Ghanaians returning from Libya

Bringing together a collection of reports –

Cameron Duodu writes:

Right now, Gaddafi is a big danger to black Africans. Any black person found in Libya is likely to be given very short shrift by the white-skinned section of the Arab population, which believes that Gaddafi has imported – or is importing – blacks from Chad, Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Liberia and anywhere else that he has followers, to go and fight for him.

One Ghanaian who was among the first batch of about 100 that safely returned home, told reporters ‘that some blacks were being caught and “beheaded”. There are estimated to be a further 10,000 Ghanaians still left, whom the Ghana government is trying to evacuate home.’

Diana Johnstone writes in CounterPunch: Libya: Is This Kosovo All Over Again?

Today, from the way media report on the large number of refugees leaving Libya since the troubles began, the public could get the impression that they are fleeing persecution by Qaddafi. As is frequently the case, media focuses on the superficial image without seeking explanations. A bit of reflection may fill the information gap. It is hardly likely that Qaddafi is chasing away the foreign workers that his regime brought to Libya to carry out important infrastructure projects. Rather it is fairly clear that some of the “democratic” rebels have attacked the foreign workers out of pure xenophobia. Qaddafi’s openness to Africans in particular is resented by a certain number of Arabs. But not too much should be said about this, since they are now our “good guys”. This is a bit the way Albanian attacks on Roma in Kosovo were overlooked or excused by NATO occupiers on the grounds that “the Roma had collaborated with the Serbs”.

In Gaddafi’s ‘African mercenaries’: Myth or reality? Dibussi Tande brings us reports from several bloggers:

myweku writes about the worrying racist undertones of claims that Gaddafi is using ‘African mercenaries’ to kill Libyan protesters:

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’…

‘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.’

Tomathon.com explains why it is necessary to challenge the generally accepted narrative of the sanguinary ‘African mercenary’ in Libya:

‘But like much of northern Africa, in Libya there is a long history of fear, hatred, and oppression based on skin color. There is a distinct minority of “black” Libyans whose slave origins mean they are still regarded with contempt by some, as there is a large number of political and economic refugees in what is a relatively prosperous state… And while oppression organized by skin color has a long history, the Gaddafi regime has contributed a different angle to this prejudice: the foreign fighter.

‘Photos and videos, many horrific, have been provided of a handful (I have seen five total) dead uniformed soldiers with varying degrees of dark skin. This is hardly proof of the hysterical rhetoric built around thousands of black Africans raping women and murdering protesters…

Sky, Soil & Everything in Between writes an open letter to Al Jazeera alerting them of the unintended consequences of using the term ‘African mercenaries’:

I think continually pushing a singular narrative about a more complex story has the danger of reinforcing an African and Arab narrative that has an uncomfortable racial connotation to it. I am not accusing Al Jazeera of having a racial bias, far from it. I just feel it’s important for the network to be sensitive to how this issue plays out to an international audience of both Black Africans and Arabs when the full story is untold…

The New York Times reports on the plight of those stuck in Tripoli:

As wealthier nations send boats and planes to rescue their citizens from the violence in Libya, a new refugee crisis is taking shape on the outskirts of Tripoli, where thousands of migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa have been trapped with scant food and water, no international aid and little hope of escape.

The airport refugees, along with tens of thousands of other African migrants lucky enough to make it across the border to Tunisia, are the most desperate contingent of a vast exodus that has already sent almost 200,000 foreigners fleeing the country since the outbreak of the popular revolt against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi nearly three weeks ago.

Dark-skinned Africans say the Libyan war has caught them in a vise. The heavily armed police and militia forces loyal to Colonel Qaddafi who guard checkpoints along the roads around the capital rob them of their money, possessions and cellphone chips, the migrants say. And the Libyans who oppose Colonel Qaddafi lash out at the African migrants because they look like the dark-skinned mercenaries many here say the Libyan leader has recruited to crush the uprising

Ghana has made some effort to repatriate Ghanaian nationals from Libya, as in the photo above, and I understand Nigeria and Kenya have as well, but it is just a drop in the bucket. I hope it will continue.

Are there African mercenaries in Libya?

The United States is not helping the Africans, many Ghanaians and Nigerians, stranded in Libya to return to their homes, although it did help Egyptians. The United States is concerned about protecting potential mercenaries (from somewhere) demanding exemption from potential prosecutions by the ICC.

While publicly calling for an end to impunity, the US at a Council experts’ meeting on the morning of February 26 demanded the following paragraph:

6. Decides that nationals, current or former officials or personnel from a State outside the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya which is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of that State for all alleged acts or omissions arising out of or related to operations in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya established or authorized by the Council, unless such exclusive jurisdiction has been expressly waived by the State.


… It was a red line for the United States. It was a deal-breaker, and that’s the reason we accepted this text to have the unanimity of the Council.

And then there is this from FDL:

From Ma’an (and Arabic and Hebrew sources):

TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma’an) — An Israeli company is recruiting mercenaries to support Moammar Gadhafi’s efforts to suppress an uprising against his regime, an Israeli news site said Tuesday.

Citing Egyptian sources, the Hebrew-language news site Inyan Merkazi said the company was run by retired Israeli army commanders.

The report claims that many high-profile former Israeli officers have been illegally trading weapons in several African nations, and have faced interrogations over their activities in the past.

The news site said the head of the company recently met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Israeli intelligence chief Aviv Cokhavi. It added that the officials all approved the company’s recruitment of mercenaries to help Gadhafi.


So, as we contemplate sending in U.S. forces to battle these mercenaries provided – in part – by “our greatest ally in the Middle East” – will the U.S. media just let it happen and bury the fact that Americans are being killed by people hired by Israelis?

