European countries, which played a role in the downfall of deceased Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi and the resulting instability in Libya, have to accept responsibility for the humanitarian and refugee crisis they created, President Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.
“The situation in Libya continues to be of serious concern. As such, we fully support the UN-led political dialogue. We also commend Libya’s neighbouring countries for their role in the search for a solution in that country,” Zuma said.
“I’m sure it will be appropriate, our excellencies, to underline this point because you all recall that before the Arab Spring and before the killing of Gaddafi, there were no refugees fleeing or flocking to the European countries.”
He was addressing media, senior Cabinet ministers and a bevy of high commissioners and ambassadors from diplomatic missions in South Africa at the Sefako Makgatho presidential guest house in Pretoria.
Deviating from the prepared text handed to journalists, Zuma said prior to this, “things were normal in the north of Africa”.
“It was the actions taken, the bombarding of Libya and killing of Libyans that opened the floodgates firstly for serious tensions and conflict in Libya and, therefore, their security was totally undermined as tribes fought,” the president said.
“The beginning, therefore, of the refugees, at least from the African side, was undermined by the triggering of the situation… We must not forget this.”
“As people grappled with the problem of refugees, because we forget easily, we might think suddenly Africa might have a problem where the refugees are flooding Europe. What has happened?”
It was the consistent bombing by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) forces that undermined Libya’s stability and that of neighbouring countries, and led to the conflicts that were now taking place in the North African country.
“That’s why we have this problem. I don’t think we should forget that. It has not opened up from nowhere. It is because of this interference,” Zuma said.
“Today, those who are part of destabilising that part of the world, they don’t want to accept the refugees. It is their responsibility, they caused it, they must address it. It is a painful truth, but it is the truth.”
He said South Africa stood ready to assist Libya and its post-conflict reconstruction, development and to share experiences in reconciliation and constitution making.