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Dibussi Tande discusses growing concern about ‘the worrying racist undertones of claims that Gaddafi is using “African mercenaries” to kill Libyan protesters.'

myweku writes about the worrying racist undertones of claims that Gaddafi is using ‘African mercenaries’ to kill Libyan protesters:

‘Col. Gaddafi has made no attempts in hiding his supposed love of “Africa” and his determination to help create a free borderless continent and single currency. A 2010 report about the state of “race relations” in Libya does, however, paint a different picture within his own borders.

‘According to a United Nations Human Rights statement – ‘Libya must end its practices of racial discrimination against black Africans, particularly its racial persecution of two million black African migrant workers. There is substantial evidence of Libya’s pattern and practice of racial discrimination against migrant workers’...

‘Against such a background it is perhaps reasonable to question the validity of this supposed use of “African” mercenaries by the Gaddafi regime to thwart the efforts of protesters. Given Libya’s relatively large black population, are we to assume or conclude that their presence in Gaddafi’s security forces is that mysterious? If so I wonder why?

‘Africans in the main have been sympathetic and supportive of the desires of Tunisians and Egyptians in their protests. However, the African media and forums are beginning to ask if the prominence and publicity given to so called African mercenaries running amok amongst Libyan protesters pillaging and raping is beginning to tell a rather interesting story about the motives of some Libyan protesters.’ explains why it is necessary to challenge the generally accepted narrative of the sanguinary ‘African mercenary’ in Libya:

‘But like much of northern Africa, in Libya there is a long history of fear, hatred, and oppression based on skin color. There is a distinct minority of “black” Libyans whose slave origins mean they are still regarded with contempt by some, as there is a large number of political and economic refugees in what is a relatively prosperous state... And while oppression organized by skin color has a long history, the Gaddafi regime has contributed a different angle to this prejudice: the foreign fighter. Since the early 70s, Libya has offered aid, by degrees of openness, to revolutionary and opposition groups in most every corner of the world...

‘Foday Sankoh, Charles Taylor, Moses Blah, Blaise Compaore trained in Libya. Future Malian and Nigerien Tuareg rebels trained in Libya in the late 70s, recruited from refugees fleeing famine and oppression. The band Tinariwen actually formed in one such camp.

‘Photos and videos, many horrific, have been provided of a handful (I have seen five total) dead uniformed soldiers with varying degrees of dark skin. This is hardly proof of the hysterical rhetoric built around thousands of black Africans raping women and murdering protesters... these stories play into a natural combination of nationalism, existing social prejudices (of low class “slave” “Blacks”) and fears (of foreign looking immigrants, familiar to xenophobic discourse in Europe and America). They are understandable, but should they go unchallenged in the lore of this revolution, the new Libya being build risks becoming a no less cruel and unjust place, if for a smaller part of its citizens, adjudged outsiders and traitors by their skin color.’

Sky, Soil & Everything in Between writes an open letter to Al Jazeera alerting them of the unintended consequences of using the term ‘African mercenaries’:

‘I now write to you with concern at international media's coverage of events in Libya, particularly concerning 'African mercenaries'. I honestly don't have a problem with the term 'African mercenaries' because this is how Libyans probably refer to Black non-Libyans, but what bothers me is the way some of your tv anchors and field journalists continue to push this meme on air…

‘Understandably this may have been an unintentional oversight on the part of the news network as this is what Libyans on the ground are reporting, but I think continually pushing a singular narrative about a more complex story has the danger of reinforcing an African and Arab narrative that has an uncomfortable racial connotation to it. I am not accusing Al Jazeera of having a racial bias, far from it. I just feel it’s important for the network to be sensitive to how this issue plays out to an international audience of both Black Africans and Arabs when the full story is untold...

‘UNHCR is becoming increasingly concerned at the displacement and violence experienced by foreigners living in Libya, including the other one million plus legal and illegal migrants from different parts of Africa other than Egypt. In the interests of humanity, its only fair and right that Al Jazeera to report on the fate of these people as well as they have reported Egyptian, Turkish and Italian migrants returning from Libya. There are another one million plus legal and illegal migrants from different parts of Africa other than Egypt. What is their fate? Surely their welfare is important enough to be covered by the media?

‘This isn't just an Arab story, its an African story and it's a World story too. It must be told as such, with its multi-layered, complex, tragic and heartwarming narratives including the all too-often forgotten voices of poor migrants and refugees of all hues, tongues, nationalities and faiths.’

Sahafrica wonders what Africa would look like without Gaddafi:

‘If there’s one thing Gadhafi is great at, it’s the ability to reinvent and rebrand himself. Despite his poor track record on governance and human rights, the Leader and Guide of the Revolution has managed to avoid major costs for his continued tight and despotic rule since 1969. After spending most of his political career focused on Libya’s role in the Middle East, Islamic movements and the Arab world, he shifted his attention in the new century to Sub-Saharan Africa, in an attempt to remain relevant and influential in the global arena.

‘What transpired over the next decade was a significant outpouring of financial assistance, military support and political positioning towards many of its [r]egional neighbors as well as key countries throughout Central and East Africa.

‘As the 12th largest exporter of oil in the world, Libya’s exports about $44.5 billion dollars of oil a year. It is evident that Gadhafi has used his country’s wealth as leverage for regional and Pan-African power. But is it working?

‘A quick look at Libya’s monetary lending to African governments reveals that over 2 billion USD was given to some thirty countries. Of that, 22 are African and 4 are from the Horn of Africa.

‘Clearly, Ghadafi is just doing what any dictator or powerful government will do – use their money to gain influence. What would a potential removal of such support do to countries so reliant on Libyan aid, such as Sudan and Ethiopia? How is that any different than the Western donor countries that so many people are quick to blame?’

Ethiopian Review calls on Ethiopians to overcome their fear and take on the Meles Zenawi regime:

‘The Tunisians and Egyptians developed a new vaccine to overcome Fear. Fear is what paralyzes us. Fear is our number one enemy. We spend too much time trying to design a perfect plan. Fear compels us to fret about the little details even before we take the firs step. We worry about the so-called lack of unity, we stress regarding the absence of a strong leader, we exaggerate the might of the enemy and we freeze with a sack full of uncertainty. Fear is our number one enemy.

‘Did you notice how centralized power was in both Tunisia and Egypt? Did you see both were one man shows? Does this kind of arrangement ring a bell? When we said Meles’s Ethiopia was a one man show people doubted us. Tunisia and Egypt proved dictatorship is a solo affair. You slay the head and the body flails around. The yes people, the sycophants and the spineless around the tyrant burn away like the morning dew.

‘Today we got a reversal of circumstances. Ato Meles is the one in FEAR. He is the one unable to sleep. The last two months have been a time of round the clock meetings with his fellow criminals. Like Ben Ali and Mubarak he has been pouring over plans on how to instill more fear on his people...

‘We are certain Ato Meles will follow the footsteps of Gaddafi and unleash unprecedented terror on our people. He will use ethnic divide, religious divide any and all divisive issues to confuse and set us up against each other. We are hopeful that we have learned a lesson from our mistakes in the past and refrain from cannibalizing each other but rather aim our collective fury at the evil regime.

‘Yes we can, yes we will Ethiopia will be free, that no one can change.’


* Dibussi Tande blogs at Scribbles from the Den.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.