Fighters loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadaffi are still holding out in some towns in Western Libya, particularly Gadaffi’s home town of Sirte on the Mediterranean coast, Sabha to the Southwest, and Bani Walid to the Southeast of the Libyan capitol, Tripoli. But the rebels, backed by continued NATO bombings, seem to be consolidating their hold on the rest of the country.

Once again, reports have surfaced about rebel forces targeting dark skinned people for violent repression including rape and murder. And the rest of Africa, particularly the poorer nations, is wondering what the new regime in Libya will bring in terms of their once close relations with the oil-rich country.

For a long time, Gadaffi’s government has been heavily involved in the affairs of sub-Saharan Africa. He had been open-handed in subsidizing a number of governments and also of insurgent movements. Libya under Gadaffi has provided refuge for leaders of at least one of the insurgent organizations from the western Darfur region of the Sudan, who have been fighting the harsh rule of Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir.

Also, the Tuareg nomads traditionally move back and forth across the borders of Libya, Niger and Mali. The Tuaregs have been generally loyal to Gadaffi in the past, and at least one Gadaffi general is a Tuareg. Will they face persecution?

Earlier, some Gadaffi relatives and supporters took refuge in Algeria, Libya’s neighbor to the West. Caravans of vehicles have crossed the border from Libya into the small and ultra-poor West African nation of Niger, the major source of uranium for the French nuclear industry. These vehicles were carrying Gadaffi’s son Saadi and others, but not, it is thought, Gadaffi himself, who says he is still in Libya. The government of Niger has given them refuge on a humanitarian basis.

The prime minister of the small African country of Guinea Bissau is said to have offered refuge to Gadaffi, but it is not clear if this will be accepted.

There are many disturbing new reports of racist attacks against darker skinned Libyans and African migrants (Such reports surfaced early in the rebellion).

The reason being given by rebel supporters for the attacks on dark skinned Libyans and migrants from the poor nations of sub-Saharan Africa is that Gadaffi had recruited mercenaries from these countries. However, most of the 1.6 million Black African workers in Libya have been attracted by the better wages and working conditions in oil rich Libya than in their destitute homelands. There are also dark-skinned Libyans, particularly in the areas that border the countries of Niger, Chad and the Sudan. Many accounts state that darker skinned people, both Libyans and migrants, are being rounded up and arrested en masse by rebel fighters, robbed, raped, beaten, jailed and killed based on skin color.

Jean Ping, the chairman of the Commission of the African Union, which represents 53 of Africa’s 54 states and in which Libya under Gadaffi played an important financial and diplomatic role, denounced the violence against Black Africans, and threatened to withhold recognition of the rebel’s main political structure, the National Transitional Council (NTC) unless it is stopped. “Blacks are being killed. Blacks are having their throats slit. Blacks are accused of being mercenaries. Do you think it’s normal in a country that’s a third black that blacks are confused with mercenaries?”

“Many in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond are suspicious of the rebel’s main political front, the NTC, because of its closeness to the NATO powers, especially the former colonial powers of France, Italy and the United Kingdom. They fear that the elimination of Libyan aid will force their countries into even deeper economic dependency on France in particular, with whom some of them are trapped into disadvantageous commercial relations. There is also a fear that as pro-Gadaffi forces leave Libya with the rebels in pursuit, major destabilization could result regionally.

Over the weekend a number of nations and international agencies met in Paris to discuss Libya’s future, and NTC Chairman Mahmoud Jibril announced that a formal new government would be declared soon. The trend seems to be to recognize the NTC as Libya’s new government. Some nations, however, including socialist Cuba, are holding out against this. On Friday, the foreign ministers of the ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance) group of Latin American countries condemned “the NATO intervention in Libya and its illegal military aggression….”The ALBA foreign ministers deplore the fact that the NATO has disregarded the persistent efforts of the African Union in search of a solution to the internal conflict in Libya based on dialogue to achieve peace”. The ALBA statement called for Libya’s seat at the United Nations General Assembly not to be filled until it can be done so until a government “that is the free and sovereign expression of the will of the Libyan people becomes established in a legitimate manner, without foreign intervention.”



Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Born in South Africa, he has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He writes from Northern Virginia.