Norah Owaraga noted that Libya, unlike other oil producing countries such as Nigeria
and Saudi Arabia, utilized the revenue from its oil to develop its country. The standard
of living of the people of Libya is one of the highest in Africa, falling in the category
of countries with a GNP per capita of between USD 2,200 and 6,000.
Libya Getting it Right
A Revolutionary Pan-African Perspective
By Gerald A. Perreira
Thousands of Indians, Egyptians, Chinese, Filipinos, Turks, Germans, English, Italians, Malaysians, Koreans and a host of other nationalities are lining up at the borders and the airport to leave Libya. It begs the question: What were they doing in Libya in the first place? Unemployment figures, according to the Western media and Al Jazeera, are at 30%. If this is so, then why all these foreign workers?
For those of us who have lived and worked in Libya, there are many complexities to the current situation that have been completely overlooked by the Western media and ‘Westoxicated’ analysts, who have nothing other than a Eurocentric perspective to draw on. Let us be clearthere is no possibility of understanding what is happening in Libya within a Eurocentric framework. Westerners are incapable of understanding a system unless the system emanates from or is attached in some way to the West. Libya’s system and the battle now taking place on its soil, stands completely outside of the Western imagination.
News coverage by the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera has been oversimplified and misleading. An array of anti-Qaddafi spokespersons, most living outside Libya, have been paraded in front of useach one clearly a counter-revolutionary and less credible than the last. Despite the clear and irrefutable evidence from the beginning of these protests that Muammar Qaddafi had considerable support both inside Libya and internationally, not one pro-Qaddafi voice has been allowed to air. The media and their selected commentators have done their best to manufacture an opinion that Libya is essentially the same as Egypt and Tunisia and that Qaddafi is just another tyrant amassing large sums of money in Swiss bank accounts. But no matter how hard they try, they cannot make Qaddafi into a Mubarak or Libya into Egypt.
The first question is: Is the revolt taking place in Libya fuelled by a concern over economic issues such as poverty and unemployment as the media would have us believe? Let us examine the facts.
Under the revolutionary leadership of Muammar Qaddafi, Libya has attained the highest standard of living in Africa. In 2007, in an article which appeared in the African Executive Magazine, Norah Owaraga noted that Libya, unlike other oil producing countries such as Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, utilized the revenue from its oil to develop its country. The standard of living of the people of Libya is one of the highest in Africa, falling in the category of countries with a GNP per capita of between USD 2,200 and 6,000.
This is all the more remarkable when we consider that in 1951 Libya was officially the poorest country in the world. According to the World Bank, the per capita income was less than $50 a yeareven lower than India. Today, all Libyans own their own homes and cars. Two Fleet Street journalists, David Blundy and Andrew Lycett, who are by no means supporters of the Libyan revolution, had this to say:
The young people are well dressed, well fed and well educated. Libyans now earn more per capita than the British. The disparity in annual incomes . . . is smaller than in most countries. Libya’s wealth has been fairly spread throughout society. Every Libyan gets free, and often excellent, education, medical and health services. New colleges and hospitals are impressive by any international standard. All Libyans have a house or a flat, a car and most have televisions, video recorders and telephones. Compared with most citizens of the Third World countries, and with many in the First World, Libyans have it very good indeed. Qaddafi and the Libyan Revolution)
Large scale housing construction has taken place right across the country. Every citizen has been given a decent house or apartment to live in rent-free. In Qaddafis Green Book, it states: The house is a basic need of both the individual and the family, therefore it should not be owned by others. This dictum has now become a reality for the Libyan people.
Large scale agricultural projects have been implemented in an effort to make the desert bloom and achieve self-sufficiency in food production. Any Libyan who wants to become a farmer is given free use of land, a house, farm equipment, some livestock and seed.
