Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Anti-black racism in the Libyan civil war - on what's rapidly becoming "our side"

Annett Meiritz reports on a racial factor in the Libyan civil war (Mörderisches Missverständnis: Hatz auf Schwarzafrikaner in Libyen Spiegel Online 08.03.2011). Oil state Libya has black African immigrants from many of the poor countries in Africa. The Qaddafi regime also employs mercenaries, many of them black Africans, as a major part of the security force. Having come to power in a military coup himself, he has kept the Libyan army fairly small and relied heavily on mercenaries responsible directly to him.

In the civil war conditions that rapidly developed in Libya, some Libyans are now violently venting their hatred for the regime on any black Africans they can find, without asking questions about whether they are connected with the Qaddafi regime at all. The article quotes Jean-Philippe Chauzy of the Internationalen Organisation für Migration (IOM) as saying that attacks took place on blacks in Libya before the current unrest, but the budding civil war has unleased a new wave of hatred against black Africans.

Clair MacDougall reports on the subject for the Christian Science Monitor, How Qaddafi helped fuel fury toward Africans in Libya 03/06/2011:

“I think that there are levels of racism within Libyan society that are quite problematic. But racism is not just against other Africans, meaning non-Libyan Africans, but also within Libya itself," says Na'eem Jeenah, executive director of the Afro-Middle East Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. "Qaddafi’s bodyguards, many of those people are actually from the south of Libya, partly because Qaddafi trusts them more than he would trust people from the north for various tribal and other reasons."

Issaka Souare, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Johannesburg, also thinks that the resentment toward dark-skinned Africans is connected to Qaddafi’s tribal allegiances and his perceived favoritism of Libya's south as well as his “Pan-Africanism.”

Mr. Souare says there may be among Libya's anti-Qaddafi rebels in the long-neglected, now "liberated" east of the country an unwillingness to accept that other Libyans could support Qaddafi.

"There seems to be this idea that if people are supporting Qaddafi, it must be mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa, because it could not be the work of Libyans," says Mr. Souare. "It must be these savage Africans."”
Now that the United States is beginning to intervene militarily, this aspect of what "our side" is doing will quickly become yet another American direct responsibility. Is the United States up to doing nation-building in a violence-and-hate-ridden Libya? It's a question that Congress should be asking urgently.

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