Thursday, 19 June 2014

Of Mandela, Shamuyarira and the Lockerbie affair

[This is the headline over a report published today on the website of the Zimbabwean newspaper The Herald.  It reads in part:]

Tributes to veteran nationalist, journalist and politician Nathan Shamuyarira who died on June 4 at the age of 85 underlined his diplomatic and political achievements at local, regional and international levels.

As tributes poured in, Shamuyarira was described as a remarkable and admirable politician who contributed immensely to the shaping and development of Zimbabwe’s media and foreign policy. (...)

In April, 1999, Nelson Mandela refused to take full credit for the Lockerbie breakthrough which resulted in Libya handing over two suspects of the PanAm bombing over Lockerbie in 1988 in which 270 people were killed.

Speaking to businessmen in Midrand, the anti-apartheid struggle leader said there were other people who played an important role in the negotiations, singling out former Zimbabwean Foreign Affairs Minister Nathan Shamuyarira.

“He is the person who came to me and said let’s talk and settle this issue,” Mandela was quoted as saying, adding that he then spoke to former American President George Bush and Saudi Arabia’s King Fahed.

“Without these two (Shamuyarira and King Fahed) I don’t think there would have been a breakthrough,” he said.

Mandela was not puffed up by the huge praise he got internationally for his role in the Lockerbie diplomatic effort.

He repeatedly shrugged off the praise.

Shamuyarira too, shrugged off the praise, only demonstrating his distinctive brilliance and unmatched determination to have the Libyan suspects in the Lockerbie bombing tried in a neutral country.

In an interview in April 1999, Shamuyarira said there were a number of inconsistencies in the case that pointed to a political victimisation of Libya and if brought to court, such evidence would exonerate Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and Al–Amin Khalifa Fahima.

“I have evidence that convinced me and Presidents Mugabe and Nelson Mandela and other world leaders that the Libyans were not involved.

“It was on the basis of these inconsistencies that I asked the two presidents to seek a fair trial for the two men,” Shamuyarira was quoted saying then.

According to a news agency report, one of the factors Shamuyarira felt would work for the Libyans when their trial starts in the Netherlands was that some people scheduled to fly on the Pan Am Flight 103 from Frankfurt to New York on December 20 1988 were apparently warned that the flight was doomed and should change.

The plane blew up over Lockerbie in Scotland and killed 259 passengers and crew and 11 people on the ground.

“One of these people is then South African foreign affairs minister Pik Botha who was scheduled to take that flight to New York. He and others were tipped off and changed flights.

“Whoever tipped them had prior knowledge of the bomb and if it were the Libyans, surely, the last person they would tip was Botha given the animosity between Libya and South Africa the,” said Shamuyarira who served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs between 1985 and 1995.

This earned Shamuyarira who initiated talks that the Libyan suspects be tried in a neutral country, wide acclaim and made him to become a true giant of Zimbabwean and African foreign policy. (...)

Late veteran politician Dr Stan Mudenge who was Foreign Affairs Minister in 1999 described the breakthough as an African Union triumph over western bullying.

“When you look back at the whole issue, one can rightly say Africa as a whole won a major battle over western bullying. Each one of us as Africans did their bit and we won,” Dr Mudenge said back then.

With the Lockerbie case, Shamuyarira showed that he was a formidable force of Pan African  diplomacy – an indefatigable champion in the cause of peace, who worked tirelessly for a better world through peaceful conflict resolution mechanism.

His energies devoted to finding a peaceful way forward for the Libyan case led to the suspension of the embargoes that had been put in place to force Tripoli to surrender the two men charged with blowing up Pan Am Flight 103.

Shamuyarira, who has been credited as the first person to initiate talks on the possibility of having the Libyans tried in a neutral country.

To some great measure, Shamuyarira’s pre-eminent role in the Lockerbie affair, forced Muammar Gaddafi, the deposed leader of Libya, who died on 20 October 2011, to ‘demote’ Pan Arabism as a plank of Libya’s foreign policy.

