African Union Steps In To Mediate Peace Talks In Libya

African mediators are holding talks aimed at brokering a peace deal in Libya. The African Union delegation, which includes three African presidents, has met with Moammar Gadhafi and rebel leadership to discuss, what they called, a road map for peace. The rebels rejected the plan, said they would not consider any option that did not include the departure of Gadhafi and his family. The Libyan leader has reportedly accepted the mediators' proposal, in principle. To talk more about the African Union's mediation efforts, host Michel Martin speaks with Professor Mwangi Kimenyi, Director of the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

The conflict in the Ivory Coast isn't the only continental drama that has the attention of the African Union. The A.U. sent a high-level delegation to Libya to try to help end the crisis there.

A five-member group was led by South African president Jacob Zuma. It included the presidents of Mali and Mauritania. And they met with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in Tripoli to propose what they called a roadmap to peace in that country. Gadhafi reportedly accepted the proposal, but a meeting with Libyan rebels in their stronghold of Benghazi yesterday ended with opposition forces saying no to that deal.

From Al Jazeera, this is Mustafa Abdul Jalil of what's called the Transitional National Council in Benghazi.

(Soundbite of protest)

Mr. MUSTAFA ABDUL JALIL (Chairman, Transitional National Council): We will never accept a compromise or a dialogue or any solutions except of getting him out with his family.

MARTIN: We wanted to talk more about the African Union and its chances for successfully brokering a peace deal in Libya, so we've invited Professor Mwangi Kimenyi to join us. He's the director of the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution. That's a research institution here in Washington, D.C. He's here with us in our Washington, D.C. studio. Thank you so much for joining us.

Professor MWANGI KIMENYI (Brookings Institution): Thank you very much for having me.

MARTIN: What role has the A.U. played in the Libya crisis so far?

Prof. KIMENYI: It has tried, but the effectiveness of A.U. has been quite questionable. I think the last attempt, when the A.U. sent the team led by the president of South Africa, we have had a ceasefire arrangement. But again, there was no preconditions of Gadhafi, of his family leaving. And that means that it was to be rejected. So it was a good attempt, but it was not to be effective.

MARTIN: One of the issue - what we're hearing, in part, from the rebels here is that it's not just the plan itself, but also that the rebels don't credit the A.U. with neutrality in the matter. They say that they're not an honest broker - in part, because Gadhafi's been so closely identified with the formation of the African Union, with financially supporting the African Union. He played a prominent role in the A.U.'s predecessor organization, the OAU, the Organization for African Unity.

Do you feel that the African Union is seen as an honest broker throughout?

Prof. KIMENYI: My thinking is that A.U. is to some extent is a compromised institution. One is that with the fact that you don't have a firm position that we are going to be against dictators. If you think about the A.U. charter and what the A.U. is supposed to do, one of the goals is to advance democracy, peace, security and human rights.

But, yet, when all these are violated, you don't get the A.U. making a statement: This is, against what we stand for. So in that sense, it has some double standards. The other thing is that is true - Gadhafi has been very close to the (unintelligible) community. He was part of the formation. Remember, he was the chairman of African Union just two years back and he is very close to a lot of these leaders. And in that sense, he has also started investing in many of these countries. So I think A.U. has lost credibility as an honest broker.

MARTIN: Does the A.U. retain credibility anywhere? I mean, if you look at the current crises that we've been reporting on, the crises in the Ivory Coast where the A.U. doesn't seem to have been able to intervene with any effect. The ongoing political crisis in Zimbabwe, and then, now, this crisis in Libya. Does this raise questions about the ongoing need or importance of the A.U. going forward?

Prof. KIMENYI: There's a need for A.U. And A.U. has done very well in one area, which is regional integration. It has been dismal failure in the area of peace and security. It has failed in Somalia. It has failed in Ivory Coast. They are doing very poorly in Libya. And there are several reasons for this. Again, it's the governance of the African Union where you have a people who are themselves dictators.

The chairman of the African Union, today, doesn't have a very good record. And he will not like to intervene in Gadhafi. He's not a person with a good democratic record. Then we have, of course, these connections that Gadhafi has made. But, finally, I mean, you really need to be able to intervene by force. The African Union has to make a decision that having a standing army -independent, standing army is important for peacekeeping purposes.

MARTIN: And when - if you would talk more, though, in the minute that we have left about the tolerance for dictators, you know, why is that? It's very clear that there is a desire for democracy and freedom on the African continent, as there is in, you know, other parts of the world. So, why is there this tolerance for dictators and this refusal to insist on standards of governance that exist in other parts of the world?

Prof. KIMENYI: I think that's where we have a problem. You know, membership is being part of the African continent. And then, you know, if you accept it, the leadership is (unintelligible) business. You know, you can be the worst crook and you'll still be the chairman of the African Union. We are back to the old days of the organization of African unity when Ida Amin was chairman, Mobutu was chairman at one time. So we are going back to the same. And the feeling is that we have to - leaders to have some standards of the governance of the African Union if African Union is going to be effective.

MARTIN: Mwangi Kimenyi is director of the Africa Growth Institute at the Brookings Institution. That's a research institute here in the Washington, D.C. area. He was here with us in our Washington, D.C. studio. Professor Kimenyi, thank you so much for joining us.

Prof. KIMENYI: Thank you very much for having me.

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