Friday, 26 August 2011

Libya and Black Africa.

Adekeye Adebajo looks at the neglected black African dimension to Gaddafi's rule ( Gaddafi: The man who would be king of Africa, The Guardian August 26 2011 ),

...while Gaddafi became increasingly isolated in his bid to lead Africa, his status as an international pariah appeared to have ended with the unilateral dismantling of his weapons of mass destruction programme in 2003. He subsequently co-operated with European governments to deter African migrants seeking to reach Europe. Salivating western leaders from Italy, Britain and the US (now among Nato countries seeking to topple his regime) queued up outside his tent in Tripoli to sign lucrative oil contracts

Colonel Gaddafi's pan-African pose was about realpolitik, of course, no less than Mandela's embracing of the dictator who bestowed one of South Africa’s highest honours, the Order of Good Hope, on Gaddafi in 1997. For all the cynicism of Western states, no state conferred such a distinction.

The "anti-imperialist" propaganda and attempt to portray himself a "King of Kings" was a ploy to shore up support amongst the sub Saharan migrants that entered Libya and the support Gaddafi has with Africans has provided him with a rival sore of support in the poorest third southern province of Fezzan.

It might have been better for Adebayo to focus more on that fact than make snipes at the West given that the pan-Africanist ideology Gaddafi espoused could lead to an ethnic revanchism against black Africans in Libya that exists irrespective of the machinations of "Western imperialists".

There is a history of Arab racism against blacks in Libya that has resulted in such violence as was visited upon Ghanian migrant workers back in 2000, leaving 135 dead, a year after Mandela conferred the South Africa's on Gaddafi who likewise maintained prestige in South Africa akin to Fidel Castro.

Both Castro and Gaddafi supported the ANC in the struggle against Apartheid. As Mandela said “Those who say I should not be here are without morals. This man helped us at a time when we were all alone, when those who say we should not come here were helping the enemy.”

Such anti-imperialist rhetoric ignored the fact the growing ethnic enmity that has resulted now in blacks being seen as all mercenaries shoring up Gaddafi's regime, something that , of course, he was aiming at back to the time of the publication of the Green Book when he mused,

Now comes the black race's turn to prevail. The black race is now in a very backward social situation. But such backwardness helps to bring about numerical superiority of the blacks because their low standard of living has protected them from getting to know the means and ways of birth control and family planning.

Also their backward social traditions are a reason why there is no limit to marriage, leading to their unlimited growth, while the population of otherraces has decreased because of birth control, restrictions on marriage and continuous occupation in work, unlike the blacks who are sluggish in a climate which is always hot.

The removal of Gaddafi and the transition period could lead to much brutality against blacks who defended them against what he termed "hidden hostile hands" that wanted to destroy his Pan-African "ideals". Many black migrants hoping to get to Tripoli also aimed eventually at entering the EU.

In turn, a good number of black African supported Gaddafi. In conditions of chaos where there are squabbles about how gets control over Libya's oil assets, the black minority could well think it has no reason other than to support Gaddafi or anti-NTC forces.

This history of enmity between Arabs and Blacks dates back to the slave trade and has origins independent of the West. So it is hardly credible to see other states in Africa as having absolved themselves for having supported Gaddafi as though it was only the West that played cynical realpolitik.

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