21 March 2011

Mozambique: Chissano Uncertain of Results of Libya Intervention

Maputo — Former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano on Monday expressed concern as to whether the military intervention by western powers against the Gaddafi dictatorship in Libya might do more harm than good.

"My feeling is one of uncertainty, just as it was in the case of Iraq", said Chissano, when reporters questioned him about the military intervention against Gaddafi.

He said the intervention, under last week's United Nations resolution authorising a no-fly zone, would be positive if it did indeed protect the civilian population, but not if it was prolonged and caused the deaths of many Libyans.

"It is necessary to protect people's lives. The military measures should not damage the people more than the regime", said Chissano.

Gaddafi has claimed that 48 people died during the Saturday bombardment of anti-aircraft installations in the west of the country, but there is so far no independent conformation of this figure.

There is no love lost between Chissano and Gaddafi. When he was President, Chissano invited Gaddafi to visit Mozambique in 2002 in the hope that the Libyan leader would cancel a debt of 140 million US dollars which Mozambique had run up in the 1980s, when Libya was one of the countries that supplied Mozambique with oil on credit.

Since developed countries had pardoned Mozambican debt under the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) initiative, surely Gaddafi would be at least as generous?

At a banquet in honour of Gaddafy, Chissano declared "The total cancellation of the debt will allow us to free the financial resources that are so necessary and so scarce for the social projects planned or under way in the country".

But when Gaddafy spoke in reply he publicly rebuffed Chissano, in perhaps the rudest speech ever delivered at a Mozambican state occasion. He had no intention of canceling the debt. "Mozambique should repay", he declared.

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