Today, Libya can boast one of the finest health care systems in the Arab and African World. All people have access to doctors, hospitals, clinics and medicines, completely free of all charges. The fact is that the Libyan revolution has achieved such a high standard of living for its people that they import labor from other parts of the world to do the jobs that the unemployed Libyans refuse to do. Libya has been called by many observers inside and out, a nation of shop keepers. It is part of the Libyan Arab psyche to own your own small business and this type of small scale private enterprise flourishes in Libya. We can draw on many examples of Libyans with young sons who expressed the idea that it would be shameful for the family if these same young men were to seek menial work and instead preferred for them to remain at home supported by the extended family.
No system is perfect, and Libya is no exception. They suffered nine years of economic sanctions and this caused huge problems for the Libyan economy. Also, there is nowhere on planet earth that has escaped the monumental crisis of neo-liberal capitalism. It has impacted everywhereeven on post revolutionary societies that have rejected free market capitalism. However, what we are saying is that severe economic injustice is not at the heart of this conflict. So then, what is?
A Battle for Africa
The battle that is being waged in Libya is fundamentally a battle between Pan-African forces on the one hand, who are dedicated to the realization of Qaddafi’s vision of a united Africa, and reactionary racist Libyan Arab forces who reject Qaddafi’s vision of Libya as part of a united Africa and want to ally themselves instead with the EU and look toward Europe and the Arab World for Libya’s future.
One of Muammar Qaddafi’s most controversial and difficult moves in the eyes of many Libyans was his championing of Africa and his determined drive to unite Africa with one currency, one army and a shared vision regarding the true independence and liberation of the entire continent. He has contributed large amounts of his time and energy and large sums of money to this project and like Kwame Nkrumah, he has paid a high price.
Many of the Libyan people did not approve of this move. They wanted their leader to look towards Europe. Of course, Libya has extensive investments and commercial ties with Europe but the Libyans know that Qaddafis heart is in Africa.
Many years ago, Qaddafi told a large gathering, which included Libyans and revolutionaries from many parts of the world, that the Black Africans were the true owners of Libya long before the Arab incursion into North Africa, and that Libyans need to acknowledge and pay tribute to their ancient African roots. He ended by saying, as is proclaimed in his The Green Book, that the Black race shall prevail throughout the world. This is not what many Libyans wanted to hear. As with all fair skinned Arabs, prejudice against Black Africans is endemic.
Brother Leader, Guide of the Revolution and King of Kings are some of the titles that have been bestowed on Qaddafi by Africans. Only last month Qaddafi called for the creation of a Secretariat of traditional African Chiefs and Kings, with whom he has excellent ties, to co-ordinate efforts to build African unity at the grassroots level throughout the continent, a bottom up approach, as opposed to trying to build unity at the government/state level, an approach which has failed the African unification project since the days of Kwame Nkrumah and Sekou Toure. This bottom up approach is widely supported by many Pan Africanists worldwide.
African Mercenaries or Freedom Fighters?
In the past week, the phrase African mercenaries has been repeated over and over by the media and the selected Libyan citizens they choose to speak to have, as one commentator put it, spat the word African with a venomous hatred.
The media has assumed, without any research or understanding of the situation because they are refusing to give any air time to pro-Qaddafi forces, that the many Africans in military uniform fighting alongside the pro-Qaddafi Libyan forces are mercenaries. However, it is a myth that the Africans fighting to defend the Jamahiriya and Muammar Qaddafi are mercenaries being paid a few dollars and this assumption is based solely on the usual racist and contemptuous view of Black Africans.
Actually, in truth, there are people all over Africa and the African Diaspora who support and respect Muammar Qaddafi as a result of his invaluable contribution to the worldwide struggle for African emancipation.
Over the past two decades, thousands of Africans from all over the continent were provided with education, work and military trainingmany of them coming from liberation movements. As a result of Libya’s support for liberation movements throughout Africa and the world, international battalions were formed. These battalions saw themselves as a part of the Libyan revolution, and took it upon themselves to defend the revolution against attacks from within its borders or outside.
These are the Africans who are fighting to defend Qaddafi and the gains of the Libyan revolution to their death if need be. It is not unlike what happened when internationalist battalions came to the aid of the revolutionary forces against Franco’s fascist forces in Spain.
