23 Aug 2011 - Story by Toivo Ndjebela
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WINDHOEK â€" The Libyan embassy in Windhoek yesterday announced its defection to rebel forces fighting to topple the iron-fisted regime of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Gaddafi's 41-year rule of Libya hung by a thread yesterday and the defection of his envoy in Windhoek was naturally expected.
The defection was announced yesterday afternoon, as the rebels, with the assistance of NATO, claimed control of the capital Tripoli with subdued pockets of resistance from Gaddafi loyalists.
This is the second, and probably final, wave of defections at the local Libyan embassy, whose second-in-command, Saad H. M. Bakar defected to the rebels in March and fled the country with his family.
But Ambassador Salem Mohamed Krayem, who has been coy on his loyalty since the popular uprising started in Libya, yesterday announced he too was joining scores of his fellow envoys across the globe who had earlier announced their defections.
The Libyan embassy confirmed the latest defection, saying the ambassador and his Libyan staff had pledged their loyalties to the National Transitional Council (NTC), recently recognised as the authentic regime of the North African country.
"The Embassy of Libya has the honour to inform New Era Newspaper that the Ambassador and the members of the Embassy declare their loyalties to the revolution of the 17th February 2011 and the temporary national Traditional Council (sic) as the only representative of the Libyan people," statement read.
The announcement came as rebels made heavy inroads over the weekend, reaching and assuming control of Tripoli.
By yesterday noon, three of Gaddafi's sons, including the powerful Saif al-Islam, had been arrested, while Gaddafi's whereabouts were not known.
Al-Islam was expected to be handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which earlier issued a warrant for his arrest arrest for alleged war crimes.
Similar warrants were also issued against Gaddafi and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi.
Yesterday's defection throws into uncertainty the diplomatic ties between Namibia and Libya, which were anchored on Gaddafi being in power.
This is particularly so after Justice Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana recently said that Namibia would not comply with the ICC warrants of arrest even if the country was in a position to do so.
Namibian authorities are adamant that the ICC is being used as a tool for Western superpowers to demonise leaders from the so-called Third World and particularly Africans.
It also remains to be seen whether Namibia would keep diplomatic ties with Libya as rebels were expected to take over government in the oil-rich Arab country.
Both President Hifikepunye Pohamba and Foreign Affairs Minister Utoni Nujoma have previously condemned NATO's invasion of Libya, whose involvement was key in getting Gaddafi toppled.
Founding President Dr Sam Nujoma has also condemned the attacks on Libya and lifted a lid on Western governments for their non-discriminatory assaults that saw armed opponents and civilians alike killed.
Leaders in the Namibian government had differed on the situation in Libya and underlining this was an opinion piece authored yesterday by former Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Theo-Ben Gurirab, and now Speaker of the National Assembly.
Gurirab wrote: "Africans are the only people who believe in existential friendship, once a friend, always a friend."
The former Prime Minister, who has previously condemned Gaddafi's iron-fisted regime, added: "Others think strategically: there is no permanent friendship, only permanent interests."
He added that Gaddafi has lost "his vigilance on the red carpet, doing the danger dance, which doesn't stop".
Nujoma, the incumbent Foreign Affairs Minister, could not be reached for comment as his phone went answered on several attempts.
Government spokesperson and Information and Communication Technology Minister JoÃ«l Kaapanda could also not be reached for comment.