Long aligned with Qaddafi, South Africa slow to recognize Libya’s TNC

September 22, 2011

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(AP/Obed Zilwa)
In 1999, Muammar Qaddafi visited Nelson Mandela in Cape Town. He received a 21-gun salute.

Since fighting erupted six months ago, more than 80 countries have come to recognize the Transitional National Council (TNC) as the legitimate government of Libya in the post-Qaddafi era. Before this week, South Africa was not one of them.

The reluctance was, in part, due to the country’s long-standing fondness for Muammar Qaddafi, who supported the ruling ANC party during apartheid. In 1997, Qaddafi was even the recipient of South Africa’s highest honor, the "Order of Good Hope," for his support for Nelson Mandela’s human rights campaigns.

As the continent’s economic powerhouse and a purveyor of democratic ideals, South Africa is a crucial factor in Libya’s post-Qaddafi future. We talk with journalist James Kirchick, whose recent article in the Atlantic casts a critical eye on South Africa’s foreign policy and suggests that it has become a “rogue democracy.”

James is a writer-at-large for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a contributing editor at the New Republic, and a blogger for World Affairs.