[I reproduce this because it pays tribute to an African politician who played a not insignificant part in resolving the Lockerbie impasse that existed in the late 1990s, not because it is in all respects accurate about the factual and political background, which it clearly is not. For example, the story about Pik Botha being warned off Pan Am 103 has been discredited. And the all-too common assumption that Gaddafi had the power to compel the two accused to surrender for trial whether they wanted to or not, is just simply false.  I was involved at the time in Lockerbie dealings with both the Libyan Government and the Libyan defence team headed by Dr Ibrahim Legwell. If the Libyan Government had had the power to deliver Megrahi and Fhimah to Zeist against their will, the pair would have been there long before April 1999. The Gaddafi regime had the power to prevent the suspects from voluntarily surrendering themselves for trial (eg by preventing them from leaving Libya). But that was as far as the regime’s power went. It had no power to compel them to stand trial at Zeist if they chose not to.  What impeded a resolution of the Lockerbie standoff for years was not the Libyan Government nor the Libyan defence team, but the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States. It was on these governments that Mandela, Shamuyarira and others had to exert diplomatic and moral pressure to accept the solution that had long before been accepted by the Libyan authorities and the Libyan defence team. All this is explained here, for those interested in the true position.]


  1. It was a remarkable achievement to compel the US to agree to a trial they never wanted to hold that would expose their trumped up charges to the world about Libyan responsibility for Lockerbie.

    But at a heavy price because rather than resolving the matter the exposure compelled the US to embark on yet more sever actions to cover-up [at least officially] the extended cover-up.

    Hence the humanitarian destruction of Libya to save lives and the assassination of Gaddafi in a brutal but failed attempt to derail PE1370 by getting a new regime to accept responsibility for Lockerbie!

    Sanctions are an act of war [and can be deadly], but they were not crippling Libya, because sanctions incite countries to become successful smugglers and build their own industries.

    But politically they were a problem because they restricted a younger generation’s access to western consumer goods and mostly because Gaddafi wanted a rapprochement with the US/west.

    And this was because his creed of pan-Arab secular socialism was under attack from the Islamists and he foolishly thought he shared a common enemy with US.

    Not realising that the US ‘war on terror’ against the Islamists also involved supporting the Islamists [as they did in Libya] against the secular states to ensure ongoing conflict and civil war in the Middle-East on behalf of Israel, not oil.

  2. ^ Objection, your Honor, the witness is speculating.

    - - -

    Thank you, RB, for the very interesting link to the fundamentals of your involvement in the case.

    Note, BTW, that Google Docs disallow copying and pasting from them, which for some users (including this one) will be a deciding factor in the question of whether to use them or not.

    You mention that some 'very fine print' in the document was interpreted as having been deliberately designed to entrap the Libyan defense team, and so it took another year, as negotiations could not be made directly.

    Is the document in English, and is it available?

    In any case, 'delay' was clearly a policy all the time, in stark contrast to the speed of which sanctions were imposed and in effect, which took only half a year.

    Crime upon crime against the country of Libya.

    Getting the trial going, thereby removing the political excuse for the embargo, will have helped a great many people.

    Regarding the innocence of Megrahi, JfM has long ago established consensus among those actually looking into the matter.

    To move a system where basically every institution would like to see the truth suppressed is a monumental task, but even that is going better than anyone could have hoped.

  3. Thank you, sfm. Another copy of my "From Lockerbie to Zeist" article appears on Scribd and this does allow copying and pasting, I think:

    The two "fine print" documents are available online. Here's the UK Order in Council:
    and here's the treaty between the UK and the Netherlands (at page 81):

  4. Thank you for the links!

    - - -

    Note, BTW, that links that may be available from a few sources may disappear.

    There is probably no law that says that they should be kept up forever, and they may disappear, e.g. because of simple restructuring of material. Somebody might cry dry tears?!

    So friends of JfM should consider downloading and saving somewhere.

    I didn't mention "backups". That is a dirty word.