The Libyan Embassy has finally taken down the flag of the rebel-led National Transition Council (NTC) it had hoisted at its embassy compound in Dar es Salaam a week ago.
The flag was removed shortly before the 48-hour ultimatum given to the Libyan Embassy by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation expired on Wednesday.
The Embassy has also apologised for the action taken at a time when the Tanzanian government had just made it public that it was yet to recognise the rebel-led government in Tripoli.
When the Guardian team visited the embassy premises yesterday that the embassy had complied with the government ultimatum, but had not hoisted the official flag of the Muammar Gaddafi-led government in Libya.
Speaking to The Guardian by telephone yesterday Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Bernard Membe said what the Tanzanian government wanted was for the embassy to respect the ultimatum of pulling down the rebel’s flag.
“We wanted them to respond to our legal ultimatum to take down the rebel’s flag by 6.00pm on August 31, this year … thus we cannot interfere with whether they have removed the post carrying the flag or left it without a flag or restored the previous flag,” Membe said.
He however said it was good for the public to understand that in the present world there was no embassy which could reject the Vienna legal guidelines and regulations.
An official with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Assah Mwambene said defying the Ministry’s order would have amounted to a serious violation of diplomatic practice and disrespect of the laws of the land.
He said on August 30, the ministry wrote a diplomatic note ordering the embassy to remove the NTC flag, saying the government of Tanzania did not recognise the NTC.
“Besides recognition, the so called National Transition Council in Libya lacks both the legitimacy and political power to represent the people of Libya,” Mwambene noted.
On why it had taken more than five days to remove the flag, Mwambene said it was necessary to summon the Libyan Ambassador to explain why they had decided to change the flag without the permission before embarking on serious measures.
“Before rushing to take serious steps against the embassy, the ministry had to get views of the ambassador before giving them an ultimatum to remove the flag. This kind of arrangement is normal in diplomatic practice.” Mwambene noted.
Last week, the government made it clear that it did not recognise the self-proclaimed National Transition Council of Libya on grounds that it was yet to get legitimacy to represent the people and the government of Libya.
On Monday, Minister Membe summoned the Libyan Ambassador to Tanzania, Prof Ahmed El Ash’ab for raising the rebel’s flag on the embassy’s premises without prior consultations.
The government, however, said on Wednesday that it was preparing to take punitive measures against the Libyan embassy in Tanzania which raised the National Transition Council (NTC) rebel group’s flag without consultation with the ministry of foreign affairs officials.
Minister Membe said Tanzania would not recognise the Libyan transitional government formed by the rebels until its true architects were known and the government was satisfied that ordinary Libyans were fully involved in its formation.