mismanaging Okah’s case in order to slight Nigeria for not having its way on Gaddafi.

“Okah may either be released or his case poorly prosecuted to enable him to regain his freedom. The frosty relationship between the two countries is pointing towards this direction.

“Even from hiding, Gaddafi is instigating South Africa against Nigeria but there is no cause for alarm. If Okah is released through a circumvented process, Zuma will be the loser at the end of the day.

“Zuma is angry with Nigeria over Gaddafi but the Federal Government is insisting on its recognition for the rebels. With the backing of Nigeria by 34 countries in Africa, its position is vindicated.

“That is why Nigeria is also monitoring the situation and at the alert on what South Africa is up to.”

But a security chief said: “The Rule of Law in South Africa is very strict; it is not what a President can violate with impunity.

“Henry Okah is on trial in South Africa for terrorism, Zuma (no matter how powerful) cannot interfere with the process.

“We do not envisage the release of Okah by South Africa as a retaliatory step. But we are also watching development closely.”

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