[News] Opposing Gaddafi’s massacre and foreign intervention in Libya

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 24 13:36:54 EDT 2011

Opposing Gaddafi’s massacre and foreign intervention in Libya

Horace Campbell

2011-03-24, Issue <http://www.pambazuka.org/en/issue/522>522

Unless Libyans themselves own the struggle 
against Gaddafi, opponents to his regime may find 
that even if he has been removed from power, 
‘Gaddafism’ will continue – but this time propped 
up by the West, Horace Campbell warns.

The Union shall have the right ‘to intervene in a 
Member State pursuant to a decision of the 
Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, 
namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against 
humanity’ – Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union.

The images of Tomahawk cruise missiles and bombs 
raining down on Libya from British, French, and 
US warplanes have ensured that many people now 
oppose the foreign military intervention in 
Libya. Yet, the same people were condemning the 
killing of civilians by the dying Gaddafi regime. 
On the surface, it may seem to be a contradiction 
to oppose both the West and Gaddafi, but this 
contradiction arises from the reality that there 
is no popular democratic force in Africa capable 
of mounting the kind of intervention that is 
necessary to translate Article 4(h) of the 
Constitutive Act (the charter) of the African 
Union into action. There is no international 
brigade similar to the period of the Spanish 
Civil War when anti-fascist forces mobilised 
internationally to fight General Franco. There is 
no Tanzanian Peoples Defence Force (TPDF) with 
its tradition of supporting liberation that had 
the capabilities to fight and remove Idi Amin who 
was butchering Ugandans. The emerging new powers 
such as Turkey, Brazil, Russia, India and China 
are quite quick to do business in Africa but are 
quiet in the face of mass killings. In short, the 
world was willing to stand by as Gaddafi called 
those who opposed him ‘cockroaches’, ‘rats’, and 
‘germs’ and vowed: ‘I will fight on to the last 
drop of my blood.’ The sight of the array of 
forces at the gates of Benghazi meant that this was not an idle threat.

Decent human beings who wanted to halt Gaddafi’s 
massacre welcomed UN resolution for a no-fly 
zone, especially the language of paragraph 6 
which decided ‘to establish a ban on all flights 
in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in 
order to help protect civilians.’ France, 
Britain, and the US quickly used this 
authorisation for a no-fly zone to give 
themselves a mandate that is wider than the UN 
resolution, particularly capitalising on the 
looseness of the formulation of ‘all necessary 
measures’. Although the Africa Union issued a 
statement saying that, ‘the situation in North 
Africa demands urgent action so that an African 
solution can be found,’ the AU dragged its feet 
and gave up its responsibility to prevent the 
massacre of civilians in Libya, thus giving 
justification to the Western intervention. After 
forming a committee comprising of Mauritania, 
South Africa, Mali and Congo and Uganda, the AU 
sidelined itself at precisely the moment when 
clarity was needed to both oppose the Western 
intervention and to intervene to stop the killing 
of humans that Gaddafi called ‘rats and germs.’

Opportunistically, France and Britain mobilised 
to take the lead to intervene and were given the 
green light by the passage of the United Nations 
Security Council Resolution 1973 to establish a 
no-fly zone over Libya. Ten countries voted for 
the resolution on 17 March, while five (Brazil, 
China, India, Germany and Russia) abstained. By 
Saturday 20 March, it was clear that the bombing 
campaign of the imperial forces went far beyond 
the letter and spirit of the United Nations 
Security Council Resolution 1973 whose mandate 
was to protect civilians. For this reason, even 
some of those states that voted for the UN 
resolution now oppose the bombings. All 
progressive persons must be opposed to any form 
of Western military intervention in Africa in this revolutionary moment.

In this contribution, we want to reiterate our 
opposition to the Western bombings. The Libyan 
people who are opposed to Gaddafi must take the 
leadership to fight Gaddafi. If they do not own 
the struggle and clarify how their policies will 
be different from Gaddafi’s, then we can end up 
with Gaddafism without Gaddafi being propped up 
by the West. We will agree with the statement by 
Peter Falk that, ‘Long ago, Gaddafi forfeited the 
legitimacy of his rule, creating the political 
conditions for an appropriate revolutionary 
challenge.’ This revolutionary challenge is still 
in its infancy and the imperial forces are acting 
quickly to ensure that the Libyan revolution is 
hijacked. The same people who armed and backed up 
Gaddafi should not be allowed to establish 
military foothold in Africa in the middle of a revolution.

 From Equatorial Guinea to Ivory Coast and from 
Swaziland to Djibouti, there is an increasing 
need for a people-based African Union 
intervention force. One need not look further 
than the current AU chairman, Teodoro Obiang 
Nguema, to grasp the reality that the African 
revolution that started in Tunisia and Egypt and 
now gripping Libya is a revolution against the 
current leaders of the African Union.


