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Nigeria’s Recognition of Libya’s Transitional National Council: A Hurried Diplomatic Eagerness or a Flawed Diplomatic Response?


By Professor Dr. Emmanuel Omoh Esiemokhai  
 Published August 28th, 2011

Under diplomatic law, every state has the right to grant diplomatic recognition to a new state, a new government, a national liberation movement fighting for independence from a colonial power or a national liberation movement fighting to overthrow a dictatorial regime or a bad government.

Although traditional diplomatic law frowned upon encouraging rebellion, recent events in the Middle East and North Africa, have thrown up new justifications for assisting people in rebellion against long-serving, non-performing, dictatorial regimes.

However, the international media, have been sweeping in reporting the Battle for Libya. They have faced occasional degradation, as they have had to retract some of their hyperbolic reportage.

Some international media have based their reportage on a root and-branch attack on Kaddafi, anchored on a plenitudo potestatis. This attack on Kaddafi’s person did not sit well with those ideologues, who had been indoctrinated, rightly or wrongly, that any foreign invasion of Libya is aimed at taking Libya’s oil.

It is one of the ironies of modern media history that the very international media, which copiously reported Kaddafi in flamboyant and obscure diction, are now turn- coats, associating him with every vice.
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The prominence Kaddafi received in the international media, probably discouraged his people from rising against him, long before the Tunisian episode that sparked the Arab rebellion in the Middle East and North Africa. I await any rebuttal from the international media.

Those purchasable libertines, who strut around the world reporting both truths and fictions, do misrepresent realities a lot, especially in Africa, which they treat as one state, based on their limited knowledge about Africa, which they have refused to improve upon.

The right of nations and peoples to self-determination up to forming opposing governments is gradually crystallizing as accepted norms, in world politics.

According to Podesta Costa,” recognition is facultative.” This means that those, who make decisions on such matters on behalf of our government, can exercise their authority. The wisdom in their decision or the lack of it will be judged by history.

In democracies, the government may have its way, but the people must have their say.

On 23rd August, 2011, it was widely reported that the Federal Government of Nigeria, had recognized the Transitional National Council of Libya.

Some prominent members of the International Community, based on certain universally acknowledged principles, had recognized the Council. This assistance was very crucial to the liberation efforts of the rebels.

Total victory has, so far become elusive, because Col. Murmar Kaddafi as proved to be an artful dodger. A commentator on” MAYK” radio, had suggested that “Kaddafi should be promoted to the rank of a Field Marshall for his military actions against NATO forces. This is unacceptable proposition.

A few African states and five Arab states had recognized the National Transition Council. The majority of African and Arab states seem to be playing a game of “wait and see”

Recognition may be de jure, de facto or premature.

Premature recognition is seen as a covet or overt pressure by interest groups to win friends and influence governments.

There is a difference between recognizing a new government and the recognition of a new state. The details are too labourious to go into here.

What we are concerned with here is the recognition of a new government because the sovereign state of Libya had long been recognized de jure.

The Federal government’s announcement did not specify whether the rebels were recognized de jure or de facto.

It is not very usual to grant full de jure recognition to a Transition Council, until it establishes a government, announces its ministers and sets up a bureaucracy and some relevant governmental bodies, as the Southern Sudanese government has done.

States in the process of transition from rebellion to democratic engagement must demonstrate that through their diplomatic personnel and policies, they can enter into international relations with existing states and international institutions.

The Libyan government had demanded a strict proof of nationality of the rebels, since Tripoli claimed that some of the rebels were not Libyans, but an amalgam of Islamic jihadists of no nation.

How these rebel groups can deal with international agreements and the legal regulation of post-war society will be interesting to watch. How will they exercise jurisdiction over aliens and will they accept international responsibility for damage to aliens and alien properties?

The rebels may not yield to the white- collar-shirts -revolutionaries, who have been watching the “Battle for Libya” from their cozy, émigré offices in Europe and America, while the rebel fighters shed their blood during the revolution.

Their demand to be relevant will be a legitimate one. Do they have what it takes to govern a modern state?

Another over-arching problem is the diversity of the Libyan state, with strong tribal affiliations, where there are no modern political and socio-economic institutions. Even the educated elite are in the Diaspora, as a result of the dictatorial regime of Murmar Kaddafi. So, who will run Libya?

In as much as one sees the need for a change and transformation of the Libyan society, one is very skeptical about the characters of the leading “political leaders,” who are being relied upon to bring about the transformation..