Malian political analyst, Adam Thiam, notes that thousands of Tuaregs who were enrolled in the Islamic Legion established by the Libyan revolution remained in Libya and they are enrolled in the Libyan security forces.
African Migrants under Attack
As African fighters from Chad, Niger, Mali, Ghana, Kenya and Southern Sudan (it should be noted that Libya supported the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army under John Garang in their war of liberation against Arab hegemonists in Khartoum, while all other Arab leaders backed the Khartoum regime) fight to defend this African revolution, a million African refugees and thousands of African migrant workers stand the risk of being murdered as a result of their perceived support for Qaddafi.
One Turkish construction worker described a massacre: We had 70-80 people from Chad working for our company. They were cut dead with pruning shears and axes, attackers saying: You are providing troops for Qaddafi. The Sudanese were also massacred. We saw it for ourselves.
This is a far cry from what is being portrayed in the media as peaceful protesters being set upon by pro-Qaddafi forces. In fact, footage of the Benghazi revolt shows men with machetes, AK 47s and RPGs. In The Green Book, Qaddafi argues for the transfer of all power, wealth and arms directly into the hands of the people themselves. No one can deny that the Libyan populace is heavily armed. This is part of Qaddafi’s philosophy of arms not being monopolised by any section of the society, including the armed forces. It must be said that it is not usual practice for tyrants and dictators to arm their population.
Qaddafi has also been very vocal regarding the plight of Africans who migrate to Europe, where they are met with racism, more poverty, violence at the hands of extreme right wing groups and in many cases death, when the un-seaworthy boats they travel in sink.
Moved by their plight, a conference was held in Libya in January this year, to address their needs and concerns. More than 500 delegates and speakers from around the world attended the conference titled A Decent Life in Europe or a Welcome Return to Africa.
We should live in Europe with decency and dignity, Qaddafi told participants. We need a good relationship with Europe not a relationship of master and slave. There should be a strong relationship between Africa and Europe. Our presence should be strong, tangible and good. Its up to you as the Africans in the Diaspora. We have to continue more and more until the unity of Africa is achieved.
From now on, by the will of God, I will assign teams to search, investigate and liaise with the Africans in Europe and to check their situations . . . this is my duty and role towards the sons of Africa; I am a soldier for Africa. I am here for you and I work for you; therefore, I will not leave you and I will follow up on your conditions.
Joint committees of African migrants, the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union and international organizations present at the conference discussed the need to coordinate the implementation of many of the conference’s recommendations.
Statements are appearing all over the internet from Africans who have a different view to that being perpetuated by those intent on discrediting Qaddafi and the Libyan revolution. One African commented:
When I was growing up I first read a comic book of his revolution at the age of ten. Since then, as dictators came and went, Colonel Qaddafi has made an impression on me as a man who truly loves Africa! Libyans could complain that he spent their wealth on other Africans! But those Africans he helped put in power, built schools and mosques and brought in many forms of development showing that Africans can do for themselves. If those Africans would abandon him to be swallowed by Western Imperialism and their lies and just let him go as a dictator in the name of so-called democracy…if they could do that…they should receive the names and fate that the Western press gives our beloved leader. If there is any one person who was half as generous as he is, let them step forward.
And another African comments:
This man has been accused of many things and listening to the West who just recently were happy to accept his generous hospitality, you will think that he is worse than Hitler. The racism and contemptuous attitudes of Arabs towards Black Africans has made me a natural sceptic of any overtures from them to forge a closer link with Black Africa but Qaddafi was an exception.
This counter-revolutionary revolt caught everyone, including the Libyan authorities, by surprise. They knew what the media is not reporting: that unlike Egypt and Tunisia and other countries in the region, where there is tremendous poverty, unemployment and repressive pro-Western regimes, the Libyan dynamic was entirely different. However, an array of opportunistic forces, ranging from so-called Islamists, Arab-Supremacists, including some of those who have recently defected from Qaddafi’s inner circle, have used the events in neighbouring countries as a pretext to stage a coup and to advance their own agenda for the Libyan nation. Many of these former officials were the authors of, and covertly fuelled the anti-African pogrom in Libya a few years ago when many Africans lost their lives in street battles between Africans and Arab Libyans.
