Libyan Rebels Rejects African Union Peace Plan

Liana Teixeira

Despite efforts to satisfy their demands, Libyan rebels rejected a peace plan proposed by the African Union on Monday. The suggested “road map” outlined the steps for making peace with Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi; however, the rebels made it clear that only Gadhafi’s resignation would suspend their uprisings. “It’s a non-negotiable demand,” U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters at a Monday news briefing. “We believe he needs to depart [from] power.”

The agreement called for an immediate cease-fire, an end to NATO air strikes, and advised that political reform be reached through cooperative discussions. Ghadafi, unsurprisingly, supported this proposal, but the rebels were less inclined to accept its demands as it would seriously counter their progress against Gadhafi’s military.

“This proposal did not include the exit of Colonel Gadhafi and his sons and inner circle, and it included reforms within the structure of the Gadhafi regime. This is rejected completely,” said Abdul Hafiz Ghoga, a member of the Transitional National Council (the de facto rebel government based in the eastern city of Benghazi), to the McClathy newspaper.

The African Union is made up of five African countries: South Africa, Uganda, Mali, Mauritania, and Congo-Brazzaville. Given that Gadhafi reserved a portion of the yearly budget to the African Union, the plan to maintain Gadhafi’s leadership role in Libya was largely expected. However, not everyone agrees with the Union’s ruling.

During a radio interview in France, Italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, supported the rebels’ position, saying that Gadhafi’s resignation would have to occur “in parallel” with a cease-fire. “The sons and the family of Gadhafi cannot participate in the political future of Libya,” Frattini said.

The Obama administration strongly advocates a cease-fire, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the United States also desires Gadhafi forces to vacate various civilian villages in the west, including the city of Misrata. Any cities forcibly occupied or destroyed by Gadhafi’s military campaign, said Clinton, must be restored with fresh drinking water and electricity.

Chris Stevens, the chief U.S. envoy to the Libyan opposition in Benghazi, continues meeting with rebel leaders and discusses how the United States could help during its democratic transition.