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Expelled Libyan Ambassador Leaves Zimbabwe, First Stop Botswana

  • Ntungamili Nkomo

Botswana is among the 20 or so African countries that have recognized the Libyan transitional authority, breaking ranks with the African Union which is holding out for the establishment of a formal government in Tripoli

The former Libyan ambassador to Zimbabwe left the country on Friday within a deadline set by the Harare government in expelling him for publicly declaring that he supports the National Transitional Council now consolidating its power in the North African state.

Taher Elmagrahi entered Botswana by road through the Ramokgwebana border post near Plumtree, Zimbabwe, in a five-car convoy, reports said. A spokesman for the Gaborone government told VOA the envoy was only in transit and would not stay long.

Botswana is among 20 or so African countries that have fully or tentatively recognized the Libyan transitional authority, breaking ranks with the African Union which has said that it is holding out for the establishment of a properly constituted government in Tripoli.

The government of Botswana invited Libya’s transitional council on Friday to reopen its embassy, closed when Gaborone cut ties with the Moammar Gadhafi government for launching a heavy crackdown on those who demanded he step down.

The Associated Press reported that South Africa had given the ousted ambassador a transit permit through the Johannesburg airport, but did not say where he was headed.

Botswana government spokesman Jeff Ramsay said Elmagrahi entered the country, but would not be staying there as he had not sought sanctuary.

Zimbabwe Foreign Affairs Secretary Joey Bimha, who announced Elmagrahi’s expulsion Tuesday, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that Harare will restore diplomatic ties with Tripoli once a new government recognized by the African Union is in place.

President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF and both formations of the Movement for Democratic Change with which it co-governs agreed it was right and proper to expel Elmagrahi for his declaration that he was shifting loyalties from Gadhafi to the transitional council.

But some lower-ranked party members and commentators are not convinced.

Political analyst Dumisani Nkomo said Harare overreacted in expelling Elmagrahi. "The Zimbabwean government was too careless and callous, they should have waited and observe how events in Libya will turn out," Nkomo said.

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