This was a deliberate attempt to embarrass Qaddafi and to undermine his efforts in Africa. Qaddafi has long been a thorn in the Islamists side. In his recent address to the Libyan people, broadcast from the ruins of the Bab al-Azizia compound bombed by Reagan in 1986, he asked the bearded ones in Benghazi and Jabal al Akhdar where they were when Reagan bombed his compound in Tripoli, killing hundreds of Libyans, including his daughter. He said they were hiding in their homes applauding the US and he vowed that he would never allow the country to be returned to the grip of them and their colonial masters.
Al Qaeda is in the Sahara on his borders and the International Union of Muslim Scholars is calling for him to be tried in a court. One asks why are they calling for Qaddafi’s blood? Why not Mubarak who closed the Rafah Border Crossing while the Israeli’s slaughtered the Palestinians in Gaza. Why not Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Blair who are responsible for the murder of millions of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan?
The answer is simplebecause Qaddafi committed some cardinal sins. He dared to challenge their reactionary and feudal notions of Islam.
He has upheld the idea that every Muslim is a ruler (Caliph) and does not need the Ulema to interpret the Quran for them. He has questioned the Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda from a Quranic/theological perspective and is one of the few political leaders equipped to do so. Qaddafi has been called a Mujaddid (this term refers to a person who appears to revive Islam and to purge it of alien elements, restoring it to its authentic form) and he comes in the tradition of Jamaludeen Afghani and the late Iranian revolutionary, Ali Shariati.
Libya is a deeply traditional society, plagued with some outmoded and bankrupt ideas that continue to surface to this day. In many ways, Qaddafi has had to struggle against the same reactionary aspects of Arab culture and tradition that the holy prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was struggling against in 7th century ArabiaArab supremacy/racism, supremacy of family and tribe, historical feuding tribe against tribe and the marginalisation of women. Benghazi has always been at the heart of counter-revolution in Libya, fostering reactionary Islamic movements such as the Wahhabis and Salafists. It is these people who founded the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group based in Benghazi which allies itself with Al Qaeda and who have, over the years, been responsible for the assassination of leading members of the Libyan revolutionary committees.
These forces hate Qaddafi’s revolutionary reading of the Quran. They foster an Islam concerned with outward trappings and mere religiosity, in the form of rituals, which at the same time is feudal and repressive, while rejecting the liberatory spirituality of Islam. While these so-called Islamists are opposed to Western occupation of Muslim lands, they have no concrete programmatic platform for meaningful socio-economic and political transformation to advance their societies beyond semi-feudal and capitalist systems which reinforce the most backward and reactionary ideas and traditions. Qaddafi’s political philosophy, as outlined in The Green Book, rejects unfettered capitalism in all its manifestations, including the State capitalism of the former communist countries and the neo-liberal capitalist model that has been imposed at a global level. The idea that capitalism is not compatible with Islam and the Quran is not palatable to many Arabs and so-called Islamists because they hold onto the fallacious notion that business and trade is synonymous with capitalism.
Getting it Right
Whatever the mistakes made by Qaddafi and the Libyan revolution, its gains and its huge contribution to the struggle of oppressed peoples worldwide cannot and must not be ignored. Saif Qaddafi, when asked about the position of his father and family, said this battle is not about one man and his family, it is about Libya and the direction it will take.
