Address by Nelson Mandela to Congress of the People, Tripoli - Libya

19 March 1999

My Dear Brother Leader;
Comrades and Friends,

There are few countries outside our immediate region of Southern and Eastern Africa that we have visited as often since our release from jail as the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahyria.

Our frequent visits reflect our affection for the esteemed Brother Leader and the people of this great country. We shall never forget Libya's material and moral support of our own struggle against racist apartheid rule. It remains in our memories and spurs us on to help lighten the plight of our Libyan brothers and sisters.

We thank our Brother Leader and you, the representatives of the Libyan people, for once more opening your arms to receive us. This is one of the last few visits that I shall be undertaking before retiring from public life in three months' time. It is a special privilege to be able to included our very dear friends of this country in this leave-taking.

When I eventually retire to the peace of the village of my birth, the memories of your friendship will enrich my days. And I shall be happy in the knowledge that there are good men and women in leadership positions all over our continent and in the world - men and women of a generation that will lead us into the next century in pursuit of a better life for all humanity.

The men and women of Libya are prominent amongst those who will help make the next century one in which our continent, and the developing world as a whole, take their rightful place in world affairs.

It is with a great deal of sadness that we see, at the end of this century, that the world, and Africa in particular, are still beset by conflicts and situations of war. The strife in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Somalia and other parts of our continent, undermines our dream of a regenerated Africa. More than that, it cruelly subjects the people of the continent to danger, insecurity and deprivation.

All who call themselves leaders and who have taken it upon themselves to represent the people, must put the people first. Nothing can justify the untold suffering of ordinary children, women and men where leaders chose war and strife rather than the peaceful resolution of conflict.

I am very happy to note my Brother Leader's resolve, on behalf of the Libyan people, to work for peaceful resolutions of the conflicts on our continent. It provides us with special strength to be able to point to his unswerving support for South Africa's position that the military option provides no solution to any of these conflicts.

We are grateful to have Libya as our ally in the call for a cease-fire and withdrawal of all foreign forces from the Democratic Republic of the Congo so that the Congolese can themselves find an inclusive political solution.

South Africa regards Libya as an important role-player in the Organisation of African Unity and in the affairs of the continent. Africa's rebirth requires the energy of this great country and people. The limitations which United Nations sanctions place upon Libya are not only to the detriment and suffering of Libya. They affect the whole continent and beyond.

It is also for that reason that I, together with my brothers The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahad and Crown Prince Abdullah, lent our support and assistance in attempts to resolve the Lockerbie issue.

It is with great admiration for the Libyan people that I can today announce to the world that Libya has decided to write to the Secretary General of the United Nations to give a firm date for the handing over for trial in the Netherlands of the Two Libyan nationals named as suspects in the Lockerbie case.

At the outset, we must make a point which one would have assumed in this modern day needed no making. We are speaking of two people suspected of a crime, not of people proven guilty. Too often the impression is given that Libya is harbouring convicted criminals. As a world which believe in justice and which is committed to due legal process we must cling to the principle that people should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

I wish to take the liberty of referring in some detail, for the benefit of yourselves and the world, to the text of the letter that the Libyan authorities will be addressing to the Secretary General. I have the letter in my hand.

I am confident that the Secretary General will understand and pardon me for publicising the contents of a communication to him before he receives it. We do so because the writing of this letter has taken great courage and self-sacrifice on the party of Libya, and because King Fahad, Crown Prince Abdullah and I take responsibility in your presence and before the Libyan people for our part in that decision.

We therefore want you and the world to know that we, the leadership of Saudi Arabia and of South Africa, put our honour before you as guarantee of the good faith that we believe the leadership of the United Kingdom and the United States as well as the Security Council had pledged in this regard.

The letter starts by expressing the Jamahyria's thanks and appreciation for the efforts of the Secretary General, myself as President of South Africa, and the those of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahad bin Abdulaziz al Saud and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, to find a just solution to the Lockerbie issue, from which Libya has suffered for more than ten years.

The letter then states, and I quote (but I must first state that the Leader had entrusted to me the choice of the precise date): "The Jamahyria agrees to ensure that the two suspects would be available for the Secretary General of the United Nations to take custody of them on or before 6th April 1999 for their appearance before the court."

This, the letter states, is based on the following points which had already been agreed:

1. A Scottish court shall by convened in the Netherlands for the purpose of trying the two suspects in accordance with Scottish law and based on the agreement reached between the legal experts of the United Nations and Libya, and with the presence of international observers appointed by the Secretary General of the United Nations. The Jamahyria would wish that this be done also in consultation with the Republic of South Africa and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

2. The suspects if convicted will serve their prison sentence in Scotland under UN supervision and with assured access to a Libyan Consulate to be established in Scotland in accordance with the arrangements reached with the British government.

3. The sanctions imposed on the Jamahyria will be frozen immediately upon the arrival of the two suspects in the Netherlands. Thereafter the sanctions will be lifted upon submission, within 90 days, of a report by the Secretary General to the Security Council stating that the Jamahyria has complied with the Security Council's resolutions.

The Jamahyria, in this letter, also seeks to bring again to the attention of the Secretary General, the following points:

1. The Jamahyria, as it has stated before on numerous occasions, opposes all forms of terrorism and condemns all acts of such heinous criminality. The Jamahyria recalls that it has itself been a victim of terrorist acts which could not be condoned by any religious, human or international laws.

2. The Jamahyria pledges co-operation with the investigation, the procedures and the trial, within the framework of Libyan laws and legislation.

3. The Jamahyria reiterates what it had previously declared regarding compensation in the event of the two suspects being found guilty by the court and a final verdict being reached.

In the light of all the above, the Jamahyria states its view in the letter that the Security Council should pass a resolution with regard to this arrangement in a form binding on all concerned parties.

That is the essence of what is in the letter.

King Fahad, Prince Abdullah and I believe that, with those undertakings, Libya has taken the issue that has beset us for so long, to a new phase. The Libyan people can rightly claim that they have made major concessions, putting aside understandable considerations of national sovereignty for the betterment of international relations and for a world of greater normality.

We have no doubt that all other parties will respond with equal magnanimity to this development so that the issue can be resolved speedily. We are particularly hopeful that these undertakings will put the Secretary General in a position to expedite his report to the Security Council to have sanctions against Libya finally and fully lifted. We hope that all members of the Security Council including Permanent Members will redouble their commitment to restore normality to international relations.

I know that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia quite recently upgraded their diplomatic presence in Tripoli from the level of charge d'affaires to full ambassador. That is a sign of Saudi Arabia's commitment to their partnership with Libya.

I am honoured and privileged to announce that South Africa will be establishing a resident mission in Tripoli soon. When I arrive back in South Africa tomorrow the implementation of that decision will be one of the first matters that I shall attend to.

This is something we would have done at some time or other in any case, as Libya has been such an important ally for so long. That we do so now is also intended to signal to the Libyan people and the world that we are proud of the steps that Libyan people have taken today in regard to the Lockerbie issue. It indicates that South Africa will continue, together with our Saudi friends, to champion their cause in this matter.

I must now take leave of you for the last time in my official capacity. This morning, more than ever before, I take my leave with great happiness and pride in the people of my continent.

With the decision announced here this morning. you the Libyan people have proved Africa's potential to be the leaders of peace, equality and prosperity for all as we enter the new millennium. We salute you and wish you well and Godspeed.

I thank you.

Issued by the Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website