Hillary Clinton: Why Libya should be Isolated

Published on 20th June 2011

Allied forces air-strikes in Libya                     Photo courtesy
This is an exciting time for African democracy. More than half the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have embraced democratic, constitutional, multi-party rule. Now, some, like Botswana, Ghana, and Tanzania, have spent decades building strong institutions and a tradition of peaceful, democratic transitions. When things like this happen, you just keep going. Now, those countries that I mentioned are models, not only for their neighbors, but increasingly for countries everywhere.

Other African nations have been also making important advances. In Nigeria, President Jonathan was inaugurated after what many have called the fairest election in Nigeria’s recent history. Benin and Malawi both held successful elections this spring, building on previous successful multiparty contests. Kenya’s democracy got a boost from last year’s referendum on its new constitution. The vote took place without violence, and the constitution, which includes a bill of rights and limits on executive power, passed by a large margin. Niger and Guinea, both of which endured recent military coups, held successful elections in the past year. In Cote d'Ivoire, the crisis that followed the 2010 elections was finally resolved two months ago with the help of the AU, and the elected winner is now serving as president.

These are just a few examples of Africa’s recent democratic gains. In several nations, the institutions of democracy are becoming stronger. There are freer medias, justice systems that administer justice equally, and impartially, honest legislatures, vibrant civil societies.

Much of the credit for these hard-won achievements rightly belongs to the people and leaders of these countries who have passionately and persistently, sometimes at great risk to themselves, demanded that their leaders protect the rule of law, honor election results, uphold rights and freedoms. But credit is also due to the African Union, which has prohibited new leaders who have come to power through military rule and coups from being seated in the organization. The AU and Africa’s other regional institutions have also played a pivotal role in ending crises and creating the conditions for successful, democratic transitions.

But, as we celebrate this progress, we know that too many people in Africa still live under longstanding rulers, men who care too much about the longevity of their reign, and too little about the legacy that should be built for their country’s future. Some even claim to believe in democracy – democracy defined as one election, one time.

Now, this approach to governing is being rejected by countries on this continent and beyond. Consider the changes that have recently swept through North Africa and the Middle East. After years of living under dictatorships, people have demanded new leadership; in places where their voices have long been silenced, they are exercising their right to speak, often at the top of their lungs. In places where jobs are scarce and a tiny elite prospers while most of the population struggles, people – especially young people – are channeling their frustration into social, economic, and political change.

Their message is clear to us all: The status quo is broken; the old ways of governing are no longer acceptable; it is time for leaders to lead with accountability, treat their people with dignity, respect their rights, and deliver economic opportunity.  If they will not, then it is time for them to go.

Every country in the world stands to learn from these democracy movements, but this wave of activism, which came to be known as the Arab Spring, has particular significance for leaders in Africa and elsewhere who hold on to power at all costs, who suppress dissent, who enrich themselves and their supporters at the expense of their own people. To those leaders our message must be clear: Rise to this historic occasion; show leadership by embracing a true path that honors your people’s aspirations; create a future that your young people will believe in, defend, and help build. Because, if you do not – if you believe that the freedoms and opportunities that we speak about as universal should not be shared by your own people, men and women equally, or if you do not desire to help your own people work and live with dignity, you are on the wrong side of history, and time will prove that.

The United States pledges its support for African nations that are committed to doing the difficult but rewarding work of building a free, peaceful, and prosperous future. Creating the conditions that allow people and communities to flourish in a democracy cannot simply be a matter of holding elections; they are a necessary but not sufficient condition. Good governance requires free, fair, and transparent elections, a free media, independent judiciaries, and the protection of minorities. Democracy must also deliver results for people by providing economic opportunity, jobs, and a rising standard of living.

Now, here, again, the map of Africa is lit up with success stories. Six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies in the last decade are in Sub-Saharan Africa, and that percentage is expected to grow in the next five years.

In recent years, a quiet storyline has emerged out of the security challenges that have developed on the continent. More and more, the African Union and Africa’s sub-regional organizations and African states, working alone or in concert, are taking the lead in solving Africa’s crises. In Somalia, AMISOM, the African Union’s peacekeeping mission, thanks to heroic efforts by Ugandan and Burundian soldiers, has helped the Transitional Federal Government make remarkable security gains in Mogadishu over the past couple of months. Al-Shabaab, an affiliate of al-Qaida, is finally on the defensive.

Now, we expect Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government to create political and economic progress to match AMISOM’s security progress. It cannot continue operating the way it has in the past. We look to the TFG to resolve their internal divisions and improve the lives of the millions of Somalis who continue to suffer.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we remain concerned about the continued violence against women and girls and the activities of armed groups in the eastern region of the country. Every effort by the AU and UN will be necessary to help the DRC respond to these continuing security crises.

South Sudan is less than one month away from becoming the world’s newest state. The governments of Sudan and South Sudan have made laudable progress in implementing certain provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. But recent developments along the border, particularly in the Abyei region, are deeply troubling. The parties must resolve the remaining CPA issues peacefully through negotiations, not violence.

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. 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. 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 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.

I know there are some who still believe that the actions of the UN and NATO were not called for. 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.

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 [African states] to suspend the operations of Qadhafi’s embassies in [their] countries, to expel pro-Qadhafi diplomats, and to increase contact and support for the Transitional National Council. [The African states’] words and 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 a transition to a new government based on democracy, economic opportunity, and security.

As we look to the future, we want to work with the African Union not only to react to conflicts and crises but to get ahead of them, to work together on a positive agenda that will stop crises before they start. I think we can find many areas for collaboration. On democracy and good governance we already work together to monitor elections across Africa. Now we need to do more to help countries strengthen democratic institutions.

By Hillary Rodham Clinton
US Secretary of State.


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