In the past 20 years the experiences of genocidal 
violence, genocidal politics, and actual 
incidents of genocide in Rwanda, Burundi, and 
elsewhere in Africa forced the coming into being 
of the African Union (AU). The Constitutive Act 
of the AU as quoted above gave the legal 
authority to the AU to intervene in situations 
such as now unfolding in Libya and Ivory Coast. 
It was Gaddafi who attempted to set himself up as 
one of the primary leaders of the AU. One of the 
ultimate tests of the commitment of the AU 
leaders hinged upon the translation of AU’s 
responsibility to protect into action by 
intervening to prevent crimes against humanity in 
any corner of the continent. It was the energetic 
work of the progressive movements within Africa 
that pushed the AU to adopt the principle of the 
Responsibility to Protect at the General assembly 
of the UN to the point where this concept was 
formally adopted by the Security Council of the 
United Nations in 2006. The very idea of 
responsibility to protect was aligned to Article 
4(h) of the Constitutive Act of the African 
Union. There are three core pillars of the 
Responsibility to protect: First, an affirmation 
of the primary and continuing obligation of 
individual states to protect its population from 
genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and 
crimes against humanity, as well as incitement 
thereof; second, a commitment by the 
international community to assist states in 
meeting these obligations; and third, acceptance 
by UN member states of their responsibility to 
respond in a timely and decisive manner through the UN Security Council.

It was this alignment of the goals of the 
Constitutive Act of the African Union with the 
core principles of the Responsibility to Protect 
that influenced some Africans to support 
intervention to stop the slaughter of civilians in Eastern Libya.

It is now much clearer that it is only 
revolutionary changes in Africa that will bring 
into being the kind of political/diplomatic and 
military force that can give meaning to the 
Constitutive Act of the African Union. For a 
short period after the end of apartheid, Nelson 
Mandela shamed the leaders of the OAU into 
dropping the clause of the ‘non interference in 
the internal affairs of member states.’ Yet, 
after the experiences of the Sudan, the 
Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cote 
d’Ivoire, it became clearer that the present 
leadership stand as obstacle to fighting crimes 
against humanity. As the leadership of the ANC 
embraced neo-liberal capitalism and entered into 
business deals with leaders such as Robert Mugabe 
and Laurent Gbagbo, South Africa lost the moral 
authority to galvanize forces who wanted peace and reconstruction in Africa.

We can see from Ivory Coast and Libya that many 
African leaders look the other way because 
condemning such crimes amounts to self-indictment 
since most of them are involved in similar crimes 
in their bid to either perpetuate themselves in 
power or enrich themselves. That the current 
leaders of Africa could support the elevation of 
Teodoro Obiang Nguema to be the chairperson of 
this organisation pointed to the fact that most 
of these leaders such as Denis Sassou-Nguesso of 
Republic of Congo, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, 
Omar al-Bashir of Sudan , Paul Biya of Cameroon, 
Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Meles Zenawi of 
Ethiopia, Ali Bongo of Gabon, King Mswati III of 
Swaziland, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Ismail Omar 
Guelleh of Djibouti, and Yahya Jammeh of Gambia 
are not serious about translating the letters of 
the Constitutive Act into reality. These leaders 
oversee societies where there is repression of 
the people’s aspirations to end decades of oppression and dictatorship.

The majority of the current leaders of the 
African Union have used their greed and 
insatiable hunger for political power to cause a 
devastating impediment to the AU’s ability 
effectively assert itself, whether in Ivory Coast 
or in Libya. Apart from leaders such as Museveni 
who have come out lately with disharmonious 
rhetoric in response to the situation in Libya, 
there is yet another group. These are the leaders 
who have maintained a high degree of audible 
silence about the situation. Among these two 
categories of African leaders, there are those 
who are cautious either because they too operate 
repressive governments or because they have 
benefitted from Gaddafi’s largesse in his failed 
bid to become Africa’s ‘king of kings’ or both. 
Gaddafi’s quest for power and his bid to become 
king of kings in Africa must be condemned for 
what it is: a backward thinking that was meant to 
entrench a crude subjugation and suppression of 
the African peoples, while posing to be 
anti-imperialist. When Gaddafi rallied the 
Mugabes and the Omar al-Bashirs of the continent, 
telling them that revolutionaries never quit 
power, true Pan-Africanists stood in opposition to this crude machination.


Many progressive persons sympathise with Gaddafi 
because he represented himself as 
anti-imperialist leader who supported freedom 
fighters. However, a close examination of the 
political economy and cultural practices of 
Gaddafi would show that far from being 
anti-imperialist, he was like a semi-feudal 
leader. Gaddafi used Libyan people’s money to try 
to harness the reservoir of traditional rulers 
and buy over leaders from across the continent in 
order to gain support for his aspiration to 
become the despotic king of kings of Africa. In 
the process, Gaddafi was also grooming his son in 
a monarchical tradition to reproduce a 
semi-feudal political relation inside of Libya. 
On the international front, while Gaddafi was 
verbally anti-imperialist, over US$150 billion of 
Libya’s sovereign wealth fund was distributed 
between New York, Paris, London, and Geneva to 
support the speculative activities of 
international financial oligarchs. At the same 
time, Gaddafi used billions of dollars to support 
arms manufacturers in the West.