That direction has always been controversial. In 1982, The World Mathaba was established in Libya. Mathaba means a gathering place for people with a common purpose. The World Mathaba brought together revolutionaries and freedom fighters from every corner of the globe to share ideas and develop their revolutionary knowledge. Many liberation groups throughout the world received education, training and support from Muammar Qaddafi and the Libyan revolution including ANC, AZAPO, PAC and BCM of Azania (South Africa), SWAPO of Namibia, MPLA of Angola, The Sandinistas of Nicaragua, The Polisario of the Sahara, the PLO, The Native American Movements throughout the Americas, The Nation of Islam led by Louis Farrakhan to name but a few. Nelson Mandela called Muammar Qaddafi one of this centurys greatest freedom fighters, and insisted that the eventual collapse of the apartheid system owed much to Qaddafi and Libyan support. Mandela said that in the darkest moments of their struggle, when their backs were to the wall, it was Muammar Qaddafi who stood with them. The late African freedom fighter, Kwame Ture, referred to Qaddafi as a diamond in a cesspool of African misleaders.
The hideous notion being perpetuated by the media and reactionary forces, inside and outside of Libya, that this is just another story of a bloated dictatorship that has run its course is mis-information and deliberate distortion. Whatever ones opinions of Qaddafi the man, no one can deny his invaluable contribution to human emancipation and the universal truths outlined in his Green Book.
Progressive scholars in many parts of the world, including the West, have acclaimed The Green Book as an incisive critique of capitalism and the Western Parliamentary model of multi-party democracy. In addition, there is no denying that the system of direct democracy posited by Qaddafi in The Green Book offers an alternative model and solution for Africa and the Third World, where multi-party so-called democracy has been a dismal failure, resulting in poverty, ethnic and tribal conflict and chaos.
Every revolution, since the beginning of time, has defended itself against those who would want to roll back its gains. Europeans should look back into their own bloody history to see that this includes the American, French and Bolshevik revolutions. Marxists speak of Trotsky and Lenins brutal suppression of the Kronstadt rebellion by the Red Army as being a tragic necessity.
Let’s get it right: The battle in Libya is not about peaceful protestors versus an armed and hostile State. All sides are heavily armed and hostile. The battle being waged in Libya is essentially a battle between those who want to see a united and liberated Libya and Africa, free of neo-colonialism and neo-liberal capitalism and free to construct their own system of governance compatible with the African and Arab personalities and cultures and those who find this entire notion repugnant. And both sides are willing to pay the ultimate price to defend their positions.
Make no mistake, if Qaddafi and the Libyan revolution are defeated by this opportunistic conglomerate of reactionaries and racists, then progressive forces worldwide and the Pan African project will suffer a huge defeat and set back.
Gerald A. Perreira has lived in Libya for many years and was an executive member of the World Mathaba. He can be contacted at email@example.com
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By M. Al Gathafi
Republished in a new translation, “The Green Book” provides fresh insight into the thinking of Muammar Al Qaddafi, and his Third Universal Theory for a new democratic society. Outlined first is his theory for direct democracy in society, or Jamahiriya, focusing on the authority of the people, renouncing representation or delegation of authority, and recognizing the need for organization of the people at lower levels of society. Part Two suggests an economic revolution, transforming societies of wage earners into companies of partners by applying a political and economic theory of social organization that gives the ownership, and regulation of production, distribution and exchange to the community as a whole. Part Three launches a social revolution, presenting solutions to man’s struggles in life, and the unsolved problems of man and woman, as well as tackling the situation of minorities by laying out sound principles of social life for all mankind.
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By Muammar Gaddafi and Edmond Jouve
This breezy but well-researched history takes a not-so-critical look at a man described by Nelson Mandela as “one of the greatest revolutionary legends of our times” and by President Ronald Reagan as “the mad dog of the Middle East.” The leader of Libya since 1969, Gaddafi’s life story is revealed through the interviews and research of Jouve, an expert in Third-World Africa who first met Gaddafi in 1979. Told from Gaddafi’s point of view, this book portrays him as a leader of conviction and consideration, committed to peaceably bettering the lives of his countrymen, historically threatened by the influence of the Zionists and the Western traditions they bring to the Middle East with them.
Jouve details this anti-Zionism largely without critical commentwhich may bristle Western audiencesexcept for that provided by Gaddafi himself, who in 2004 gave up his nuclear weapons in order to reconcile with the West, a move Jouve says is “the result of deep thought and soul-searching.”