An FDL post the next day continues:

The United States, the UN security council, Israel, Britain and France, and NATO will all demonstrate an amazing use of force, claiming to be helping the rebels, when in fact they are really trying to crush the rebels, cutoff their arms supply, create a corridor that allows Israeli-funded mercenaries to resupply Gaddafi, and then grant IMMUNITY to those Israeli-funded mercenaries as they commit their war crimes. While the US looks on with its military obediently monitoring the situation.

The United States wants Gaddafi gone – eventually. To be replaced with a more pliable puppet. But the US doesn’t want the leaders and heroes of this uprising in Libya to be successful either. The US needs those intelligentsia of the nation, the politicians, military leaders, and true patriots of Libya to be crushed first.

I hope this is not the case, but just the reports muddy the waters and make life even more dangerous and difficult for the migrants stranded in Libya.  The language promoted by the US in the UN resolution is very worrying.

Nana Akyea Mensah writes:

[The] People’s Revolution in Libya, unlike the ones in all the other Arab countries which have so far enjoyed our unalloyed solidarity, is being dangerously diluted with politically toxic and and extremely alarming systematic and sporadic attacks on black African migrants living in Libya.

Reports on Al Jazeera show a Ghanaian migrant who claims that black people are being caught, armed and sent to battle front, even though they might not have an idea about what the trigger is even meant for! The effect of the use of “foreign mercenaries”, if true, has completely poisoned the budding Libyan Revolution. The real weapon that has been unleashed by Gaddafi is not those miserable mercenaries, but the reduction of the dignity of the Libyan Revolution into an insane xenophobic tantrum. The people of Libya who have aided these Africans to escape, without even asking to be paid, need to be mentioned and thanked and to balance the perspectives, and encourage such positive tendencies still found within the Libyan communities and individuals who do not see all black Africans as mercenaries.

H. Vincent Harris, in African refugees trapped in Libya, tells us:

Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Uri Rosenthal reacted to the Libyan crisis with two goals: “Let’s get Dutch citizens out of Libya safely and make sure no more immigrants reach Europe.”

Meanwhile, the Italian government’s reaction focused on the “threat of massive immigration from Libya.”

The U.N. recently published a report on racism in Libya against the 2 million Sub-Saharan migrant workers.

In that context, we read about the fate of thousands of stranded African refugees inside Libya. Adding to their hopeless situation is Gaddafi’s use of African mercenaries. The mercenary story has of course been widely published and will soon be circulating at high speed throughout the African blogosphere. Ethiopian, Eritrean and Somali bloggers have already geared up in a desperate cry for help.

Yusuf Dirir Ali, a Somali blogger writes, “Many angry mobs are targeting Black Africans after reports that the government was using ‘African mercenaries’ to repress the revolt was transmitted by Western media.” Another Somali blogger, Somali for Jesus, repeated this cry for help.

Europeans will try very hard to keep this story out of the news. They want us to see instead pictures of “our” pilots flying European and American citizens to Crete or Cyprus. Somalilandpress reported the lynching of four Somali immigrants in Libya. In all likelihood, these lynching were a response to the stories of mercenaries killing Libyans in the street of Tripoli.

European governments, like the Netherlands, helped Libya to create a buffer against Southern African immigration to Europe.

“African refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea have told us that just being a Black face in Libya is very dangerous at the moment,” UNHCR spokeswoman Sybella Wilkes told Reuters.

Rosebell Kagumire considers the problem:

How do you prove that you are just an immigrant not a mercenary? It’s a question I have been pondering on the week and it’s a situation that thousands of Africans stuck in the Libya uprising have to deal with, that is if they are given chance.

After the story of the African -the immigrant, came the African -the mercenary as Gaddafi became increasingly violent and killing hundreds of Libyans. Social networks and twitter were abuzz with words African mercenaries, some with outright racial undertones. Some tweets suggested Gaddafi had “brought Africans to break into their homes and rape their women.”

I thought ok, recent African civil wars which have been characterised by rape used as weapon of war have not helped perceptions about the continent that often people want to project! This rape aspect has been repeated in many tweets although we are yet to see reports on actual cases of rape in the international media.

Today I watched Al Jazeera showing a tweet from Redafayr linking mercenaries to 20 African countries where Tamoil, a Libyan petroleum company operates. Today Reuters reported that the rebel National Libyan Council in Benghazi, the insurgent capital said it believed Niger, Mali and Kenya were sending troops to support Gaddafi, who is now directing his forces from Tripoli.

These kinds of statements can only further fuel anger among those opposed to Gaddafi and puts more lives of immigrants held up in houses and other hiding places in Libya at great danger. We have seen reports that indicate dozens of immigrants have so far been killed. These are not deaths inflicted on the ‘Gaddafi’s African mercenaries’ but on African immigrants that have nothing to do with the parties in the conflict.

We have seen slow reaction and attention on international scene and on the part of the African Union and African countries on the mercenary issue. We have not seen bold statements against these xenophobic attacks.

U.N. officials have warned that the latest charges from the council in Benghazi could escalate attacks on African migrants in rebel-held areas. We are yet to see the full coverage of the story of the African ‘the mercenary’ in Libya. We have seen a few pictures that came from protesters but the story is one of the hard ones to get and it will probably take as long as the uprising itself to know the entire story.

While there have been reports of many kind Libyans volunteering to watch over those immigrants that made it to camps, generally many on the continent fear that the impact of racial discrimination not only against immigrants but also black Libyans will continue to be manifested alongside the story of the African mercenary.

We will take long to see a positive story for instance on what African immigrants have contributed to the Libyan economy and how their absence could be felt in either post Gaddafi or post protests Libya.

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