There is a problem. As we have witnessed in Iraq, the members of the Baath Socialist Party and the military officers, who were dismissed from their posts, seem to be behind the unrest in Iraq, years after the mission to turn Iraq into a democracy.

Most of these émigré politicians left Libya as a result of falling out of favour with Murmar Kaddafi, misconduct, or other reasons that had nothing to do with revolutionary change. The most laughable case is that of Jalloud, Kaddafi’s second in command for forty-one years, who is now singing a new refrain.

This is why many governments make haste slowly in recognizing rebels, because in political struggle, anything can happen. A premature recognition can be very embarrassing as Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Haiti and France discovered after the Biafra war.

States do wait for the new government to consolidate its power before recognition. When the Soviets overthrew Czar Nicholas of Russia, Mexico recognized the Bolshevik in 1918, Britain in 1924 and the Americans in 1933.

There is always an ideological dimension to recognition. States that operate different social systems and foreign policies react according to their national interests. China and Russia may wait for sometime before they recognize the rebels. The AU states too.

A new state needs diplomatic recognition, which recognition will enable it to function in diplomatic and consular circles. Diplomatic recognition will be crucial, if a new state must meet the requirements of the Montevideo Convention of 1933 and the Bustamante Code of 1928.

On 24th August, 2011, Russia recognized the South Sudan government. Russia did not grant her premature recognition, and may not grant the Libyan rebels diplomatic recognition very soon.

In examining this topic, one may adopt the propaganda approach, the analytical approach, the partisan/ideological approach or the scholarly approach.

One may t argue relatively and subjectively, depending on where one is squatting on the imbroglio.

Some scholars, who attended the recent session of BOSAS INTERNATIONAL LAW BUREAU seminar, In Abuja, recalled that Murmar Kaddafi assisted in the anti-apartheid struggle by helping the ANC. He also assisted Angola, when Jonas Savimbi was on a mission to destroy Angola. He has assisted many African states.

I agreed but added that Kaddafi behaved arrogantly, became unconscionable, defiant and was intolerant of opinions that differed from his own. This was the matrix upon which he erected his oligarchy and other states, their hatred for him. “A man’s pride brings him low” “Proverbs 29:23). Both the Calvinists and the Jesuits agreed that heretical leaders should be the object of rebellions.

The oil in Libya may or may not be the entire reason for the NATO/rebel invasion. This story may not end in five years time, and like in Iraq, peace will be long in returning to Tripoli and Benghazi.

Is Libya a metaphoric nation? I cannot find any metonymy to drive this point home. Libyan history and that of Afghanistan are full of evidence darts of outrageous fortune shot at their existence in historical time. Is what is going on in Libya a revolution or an eclipse?

As a result of the unclear political tapestry of the Libyan state, an assumption that the rebels will hold elections and bring about democracy and equality for all Libyans, as of now, is socially fictitious. So, what is the joy about?

“Formality, obscurity and technicality” in political commentary, could lead to misplaced optimism. As Bentham said, “Everyone has his own lawyer” and “is his own lawyer.” So, coded pontifications by biased pundits do not enhance our vision of the Libyan tragedy. It is Libyans, who are dying. A euphoric support of one faction over another is not a situation, humanists will view with approval. It is Libyans, who are dying!

The lack of freedom and the pre-eminence of authority robbed Libyans of political liberty and “a mystical independence of the soul from all secular conditions.”

There were and there are no self-evident rights, which Thomas Jefferson wrote about in Libya. This struggle by Libyans is not a gladiatorial entertainment. It is aimed at releasing the soul of the people in a nation, who have been under bondage as a result of the subjective thinking about how Libya should be governed by an untutored, radical, political extremist, after he overthrew the monarchy in Libya. Political analysts have engaged themselves in sooth-saying and bold talk.

At bottom, these feelings and permutations by speculative pundits are hortatory, since Libya has no social convention. To make Libya succeed will assume a degree of innovativeness, which defected Kaddafists, now recognized as “dealers” do not seem to possess.

The corruption in Iraq and amongst Palestinian leaders, point to what the defected Kaddafists will represent. When will the West learn not to fritter away their resources on those states and their leaders, whose modus operandi is to secure the patronage of the ones, who were in power, without changing the ethos by which both have profited, or hope to profit?

The enmity between the Libyan tribal leaders will exacerbate, when the money is made available to the émigré political turn-coats. In a largely desert state, access to the out-of-the-way regions, where pro-Kaddafists live will prove problematic.

