Revolutions in the North African states of Tunisia and Egypt aimed at toppling dictatorships in those countries were characterised by a largely unified non-sectarian force for change. However, there seems to be a rather worrying “racial” dimension to comments from some Libyan protesters, some folks on twitter and other social media about Gaddafi’s supposed use of “African Mercenaries” to kill Libyan protesters.
Gaddafi is ordering african mercenaries to break into homes in #Benghazi to RAPE Libyan women in order to detract men protesters! #Libya #Febabout 18 hours ago via webkhalidAlotaibi
NEW! #Gaddafi has given the African Mercenaries full freedom in raping Libyan women. #Libya20 February 2011 12:57 am via webLibyanThinker
African mercenaries now in #Benghazi #Libya sources in Libya say they’re chasing and killing people with knives and swords. We only fear God17 February 2011 3:26 pm via AliLePointe
African as used by the commentators above referrs specifically to black people most likely indigenous to Sub-saharan Africa and indigenous Libyan blacks of non-Arab or Berber decent.
It is estimated that about a million of the 7 million population of Libya are of Sub-saharan origin, some of whom have been in Libya for centuries and mostly found in the South of the country.
A significant number of these Africans are, however, recent imigrants to Libya or using Libya as a stop gap destination on their sojurn to greener pastures in Europe. 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”.
The New York Times in the article “New Status in Africa Empowers an Ever-Eccentric Qaddafi” gives a sense of the experiences of black Africans in Libya: “All over this capital city, illegal African immigrants line up along roadways, across bridges and at traffic circles hoping to be selected for menial day jobs that pay about $8. They call the areas where they congregate the hustling grounds, which are always crowded with desperate faces from early morning until well past sundown. Many people in Tripoli said they resented the presence of so many illegal workers. “We don’t like them,” said Moustafa Saleh, 28, who is unemployed, echoing a popular sentiment. “They smuggle themselves through the desert, and the way they deal with us is not good.” In the New York Time’s article a former Libyan minister of economy, trade and investment Ali Abd Alaziz Isawi was quoted as saying that illegal immigrants “are a burden on health care, they spread disease, crime. They are illegal.”
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.
On Sudan.net a question posted by a member of the forum – Is Libya racist? – has generated many emotional responses. Surely, isn’t the first rule of any revouloution is to garner as much international support from all quarters as possible?
T Miles, a writer for the blog – Tomathon.com – in the article Libya’s “African Mercenary” Problem provides perhaps the most comprehensive analysis on this issue and sends an ominous message in his conclusion to Libyans which reads:
“Libyans: your fellow citizens have enabled this regime to oppress you for so many years. You must come to terms with this in the aftermath of this revolution, or it will be no revolution at all.
But you have already learned the converse: you have the power to stop this oppression. You are doing it now, and the world, awed by the bravery and audacity in the Arab world this year, stand now amazed by your fearlessness.
But Libyans, you do yourself an injustice with these fears directed at “Africans”. You, in more than one sense, are these Africans. You cannot build a society of justice until you learn this”
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