What secret do Africans know that the majority of Libyans don’t?By FREDERICK GOLOOBA-MUTEBI | Monday, October 31 2011 at 12:45
The recent events in Libya, right from when the insurgency began to the gruesome killing of former president Muammar Gaddafi, have elicited a range of peculiar responses.
What struck me most strongly was the reaction by mainly sub-Saharan Africans to the decision by Nato and its collaborators to lend a hand to the insurgents. A cursory survey of “Letters to the editor” in newspapers across the continent and careful listening to radio phone-in programmes, including international ones such as the BBC’s “Africa, have your say,” reveal a fairly consistent pattern.
Readers and listeners with the ability of self-expression through the written and spoken word have preferred to focus on Nato’s imperialism, designs on Libya’s oil by Western countries, and the NTC’s betrayal of “Africa’s cause,” which Gaddafi, for whom lavish praise was reserved, apparently fought so hard to advance.
For reasons one can only guess at, they showed no curiosity about why hundreds of thousands of ordinary Libyans, young and old, had opted to pick up arms, many before Nato intervened, and put their lives at risk in pursuit of a new Libya without Gaddafi.
Granted, there may be grounds for arguing that Nato got involved under false pretences, and that the UN allowed itself, yet again, to be used as a rubber stamp.
However, that was after a few Libyans had lit the fuse and set off events that saw others join in, and Gaddafi provide the Western alliance with the excuse it needed to intervene and help effect the regime change it had sought for years.
Rats and coackroaches
At the level of governments, only Botswana and Rwanda were early dissenters.
Breaking ranks with their AU counterparts, Presidents Ian Khama and Paul Kagame refused emphatically to side with a government bent on killing its own people or to buy into the canard that the African Union had the capacity to come up with an African solution to the fast-unfolding crisis.
Citing lessons Rwandans had learnt when the international community had looked the other way as hundreds of thousands of their compatriots were slaughtered by their government and its political allies and sympathisers, Kagame couldn’t bring himself to condemn Nato’s actions in Libya.
Speaking for the Botswana government, Foreign Minister Phandu Skelemani expressed his country’s unwillingness to support or even have diplomatic relations with a government that called its citizens rats and cockroaches.
Meanwhile, other countries clung to the sinking Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriyya, as the Great Leader wanted it known, until the very last moment when, one after the other, their leaders ate humble pie and recognised the NTC as the Libyans’ legitimate representative.
Again, as with their citizens who vented their anger through print and broadcast media, Africa’s “statesmen” disregarded the hundreds of thousands of insurgents and their supporters and sympathisers across Libya who sought to end Gaddafi’s 42-year rule.
What did these “friends of Gaddafi” know about what was good for Libya that the anti-Gaddafi Libyans didn’t? Or were they, like Gaddafi himself, simply deluded about how popular he was among Libyans? He had told journalists before he fled Tripoli that Libyans loved him, and that they would fight to protect him.
Well, it was the same Libyans who went on to celebrate his downfall and unseemly treatment and brutal murder after he was captured.
Tears and prayers
It is often said that the capacity of Africa’s leaders to learn from history is sharply limited. Africa’s post-colonial history bears that out. Could Gaddafi’s fate have changed that a little bit, perhaps?
And then there was the reaction by sections of Uganda’s Muslim community, longstanding beneficiaries of Gaddafi’s generosity and unrestrained capacity to channel Libya’s public resources into all manner of causes. After news of his demise trickled in, tears flowed freely down the cheeks of clerics leading prayers in mosques across the country.
For believers, it is the duty of the living to pray for those who have departed and ask God to grant them eternal life. And so it had to be for Muammar Gaddafi.
However, here the prayers were peppered with choice epithets for the NTC and its leaders who were labelled “cowards,” and for Nato and Western governments, dismissed as “looters.”
From the days of Idi Amin, Gaddafi had channelled large sums into Uganda’s Muslim community.
No one has asked if Libyans approved of their money being dished out in this kind of way.
No less striking is the pundit industry the crisis has spawned as news media have laboured to satisfy their readers’ hunger for comment and analysis.
For some reason, one view being thrown around by some “Libya experts” including former Western diplomats, is that the TNC will not manage, that the country is going to be unstable because Libyans are not loyal to the state or the national government, but to their local towns and tribes.
It all sounds rather ominous but is likely a cut-and-paste theory that years from now Libyans will remember with laughter.
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