Statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Inaugural Meeting of the African Union Contact Group on Libya, Oyo, Republic of Congo, 12 March 2020
Your Excellency, President Denis Sassou N’Guesso, Chairperson of the AU High-level Committee on Libya and the AU Contact Group on Libya
Your Excellency, President Idriss Déby Itno, President of the Republic of Chad
Your Excellency Moussa Faki, Chairperson of the African Union Commission
Representatives of the Presidents of the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Republic of Algeria
Representative of the UN Secretary General
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Allow me to take this opportunity to thank our gracious host, His Excellency President Sassou N’Guesso for convening this inaugural meeting of the African Union Contact Group on Libya.
This structure has been established pursuant to the decision of the 33rd Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government that was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from the 9th to the 10th of February 2020.
As the Assembly we agreed to establish this Contact Group to provide political leadership and to promote the coordination of international efforts in pursuit of a lasting solution to the Libyan crisis.
Since we met in Addis Ababa, there has been a further deterioration of the peace and security situation in Libya, and this has in turn has worsened the already grave humanitarian situation.
Military activity in the capital Tripoli has escalated.
On the 20th of February 2020, Tripoli came under heavy rocket fire, breaking the ceasefire that was in place at the time.
A strategic port was hit, resulting in the peace talks being temporarily suspended.
The ongoing strife in Libya has dangerous repercussions for the security and stability of the region and the continent in general.
Furthermore, continued political and military interference by external actors in the affairs of Libya undermine the fundamental interests and rights of the Libyan people and their aspirations for freedom, peace, democracy and development.
As the African Union we note with mounting concern the devastating impact of the conflict on the lives of Libyan civilians, particularly on women and children.
In this regard, we call for a ceasefire to be implemented with urgent and immediate effect.
We are disappointed that the much-anticipated ceasefire talks of the Libyan Joint Military Group in Geneva, Switzerland from the 18th to the 24th of February 2020 did not result in a positive outcome.
In spite of this, we continue to stress the need for inclusive dialogue between all Libyan parties to the conflict, in recognition that it is only by sitting around the negotiating table that a durable solution can be reached.
In this, the year that the African Union has dedicated to Silencing the Guns in Africa, we must be at the forefront of efforts to bring the warring parties together.
The convening of this Contact Group is a resounding affirmation of the fact that it is the Libyan people and them alone who must determine the country’s future course, and that our role is to actively support them in this regard.
We must be firm and resolute that Africa’s problems must be solved by Africans.
We must continue to advance AU-UN collaboration as we work towards a political solution, reconciliation process and lasting peace; a process that must be led by the Libyan people, driven by the Libyan people and upheld by the Libyan people.
We emphasise Libyan ownership of this process without the interference of external actors.
We reaffirm the decision of the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU calling on all outside actors to immediately and permanently put an end to their interventions that continue to undermine the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Libya.
In this regard, we view the implementation of the arms embargo as an important instrument to stem the illicit flow of arms into Libya and the Sahel region.
We wish to reiterate that there can be no military solution to the conflict in Libya.
All Libyan parties, community leaders and non-governmental organisations should commit to dialogue.
The parties must urgently commit to a ceasefire and thereafter work towards securing a political agreement.
We welcome the deadline set by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) for a draft ceasefire agreement to be reached and finalised in March.
As South Africa we have repeatedly stated our support for this, including recently when we delivered our statement on the situation in Libya during a UN Security Council debate.
We further support the goal of unification of the country’s institutions, the holding of national elections, and enhancing security, stability and living conditions for the Libyan people.
This includes the unification and integration of the Libyan armed forces.
In conclusion, I wish to stress that the negotiation of a ceasefire, its enforcement and observation is the critical first step in creating conducive conditions for a lasting peace.
It will pave the way for an all-inclusive inter-Libyan dialogue, and lead to national reconciliation and unity.
It is goal we all share, and it is a goal we must all work together to see realised.
Addressing the Libyan Congress of the People in March 1999, the late South African President Nelson Mandela said:
“The men and women of Libya are prominent amongst those who will help make the next century one in which our continent, and the developing world as a whole, take their rightful place in world affairs.”
If we are to meet the aspirations of Agenda 2063 of an Africa free from conflict, war and human rights violations, we must do all within our power to ensure peace dawns in Libya, and that our sister country and its people truly assume their rightful place among the stable, prosperous and peace-loving nations of the world.
I thank you.
Issued by the Presidency of the Republic of South Africa