Archbishop Desmond Tutu demands action on Libya

African Governments are “failing” Libyan citizens and all Africans


African Governments’ appalling lack of pressure to force Libyan Leader, Muammar Gaddafi, to halt the violence and step down, reflects persistent inadequacies in the African Union (AU). Their failure to act decisively threatens progress towards democracy and respect for human rights on the continent, according to leading African civil society activists speaking today at a press conference in Johannesburg.

“The response from African governments and the African Union took so long and was so feeble that it emboldens Gaddafi in clinging on to power by any means possible, and permits him to claim the protests are a Western or Al Qaeda conspiracy,” said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS.

“African leaders must realise that their failure to speak clearly and act promptly has real consequences and costs lives. Such apathy in the face of atrocities cannot persist,” she added.

Article 3 of the Constitutive Act of the AU lists the promotion of peace, security and stability on the continent as one of its key objectives. Despite this, civil society believes the AU and African governments have been slow to react.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Congress of South African Trade Union joined Srinath and more than 40 other signatories from civil society in a joint statement demanding action from the AU.

“The carnage in Libya must stop. A leader who crushes his own people does not deserve that name – or position,” said Archbishop Desmond Tutu. South Africa has a special responsibility to act

South Africa, Nigeria and Gabon currently represent Africa on the UN Security Council and as such have a special responsibility to ensure the protection of the Libyan people. Rajesh Latchman, Convenor of the Global Call to Action against Poverty in South Africa, singled out the South African Government’s need to act as a non-permanent member of
the UN Security Council since January 2011, despite their aspirations for a permanent seat.

“While an immediate and decisive response to the bloodshed in Libya is needed right now, the South African government needs to have a rapid response system to ensure diplomatic action when faced with such a crisis is not dependent on the push factor from civil society but driven by the values of our Constitution,” he said.

“For president Zuma in particular, this is not a call for you to imitate the out of office behaviour of your predecessor, it is rather a call to bring together a broad based but small collective of business, civil society and government leaders to act as a thought collective for the way our country acts when the rights of people outside our borders are violated.”

A horrifying example of an ongoing problem Latchman’s comments echo those of other civil society representatives at the press conference.

Noel Kututwa, Special Advisor with Amnesty International said that Amnesty International has accused the international community of failing the Libyan people in their hour of greatest need as Colonel Gaddafi threatened to “cleanse Libya house by house”. “The response of the UN Security Council fell shamefully below what was needed to stop the spiralling violence in Libya,” Kututwa said.

Amnesty International has called for an immediate arms embargo and assets freeze and the African Union and its member states to immediately investigate reports that armed elements are being transported from African countries to Libya, acting to secure the land borders into Libya and monitor suspicious flights.

While the situation in Libya is of immediate priority, it is also serving to highlight inadequacies on the part of the AU and African governments to respond when the security and human rights of people across the continent are threatened.

The joint statement from civil society will be distributed to the AU and African governments. It is one step in an ongoing campaign from civil society to support and protect the people of Libya as they strive to assert their democratic and human rights.

Civil society leaders pledged solidarity with all those struggling for freedom across the globe.

(For more information please contact: Rowena McNaughton, CIVICUS Media Officer,, +27 82 768 0250;

5 thoughts on “Archbishop Desmond Tutu demands action on Libya

  1. Anonymous on

    Here is another chance for Ethiopians to write a letter to Archbishop Desmond Tutu to make a statement on behalf of Ethiopians who are being brutalized by a brutal dictator Meles, who is worse than Gaddafi and other tyrants put together.

  2. Kenu Dersoal on

    I don’t expect any concrete action against Gadaffi or other tyrants in Africa from AU. Sorry to say this but at the moment, AU itself is a collection of dictators and no surprise that it doesn’t support a popular uprising undergoing in North Africa for freedom, democracy, good governance and human rights. As AU is represented and controlled by African tyrants, currently it is an instrument serving the interests of the leaders than the interests of the people against AU’s objectives of establishment. Thus, for AU to function properly representing the voice of African peoples and to protect the peoples’ interest, either it has to be reestablished or radically reformed. A new system needs to be established that peoples from below directly participate and control the AU. Once the uprisings wipeout all the tyrants from African land, then, the future AU will no more be a servant for dictators. That is African Vision!!!! FREEDOM FOR ALL AFRICAN PEOPLE AND FOR THE AU!!

  3. What do you expect from the nominal organization such as African Union?
    Ethiopians and Eritreans suffered under the rule of Mengistu and OAU never said a word, instead they were applauding Mengistu in return to teh wine, dine and women he was giving them every time they come to Addis for a conference. African union should be disbanded, they are just waste of money. The other thing is, they cannot say any thing to Gaddafi because they are all worst than him.

  4. Mekuria on

    Gaddafi is a sugar-daddy for the African Union. Actually, there may a panic among the AU for the chance of losing their financier.

  5. goitom on

    It’s not only gaddafi the whole african countries beside South Africa and Ghana the rest of them need democratic government and that is why one can’t say bad about the other because all of them came to power either by coup or as rebel and once they are in power it’s hard to let go. the only way to change this is to build
    a democratic GOVT with a term plan other wise africa will remain the same.

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