Whether or not you believe in his transformation (and to be sure, Jouve doesn’t provide any reasons why you shouldn’t), Gaddafi’s perspective is well represented here and should satisfy anyone interested in man, the march of Islamic democracy, or the perspective of an “enlightened Muslim” on Israel, the West, democracy and terrorism.
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Gaddafi Turns US and British Guns on His PeopleFebruary 22, 2011He came to power back in 1969 with a coup, and throughout 1970s he developed a reputation not for what he was doing but because of his rhetoric of pro-Palestinian Arab nationalism, and even at some point Pan-Arabism. He was the odd man out. He was dashing, and he had these female guards thathe was flaunting them here and there. But most of the power really came from petrodollars, and that he remained in power as such, petrodollars that have continued to keep him in power. In fact, these lucrative contracts with both American and British arm manufacturers that you just mentioned, in millions of dollars, the same bullets that now are being used to mass murder the demonstrators are the result of those petrodollars. Muammar al-Gaddafi went from being the “mad dog of the Middle East” (you recall former president, late president Ronald Reagan called him, back in 1986) to being considered a person of personality and experience under President Bush because of the rapprochement, and also because he kind of addressed the issue of his involvement, or his government’s involvement, or people on his payroll’s involvement with the Lockerbie terrorist act, and also for abandoning their nuclear project. Hispresumably, he’s having nuclear project. Once that was sorted out, American and British arm manufacturers were released to sell him as much arm as he wanted, without any consideration for the consequences. . . .
So the period of 1970s is a period of postcolonial anticolonial uprisings, and he, true to his reputation, was very much involved in those activism. But you have to keep in mind that this was an entirely different period. It was in the immediate aftermath of European colonialism, and European colonialism not only destroyed the infrastructure and robbed them of their minerals and resources, but did not leave behind any foundation for democratic governance in the aftermath of colonial domination. So Muammar al-Gaddafi in 1970s represented this so-called charismatic revolutionary figure that had come to power in solidarity with revolutionary movements and uprisings in Africa and Latin America, but in effect becoming an autocrat and a tyrant in his own country, and nobody paid any close attention to him.
Hamid Dabashi is a professor of Iranian studies and comparative literature at Columbia University.TheRealNews
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The myth of invasionIrregular migration from West Africa to the Maghreb and the European UnionBy Hein de HaasIMI research report October 2007Although there has been an incontestable increase in regular and irregular West African migration to Europe over the past decade, available empirical evidence dispels most of these assumptions. First, trans-Saharan migration of West Africans to North Africa is not as new, massive and Europe-focused as is commonly suggested. While having much deeper historical roots in the trans-Saharan trade, migration of (former) nomads, traders and refugees to Mauritania, Algeria and Libya since the 1970s set the stage for contemporary trans-Saharan migration. Against the background of economic decline and warfare in West and Central Africa, Libyas new pan-African immigration policies are essential in understanding the major increase in trans-Saharan labour migration over the 1990s.
Since 2000, a major anti-immigrant backlash in Libya probably contributed to a diversification of trans-Saharan migration routes and the increasing presence of migrants in other Maghreb countries. Confronted with a persistent demand for irregular migrant labour in Europe, more and more sub-Saharan, mostly West Africans started to cross the Mediterranean. However, the public perception that irregular migration from Africa is massive and growing at an alarming rate is deceptive. Illegal crossings of the Mediterranean by North Africans have been a persistent phenomenon since Italy and Spain introduced visa requirements in the early 1990s. The major change has been that, in particular since 2000, sub-Saharan Africans have started to join and have now overtaken North Africans as the largest category of irregular boat migrants. Recent West African migrants are increasingly settling in Spain and Italy, where they enter flourishing underground economies. Even when apprehended, many migrants are eventually released. Many have acquired residency through recurrent regularizations.
