Country Listing

Libya Table of Contents


The Organization of African Unity

Libya has used the OAU to advocate the same policies it has espoused in the UN. During the early 1970s, Libyan diplomacy, including offers of economic assistance, resulted in most OAU members' severing diplomatic relations with Israel. Qadhafi has long condemned the apartheid policies of white regimes in Africa. In a 1973 message to all OAU members, he compared Zionist imperialism (i.e., continued Israeli occupation of Egyptian territory taken in the June 1967 War) with the policies of Portugal, Southern Rhodesia--now Zimbabwe--and South Africa. He demanded that members boycott a coming OAU meeting and that OAU headquarters be removed from Addis Ababa if Ethiopia (then under the rule of Emperor Haile Selassie) did not break relations with Israel. His demand was ignored; many OAU members, both Arab and African, saw it as a clumsy attempt to politicize the organization. Such differences notwithstanding, Libya has been a major supporter of African independence movements within and outside the OAU framework.

At the February 1978 OAU ministerial council meeting in Tripoli, Libya (already a member of the OAU Liberation Committee) was made a member of a new military committee. Other members of the new committee included the front-line countries against colonialism in southern Africa: Botswana, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, and Tanzania. The committee's purpose was to obtain and provide sophisticated weaponry for the black African national liberation movements. It was at the ministerial council meeting that Qadhafi called for the inclusion of several West European island possessions in the African liberation movement.

Qadhafi did not fare as well in the OAU in the 1980s. In 1981 the organization approved Qadhafi as the host of the next OAU conference. Qadhafi's bid was frustrated twice, however. First, Morocco and its allies boycotted the Tripoli meeting because of the SADR's attendance. Then, in November 1982, the conference lacked a quorum when many delegations boycotted it because of the controversy surrounding the Qadhafi-sponsored Chadian representation. Qadhafi's third attempt to become OAU chairman in 1983 also failed when delegations wary of Qadhafi's unpredictable and extremist policies selected Ethiopia for the next conference site and chairman. Still, Qadhafi is usually supported by the more radical states such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, and Ethiopia.

At the 1986 conference of the Nonaligned Movement in Harare, Zimbabwe, the Libyan position was endorsed when the conference, which included many OAU countries, denounced the United States bombings of April 1986. At the same conference, however, Qadhafi's denunciation of the whole stance of nonalignment caused great embarrassment to the conference hosts and failed to win any real conference support.

Data as of 1987