The AU’s snub highlights the influence ousted Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi had on the AU, given that he was one of the continental group’s main bankrollers and had provided lavish sums to several African leaders.
With rebels still battling diehard forces loyal to Qaddafi, South African President Jacob Zuma said at the end of an AU Peace and Security Council meeting in Addis Ababa that the rebels were not yet legitimate.
“There is a process in Libya wherein the NTC forces are in the process of taking over Tripoli ... but there is still that fighting going on.”
“So we can’t therefore stand and say this is the legitimate one now,” Zuma told reporters.
The pan-African body called on Libyan parties to set up a transitional government ahead of elections.
The AU “encourages the Libyan stakeholders to accelerate the process leading to the formation of an all-inclusive transitional government that would be welcome to occupy a seat in the African Union,” the bloc’s Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra told reporters.
Officials at the talks said the 15-member council was split almost in half between countries that have recognized the NTC and countries who have not. The council takes in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Libya, Namibia, South Africa, Djibouti, Rwanda, Burundi, Chad Benin, Ivory Coast, Mali and Mauritania.
Earlier, a senior South African government source said the AU could recognize the rebels, although he said the group may want some from Qaddafi’s side involved in a transition.
Only three heads of state attended the emergency summit. Two of them, Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, have been vocal supporters of Qaddafi, which may have influenced the group’s decision.
Zimbabwe is also one of the few states strongly in Qaddafi’s camp and the country is seen as a possible asylum destination for him.
The AU has proposed a road map for a change in leadership in Libya that has been mostly overlooked by Western powers – a rebuff analysts said has angered many African states with long ties to Qaddafi.
The African Union was founded at a summit in Qaddafi’s hometown on Sept. 9, 1999. The state-owned Afriqiyah Airways marks that date by painting the motif “9.9.99” on the tail of each of its jets.