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African migrants become easy target for racist violence in LibyaMonday, 21 February 2011Leaving aside the fact that fear of an African invasion is entirely unfounded, what Gaddafi has been much more keen to hide is that Libya is an important migration destination in its own right, and that his guestworker policies are the main explanation behind a massive increase in the number of African workers in Libya. Most African migrants have come from countries such as Niger, Chad and elsewhere in West Africa to work as low-paid labourers in the oil industry, construction, agriculture and service sectors. African workers tend to do the most dangerous and dirty jobs. Not many people know that most African migrants do not use Libya as a passage to Europe, but that they have come to Libya as part of Gaddafis guestworker schemes or as illegal labour migrants. According to several estimates, Libya hosts 2 to 2.5 million immigrants, representing 25 to 30 percent of its total population. This includes about half a million Egyptians; several tens of thousands of Moroccans, Tunisians and Algerians; and 1 to 1.5 million sub-Saharan Africans (for further information see The Myth of Invasion). Since the 1990s, Gaddafi has actively stimulated immigration from sub-Saharan countries such as Chad and Niger as part of his pan-African policies. These immigrants from extremely poor countries were easier to exploit than Arab workers. From 2000 onwards, violent clashes between Libyans and African workers led to the street killings of dozens of sub-Saharan migrants, who were routinely blamed for rising crime, disease, and social tensions. In an apparent attempt to respond to growing domestic racism, the Libyan regime hardened its policies towards African immigrants. Measures included lengthy and arbitrary detention of immigrants in poor conditions in prisons and camps, physical abuse, and the forced expulsion of tens of thousands of immigrants. Gaddafi has been happy to conclude agreements with Italy and other European states to violently crack down on immigration in exchange for lucrative trade and arms deals. This has led to blatant violation of international refugee law. In many ways, it has served European countries well that Libya has not signed the Geneva refugee convention and is not concerned about human rights at all. Of course this repression has not stopped migration, but mainly facilitated exploitation of African migrants in Libya, whose position became even more vulnerable. While the Gaddafi regime has tried to put the blame on immigrants for all sorts of social problems, their cheap labour force has served Libya very well economically.
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African Migrants Targeted in Libyafrom Al JazeeraDozens of workers from sub-Saharan Africa are feared killed, and hundreds are in hiding, as angry mobs of anti-government protesters hunt down “black African mercenaries,” according to witnesses. About 90 Kenyans and another 64 citizens from South Sudan, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Zambia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and Burundi landed in Nairobi on Monday, according to officials. “We were being attacked by local people who said that we were mercenaries killing people. Let me say that they did not want to see black people,” Julius Kiluu, a 60-year-old building supervisor, told Reuters.
“Our camp was burnt down, and we were assisted by the Kenyan embassy and our company to get to the airport,” he said. Rights organizations say that thousands of workers are stranded in camps and private homes, protected by their colleagues as their governments fail to evacuate them from the chaos. . . . Hundreds of black immigrants from poor African countries, who mainly work in Libyas oil industry as cheap laborers, have also been injured in the violence. Some were unable to seek medical treatment for fear of being killed. Saad Jabbar, deputy director of the North Africa Centre at Cambridge University, confirms Africans have become targets.
“I tell you, these people, because of their scheme, they will be slaughtered in Libya. There is so much anger there against those mercenaries, which suddenly sprung up,” Jabbar said. About 1.5m Sub-Saharan African migrants work in Libya as low-paid laborers in the oil industry, construction, agriculture and service sectors. Rights organizations say some anti-Gaddafi protesters wrongly associate African workers with state-sponsored violence.
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The Struggle for Libyan Oil: Imperialists Weigh Options to Control North African StateVenezuela peace proposal rejected by U.S. and FranceBy Abayomi Azikiwe Corporate news outlets based in the U.S., Europe and even Al Jazeera have presented an extremely biased view of the history and current situation in Libya. On the Cable News Network (CNN), a leading anchor on March 2 in an interview with a spokesperson for the Libyan government treated this guest with the utmost disdain, hostility and unprofessionalism. . . . The biased news coverage of developments in Libya has created the atmosphere for widespread vilification of Gaddafi and his government. Demonstrations and public denunciations have been organized throughout the U.S. . . .
