Wing of South Africa's ANC calls for war crime charges on NATO's Libya conflict

South Africa's ANC Youth League said the ICC should lodge war crime charges against Western leaders for their leadership of the Libyan conflict, but with less than half a million members, the effect of its demands may be limited.

By , Correspondent

The militant youth wing of South Africa's ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), helped put President Jacob Zuma into office in the 2008 elections. Now youth leaders are demanding that Mr. Zuma’s government take a few more radical steps if it wants to keep their support, including lodging war crimes charges against the US President Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and British Prime Minister David Cameron for launching a foreign military intervention in Libya that has led to the death of innocent civilians.

At the end of the four-day ANC Youth League (ANCYL) Congress on Sunday, the league, led by firebrand Julius Malema, announced that it wants the International Criminal court (ICC) to arrest Mr. Obama, Mr. Sarkozy, and Mr. Cameron for attempting to assassinate Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

"The National Congress expresses displeasure with the reemergence of a political tendency in the ANC of politically and ideologically associating with imperialists on foreign policy decisions, particularly as it relates to Libya and Ivory Coast,” the league said in a statement (read full statement here). "We call on the South African government to delegitimize the NATO military campaign by publicly declaring it [a] criminal neocolonial venture against defenseless people and undermining of the sovereignty of a nation-state.

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"We further ask the South African government to lodge a criminal case with the International Criminal Court against Cameron, Obama and Sarkozy for launching an unprovoked war, destroying civilian infrastructure, killing innocent civilians, and attempting to assassinate a foreign head of state.”

Calls for nationalization, 'land grabs'

Mr. Malema gave South African analysts much to chatter about during the congress, held at a convention center in the middle class suburb of Midrand, north of Johannesburg. Along with some 5,000 Youth League delegates from across the country, attendees included South Africa's Deputy President Kgalema Mothlante, several government ministers, members of the diplomatic corps, and representatives of other African liberation parties, including Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).

Malema warned President Zuma – a man who Malema once said his members would be ready to kill for – that the Youth League’s continued support is dependent on his support for policies that benefit young voters. While some regard Malema as a growing force within South African politics, it is difficult to measure how influential he is. While more than 60 percent of voters voted for the African National Congress in recent local elections, the Youth League itself has fewer than half a million members, and the ANC finds itself pulled in two directions by its poorer rural voters and its increasingly wealthy and influential black middle class supporters, who tend to favor a more traditional free-market model of economic growth.

During the congress, Malema lambasted the Zuma administration for failing to redistribute the land “stolen” by whites to the majority poor blacks without compensation for the original owners. Under the current system, blacks are able to buy land from whites, but Malema wants a system similar to Zimbabwe's, where land was redistributed without any payment to the white owners.

He also reiterated the ANC Youth League's call to nationalize all mines in the country in order to redistribute wealth more evenly. National ownership of mines is a provision in the ANC’s Freedom Charter, drawn up by party stalwarts such as Nelson Mandela and Lionel “Rusty” Bernstein, but ANC senior leadership has argued that it is better to keep mining industry ownership as is and instead encourage companies to integrate blacks into management and ownership positions.

An affront to African sovereignty

Malema also condemned the ongoing NATO campaign in Libya, even though South Africa voted in favor of the UN resolution that sanctioned a foreign military intervention in order to halt atrocities by Qaddafi's regime against Libyan civilians. Zuma now claims that South Africa's vote for the UN resolution is being misused by NATO to allow it to attempt a regime change.

"The sovereignty and independence of African countries should never be sacrificed in pursuit of pleasing the narrow interests of investors and imperialists,” the ANCYL’s final declaration from the weekend congress said. “(The Youth) Congress vehemently disagrees with the justification and explanation given by the President of South Africa (Jacob Zuma) on the decision of South Africa to support a UN resolution that called for the imperialist invasion of Libya by neocolonial forces."

The Youth League called on its parent organization to stand up for the rights of developing nations. "The ANC and South Africa’s leadership role in the African continent should be reasserted,” the declaration reads. “This leadership role should be defined by a clear agenda to reaffirm the political and economic independence of the African countries and the continent.”

"In this regard, the ANC Youth League will convene all progressive youth formations from all countries in the African continent to develop political and ideological programmes to reclaim Africa’s wealth in particular mineral and land from colonial masters."

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