There are already cacophonic dissenting voices among members of the international community. Russia insists that post-conflict Libya must be regulated under the auspices of the United Nations Organization.

South Africa has declared that the UN must investigate human rights violations by NATO in Libya, especially the disclosure by the West that British, French, Jordanian, Qatari Special Forces had been used in Libyan cities.

The command bombardment of Tripoli, the capital of Libya, where foreign diplomats live should be investigated.

The leader of the rebel group has said that the UNO should help provide policemen and military power to help post-conflict Libya, but that no troops should be on Libyan soil. What a contradiction!

The same leader of the rebels has said that non-payment of salaries and other fundings could jeopardize their stability. With the paltry sums some cash-strapped NATO states are offering the rebels, the prospect of stability may be dim.

Definitely, Libya will occupy a prominent place on the agenda of the coming United Nations meeting as from September 10, 2011.The position of the African Union as against that of NATO and the US may cause an irredeemable split of the UNO.

A document in circulation is calling on the Arab and African nations to understand the on-going Euro American policy in the Middle East and North Africa.

However, I think that there is need for a cross-fertilization of ideas on contemporary world affairs, so that things can be put into proper perspective.

There is no doubt that the bombardment of Libya, the deaths on both sides hurt African feelings very deeply. No matter what one thinks of Kaddafi, you do not throw away the baby with the bath-water. There is no doubt that ill-feelings against NATO has ossified in Africa and in the Arab world.

Alhaji Umar Bello has argued that it is not only Kaddafi that has ruled for very long ,since there are European monarchs that have ruled for longer periods and that when Pinochet, Pol Pot, and other Western-backed Presidents committed atrocities in their countries, the NATO forces were never sent to intervene. Such feelings, whether rational or not, are the matrix up which the coming show-down between nations is festering.

There are some questions discussants at BOSAS INTERNATIONAL LAW BUREAU Seminar in, Abuja raised about Nigeria’s diplomatic action of recognition of the Transitional Council of Libya.

Why the hurried eagerness to recognize after media misinformation that two sons of the Libyan leader had been captured, a lie that the re-appearance of Saif Kaddafi debunked. Wolff Blitzer of CNN was obviously disappointed with the TNC, for such a faux pas.

To conduct diplomatic relations based on unsubstantiated media speculations, need a re-think. To do as others have done is unwise, since the national interests of different states are divergent.

What are our national interests in Libya, which the TNC will help us to protect? Are we not inadvertently setting a bad precedent for our own home-grown dissidents? How thoroughly or marginally do we know the rebels, who we saw looting Kaddafi’s properties reminiscent of the looters of London?

Now that we have closed our embassy in Tripoli, are there no Nigerian citizens, who may need diplomatic or social assistance?

We may try to impress the international community, but we are only in the corridors of power of the international community and not in the bed-room of power!

A participant at our seminar, with a razor-sharp mind asked a provocative question. He observed that while the political tussle over the concluded elections in Nigeria is being fought in our courts, the Libyan fight for control is in the theatres of war. He wondered whether any state that recognizes a contending Nigerian leader as legitimate and proceeds to grant him recognition, will not constitute an unfriendly act against the Federal Republic of Nigeria?

Of course, definitely, it will be so regarded. I told him that his philosophical rationalizations were anecdotal, animated, atomistic, avuncular, azoic, perhaps apocalyptic, but awful. He laughed hysterically.

We shall become a full member of the UN Security Council as of right and not through pandering to any interests.

Our transformation diplomacy should not be based on an open consonant,” follow our friends”, mentality. It must not be based on grandstanding nor should it be dressy, shared out in dribs and drabs. It must be informed, rational and a product of a healthy serotonin.

The era is gone, when government decisions go unchallenged. We are moving from docility to bona fide critical appraisal of government decisions. We hate to cry over split milk.

We should not allow our friends to choose our enemies for us, for we are incapable of obtaining reciprocity, since they make up their decisions based on their national interests.

Whether the recognition of Libya is a hurried, diplomatic eagerness or a flawed diplomatic response, the future will tell.

May Libya be peaceful, democratic and humane. When we count the cost of the Libya liberation enterprise, we cannot but commend the unalloyed determination of efforts to accentuate the need to protect human rights from dictatorial leaders, with misplaced consciences.

Professor Dr. Emmanuel Omoh Esiemokhai is the President of the proposed Afemai University, Fugar, Edo State, Nigeria.( eesiemokhai@yahoo.com)

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