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African viewpoint: Colonel’s continent? African Mercenaries?25 February 2011Part of the Libyan story now is the scramble to escape of Turks, Germans, Indians, Englishmen, Italians, Malaysians and a host of other nationalities that include black men commonly known as Africans. In the violence of the last fortnight, the colonel’s African connections have only served to rekindle a deep-rooted racism between Arabs and black Africans. As mercenaries, reputedly from Chad and Mali fight for him, a million African refugees and thousands of African migrant workers stand the risk of being murdered for their tenuous link to him. One Turkish construction worker told the BBC: “We had 70-80 people from Chad working for our company.
They were cut dead with pruning shears and axes, attackers saying: ‘You are providing troops for Gaddafi.’ The Sudanese were also massacred. We saw it for ourselves.” Libya’s new forces for change have simply picked up where the colonel left off his bloodletting.
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Racism rears its ugly face in Libya uprising live on TVBy Tedla Asfaw25 February 2011Suspected African mercenaries sit in a room in a court as they are held by anti-government protesters, in Benghazi February 24, 2011. . . . The mob attacked and killed many Africans including Ethiopians for being only black. This is not acceptable and we have to alert Human Rights, and Amnesty International to investigate all who are paraded as “mercenaries” on Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera should also tone down unconfirmed report and endanger black Africans at this dangerous moment. . . . The lynching and killing that is going on against black Africans in Libya will sure further divide the Arabs from the rest of Africa. The Arab League should speak against racist killing and accusations.
They should sanction and condemn not only Gadaffi but also all who are killing black Africans. President Obama who urged African Union to play its role to stop the killing in Libya should be informed also that black Africans are a target of racist killing in Libya by Libyans mob.Nazret
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Other African workers told Human Rights Watch that Libyan civilians had attacked them over the past week, and most said that they had lost almost all of their possessions in the violence. Many also claimed that their employers had not paid their salaries for the past month, leaving them destitute. Roland Omokpia, a 30-year-old electrician from Nigeria, told Human Rights Watch that he had come to Libya in 2006 and opened a shop to do electrical work, but had been forced to flee without his possessions.
“I can’t go back to my shop, because they are looking to kill blacks,” he said. “The youth came to our area and threatened me, saying, There is the black, the black who Gaddafi hired,’ so I had to run away.”
Festos, a Haitian electrician who did not wish to give his family name, told Human Rights Watch that he had come to Libya in 2007 to work at a Turkish construction company. On February 25, he said, a group of roughly 1,000 Libyan civilians came to the company armed with machetes and guns and attacked the workers.
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Libya, Africa, and the Victorians (Manheru)
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By Charles C. Mann
Im a big fan of Charles Manns previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. Its exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that its anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, Im proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, globalized entity.
Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.
We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.
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By Randall Kennedy
Among the best things about The Persistence of the Color Line is watching Mr. Kennedy hash through the positions about Mr. Obama staked out by black commentators on the left and right, from Stanley Crouch and Cornel West to Juan Williams and Tavis Smiley. He can be pointed. Noting the way Mr. Smiley consistently voiced skepticism regarding whether blacks should back Obama . . .
The finest chapter in The Persistence of the Color Line is so resonant, and so personal, it could nearly be the basis for a book of its own. That chapter is titled Reverend Wright and My Father: Reflections on Blacks and Patriotism. Recalling some of the criticisms of Americas past made by Mr. Obamas former pastor, Mr. Kennedy writes with feeling about his own father, who put each of his three of his children through Princeton but who never forgave American society for its racist mistreatment of him and those whom he most loved.
His father distrusted the police, who had frequently called him boy, and rejected patriotism. Mr. Kennedys father relished Muhammad Alis quip that the Vietcong had never called him nigger. The author places his father, and Mr. Wright, in sympathetic historical light.
posted 4 March 2011