Racist killings in Libya's 'regime change' and Caricom's mixed signals
WHILE the warplanes of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) continue to facilitate the anti-Moammar Gadhafi rebel forces to take full control of Libya, there are increasing reports of racist killings and torture against black Africans accused of being mercenaries of the deposed Libyan president.
The atrocities had become widespread enough by early last week for the African Union (AU) to officially refuse to recognise the NATO-backed National Transitional Council (NTC), currently in the process of transforming itself into the "new government" of Libya, functioning from the capital, Tripoli.
Last Tuesday, The Guardian (UK) posted an articled by Richard Seymour titled 'Libya's spectacular revolution has been disgraced by racism' in which he lamented that "the murder of black men in the aftermath of the rebellion speaks of a society deeply divided for decades by Gadhafi..."
By last Friday, the well-known Caribbean thinker and economist, Professor Norman Girvan, was noting on his respected website the disturbing concern that "we do not know what is Caricom" in reference to the racist-fuelled killings of black Africans in Libya, a nation in North Africa.
But nine days earlier, on August 23, the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) was reporting Caricom's current chairman, Prime Minister Dr Denzil Douglas of St Kitts and Nevis, as observing that the "international community also welcomed the rebels' dramatic advance after six months of fighting" and (he) urged Gadhafi to surrender and avoid a bloodbath.
"The situation in Libya," said Dr Douglas, "provides a lesson in democracy for the Caribbean. We have seen in countries where democracy has been absent, where people have been yearning for full freedom of expression from the Government that they would want to represent them, and eventually this has led to bloodshed as we have seen over the last six months in various Arab countries."
PM Douglas on 'democracy'
It is a challenging observation from Prime Minister Douglas, and it is to be wondered whether there had been any prior consultation with his fellow Heads of Government, given the controversial circumstances of NATO's involvement in "regime change" in Tripoli following the subsequently established abuse of a so-called "no-fly zone" resolution approved by the UN Security Council by majority vote.
Dr Douglas, who hosted the 32nd annual summit of Caricom Heads of Government last July in Basseterre, would have been fully conscious of the community's general sentiment on the Libyan crisis as briefly summarised in a single paragraph in the official communiqué.
Under the title 'The Situation in Libya', the communiqué stated: "Heads of Government deplored the increasing loss of innocent life as the conflict in Libya becomes drawn-out. They called for a ceasefire as well as the early convening of negotiations. In this regard, they expressed support for the African Union in the search for a peaceful resolution of the dispute."
It is not known whether this stated position was formally drawn to the attention of the UN secretary general, or was simply done for the record. The reality, however, is that NONE of the governments that chose to make use of NATO's military power to achieve regime change in Tripoli — under the fig-leaf explanation of "protecting civilians" — had shown ANY interest in a ceasefire to give "peaceful resolution" a chance. Instead, in the face of the "war" rhetoric of the governments in London and Paris in particular — where, incidentally, racism against black immigrants has become a more controversial issue — total contempt has been demonstrated by the western powers for any idea of "peaceful negotiations" in preference for "regime change", even if it meant taking out Gadhafi dead or alive.
Caricom, after all, includes member governments that have diplomatic relations with Libya under Gadhafi. It also has a collective institutional relationship with the AU. Consequently, there seems to be a moral obligation on Caricom's part to now also speak out against the racist killings and atrocities against black Africans in Libya — even if our community does not wish to side with the AU in withholding recognition of the NATO-backed Transitional Council as the new government in Tripoli.
Black at bad time
According to media reports (some with graphic images), many of the murdered and wounded victims — going by their physical appearance — have been savaged. And there has been NO proof of being, as claimed, "mercenaries" fighting to maintain Gadhafi's already 42 years of dictatorial power.
As reported by the Guardian's Seymour, "this is a bad time to be a black man in Libya". He was quoting a report by Channel 4 News last Sunday, even as Ken Sengupta of The Independent newspaper was commenting on some 30 bodies lying decomposed in Tripoli, the majority of them black, allegedly "mercenaries of Gadhafi".
For his part, Chika Onyeani, publisher and editor-in-chief of the African Sun Times, in analysing why the African Union "is right not to recognise the Libyan rebels", declared that "the rebels need to account for the killings of black Africans, not for the pretensions of 'confusing them as mercenaries hired by Gadhafi', but because of the anti-black, racist and innate hatred of black Africans, even though there are a million dark Africans who are Libyan citizens and are maltreated as well.
None of this may be of interest to Caricom governments if they do not take time to properly inform themselves of some of the harsh, unpleasant realities of the NATO-backed Transitional Council and foreign armed rebels that have spent the past six months pursuing a very costly, bloody "regime change" in Libya.
The community's latest position as articulated by its chairman, Dr Douglas, appears quite flawed and ought to be revisited.