The African Union Should Replace NATO in Libya

Last week, NATO warplanes struck a civilian neighborhood in Tripoli, Libya, killing and injuring a number of civilians, including young children. This news comes in the midst of NATO’s intensified attacks against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in recent weeks.

After the bombing, NATO acknowledged the civilian deaths. “NATO regrets the loss of innocent civilian lives and takes great care in conducting strikes against a regime determined to use violence against its own citizens,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard. But, this development reflects a broader pattern that violence is begetting violence and underscores how difficult it has been for the Obama administration to stabilize Libya.

When President Barack Obama announced America’s intervention in Libya in March, he was clear to emphasize that the transition to a legitimate government is ultimately “a task for the Libyan people themselves.” But, this has proven difficult. Have the efforts by the U.S. and NATO to curb violence against the Libyan people actually helped? Or, should we have allowed the African Union to solve their continent’s problems themselves?

NATO has admitted to killing innocent Libyan civilians, so perhaps the African Union should have taken the lead.

The AU has lately become a more outspoken and internationally recognized voice. South African President Jacob Zuma, is one of the most significant leaders within the AU. His strong relationship with Gaddafi could have provided open communication and might have led to a successful execution of the AU’s resolution to the Libyan crisis.

The AU’s initial peace plan was disregarded by Libyan rebels, but accepted by Gaddafi. It called for a ceasefire, humanitarian aid for those in need, protection of foreign nationals, and a dialogue between the government and rebels.

Due to the rebels’ defiance of the AU’s peace settlement, NATO stepped in, which has led to civilian deaths. But, the AU displayed initiative and tact, and it is quite possible that had their first attempt at peace been given the chance to flourish, fewer civilians would have been harmed.

If Libya had been left to its own devices and the people of Africa had been given more of an opportunity to solve government problems on their own, the country would be better because of it.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons