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Kenya salutes Libyan rebels, dumps Gaddafi

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 23 – Kenya has formally recognised the rebel group in Libya and is now calling for the establishment of what it terms as “an all-inclusive political dialogue” that can restore peace and unity as Muammar Gaddafi’s regime is on the brink of collapse.

Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Prof George Saitoti said Kenya still holds the view that there is need to have a political solution in the oil-rich North African nation.

“With the impending collapse of the regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Kenya urges that all efforts be exerted for the early restoration of peace and stability in Libya,” Prof Saitoti said in a statement.

“We therefore call on the interim authority to proceed with the immediate establishment of an all inclusive political dialogue aimed at bringing together all the people of Libya, and that will culminate in the holding of free, fair and transparent elections under a new constitution,” he added.

Kenya had initially declined to bow to pressure from Western Nations to stop backing Gaddafi and it appears its decision is informed by latest developments in Libya where defiant rebels have taken over the Capital Tripoli.

There has been intense fighting at the country’s capital, Tripoli which is largely controlled by anti- Gaddafi rebels backed by NATO forces since Sunday.

On Monday, the Libyan rebels declared the end of the Gaddafi era when they stormed Tripoli, and even claimed that they had arrested one of the strongman’s defiant sons Seif al-Islam who appeared on television early Tuesday and maintained that he was not under arrest.

Exultant rebel fighters packed in trucks and cars have since Sunday streamed across the capital of the oil-rich North African state, seizing control of Gaddafi’s state television network and Tripoli’s seaside Green Square.

“We have been following with utmost attention the rapidly evolving situation in Libya,” Prof Saitoti said and insisted that it still supports the African Union position.

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“Kenya has always believed that only a political solution will make it possible to fulfill the mutually reinforcing objectives of peace, democracy, respect for human rights, the rule of law, and national reconciliation for the people of Libya,” he said.

A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said “the task ahead of restoring order, forging reconciliation and national cohesion, restoring infrastructure and reviving the economy is indeed a tall one.”

“Kenya stands ready to work with the people of Libya, the African Union and the International Community to help build a new Libya,” the Ag Foreign Affairs Ministry.

On Tuesday morning, the rebels said they had cut off a column of pro-Gaddafi troops attempting to march on Tripoli from the city of Sirte, the leader’s hometown. The rebels themselves say they are awaiting thousands of reinforcements from around Libya.

Seif al-Islam, who like his father is wanted by the ICC for crimes against humanity, claimed the insurgents had suffered “heavy casualties” on Monday when they attempted to storm the Bab al-Azizya compound in the city’s south.

Mohammed Gaddafi, the leader’s eldest son whose arrest had also been announced by rebels, has escaped, the Libyan ambassador to Washington told CNN.

The mood around the iconic Green Square, renamed “Martyrs Square” by the rebels, has been joyous with fighters and their supporters dancing through the night and waving the red, black and green flag of anti-regime forces.

But Tripoli residents are palpably nervous as the end game plays out.

The situation remained tense at the Rixos hotel, home to some 30 foreign correspondents, where water and power supplies were cut on Monday while pro-Kadhafi soldiers stood guard outside the building.

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The rebels are hesitant about how to secure the parts of Tripoli not already under their control: whether to advance through broad boulevards, where they could be vulnerable to sniper fire, or to fight through narrow back streets.

“The Gaddafi era is over,” rebel chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil told a news conference in the anti-Kadhafi stronghold of Benghazi, eastern Libya.

But while thanking NATO for its military support, he conceded that not all of Tripoli was under rebel control and cautioned that “the real moment of victory is when Gaddafi is captured”.

Jalil also expressed hope that Gaddafi would be “captured alive so that he will be given a fair trial”.

Gaddafi broadcast three defiant audio messages on Sunday, vowing he would never surrender and urging the people of Tripoli to “purge the capital”. But he has not been seen in public for weeks as the rebels have crept ever closer.


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