Jean-Jacques Cornish

Africa’s disturbing silence over Egypt’s interference in Libya

Egypt’s behavior in Libya flies in the face of everything the African Union stands for.

Yet there is an ominous silence from the 55-member continental organisation.

The AU echoes the United Nations in making clear its fears about the Libyan conflict becoming proxy war.

It’s failure to condemn Egypt taking the North African state down that road undermines AU credibility and certainly makes a nonsense of the grouping’s major goal of silencing the guns.

African leaders are behaving like their predecessors who took too far their reluctance to interfere in the internal affairs of their peers.

Two decades ago, having sat on their hands during the Rwandan genocide, African leaders resolved never to allow a repeat of such a shameful occurrence.

Since the fall of dictator Muammar Gadaffi in 2011, Libya has been the biggest mess the AU has had to contend with.

The country has become armoury for conflict in the region and beyond.

Its potential oil wealth has been ruined by the conflict and instability.

Nevertheless that oil attracts the unwanted attention of Russia, Turkey and Egypt all of whom hold the  lethally misguided belief that Libya represents their strategic interest.

The most dramatic illustration of this is Egypt’s parliament voting to allow President Abdel Fattah El Sisi to take the country to war over Libya.

The temerity of El Sisi warning the United Nations-backed Libyan Government of National Accord not to attempt to regain control of Sirte is staggering.

A credible government must perforce control the port city at the centre of Libya which is the country’s oil export terminal and gateway it oil fields. The GNA has mounted the ironically named Operation Peace Storm to ensure this.

Egypt backs the rebel force of Khalifa Haftar who are making a last ditch stand at Sirte having been driven out of the capital Tripoli to the west.

Haftar also enjoys the backing of the United Arab Emirates and Russia, which this week shipped mercenaries and air defense systems to the rebels. 

France, which takes more than a passing interest in developments across the Mediterranean, has despatched the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaul to lie off Sirte.

Turkey, determined to be player in this game, has provided both troops and arms to the GNA led by Fayez Al Sarraj.

Small wonder the United Nations Secretary General António Guterres has repeatedly expressed concern about the developing proxy war in Libya.

Western powers have also been involved in attempts to get the belligerents around the negotiating table, causing the AU to complain about being iced out of peace efforts in one of its member states.

Surely African leaders must accept that their silence about Egyptian interference in Libya rather disqualifies them from achieving an African solution to this particular African problem.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.