In a previous article about Gaddafi, I drew 
reference to his history of mischief making in 
Africa, noting his support for elements such as 
Charles Taylor, Foday Sankoh, and Idi Amin. 
Immanuel Wallerstein in his contribution titled, 
‘Libya and the World Left’ spelt out clearly the 
reasons why Gaddafi cannot be considered as 
anti-imperialist. Wallerstein was speaking 
directly to Hugo Chavez and other left forces who 
have articulated support for Gaddafi. 
Revolutionaries in Latin America who oppose US 
imperialism need to be better educated about the 
real social conditions in African societies.

Even at this moment when the bombs are being 
rained down on Libya, Gaddafi exposed his true 
feelings about Africa when he threatened 
Europeans that he would open the floodgate of 
African immigrants to Europe. In other words, 
Gaddafi is playing to the racism and chauvinism 
of Europeans toward Africans. He was reminding 
them that he had signed an agreement to be the 
gate-keeper and immigration officer for Europe in 
North Africa. This was not the first time Gaddafi 
was making disparaging and racist remarks to 
Europeans about Africans. In 2010, Gaddafi 
demanded US$6.3 billion from the EU to help them 
forestall what he called the emergence of a 
‘black Europe’ by checking the immigration of 
black Africans to Europe. Gaddafi referred to the 
migration of black Africans to Europe as ‘this 
influx of starving and ignorant Africans,’ which 
would determine whether Europe would ‘remain an 
advanced and united continent or if it will be 
destroyed, as happened with the barbarian 
invasions.’ According to the UK Telegraph 
), when Gaddafi made his proposal, one Italian 
member of parliament, Luigi de Magistris, accused 
him of maintaining a ‘concentration camp’ of 
thousands of African migrants in the desert. 
Progressives who see Gaddafi as anti-imperialist 
are the ones who ought to be calling for the investigation of this claim.

Gaddafi cannot claim to be anti-imperialist after 
he and his sons spent Libyan people's money to 
finance the election of President Sarkozy. This 
revelation of the funding of Sarkozy was made by 
no other person than Gaddafi's son, Saif al Islam

This same Gaddafi was busy parading himself as an 
anti-imperial Pan-Africanist, while refusing to 
educate his people about the essence of Pan 
African solidarity. Gaddafi’s regime has been 
involved in the repression of black migrant 
workers in Libya. In 2000, workers from Chad, 
Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Sudan, Burkina Faso, 
and Ghana were targets of killings in Libya after 
the Gaddafi regime officials accused these 
migrant workers of spreading diseases, crimes, 
and drug trafficking. Accounts of migrant workers 
from these countries have revealed that Gaddafi’s 
deportation practices were so inhumane that 
deportees were packed like animals on aircrafts 
without seats for several hours of flight to their countries.

Progressive persons who accept Gaddafi’s claim as 
a Pan-Africanist and anti-imperialist should 
recall that it was in response to Gaddafi’s 
racism that the UN Committee on the Elimination 
of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed concern 
over Libya's practices of racial discrimination 
against dark-skinned migrants and refugees. In 
2004 this committee accused the Gaddafi regime of 
violating Article 6 of the 1969 International 
Convention on the Elimination of Racial 
Discrimination (ICERD). This accusation states 
that Gaddafi failed to implement proper 
mechanisms for safeguarding individuals from 
racist actions that undermine human rights. And 
six years after this accusation, Gaddafi went 
ahead to make his racist remarks about black 
African immigrants turning Europe ‘black.’

Gaddafi espoused racism and divisiveness, and 
thus could not pursue true African solidarity in 
his 42 years of holding onto power. In the spirit 
of solidarity, we empathize with those Libyans 
who are opposed to the Gaddafi regime. In this 
same spirit, we call on those freedom fighters to 
educate their followers that Libya is an African 
country. Those fighting as revolutionaries for 
freedom and democracy cannot be targeting 
Africans from the south of the Sahara.

Gaddafi’s kind of manipulation of 
anti-imperialist sentiments while repressing the 
people’s aspirations is not new. In the past, 
leaders such as Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Idi 
Amin of Uganda represented themselves as 
anti-imperialists. Today, Russian oligarchs who 
are in bed with the Western oil companies 
represent themselves as anti-imperialists, 
without proving it with a people-centered 
solidarity. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and 
Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe are other good examples 
of repressive leaders who are verbally 
anti-imperialist. Robert Mugabe is so nervous 
about the people organising for change that his 
police arrested citizens who were watching a 
video on the revolution in Egypt and charged them with treason.

Just as the forces of peace and social justice 
forthrightly opposed Western invasion and 
occupation of Iraq, we were also opposed to the 
leadership of Saddam Hussein. So now, we are 
making it clear: We oppose Gaddafi and his 
semi-feudal leadership just as we oppose the Western bombings.

African civil society must be more organised at 
this moment of revolution and counter-revolution. 
One Kenyan writer captured the call for African 
civil society to be more active to oppose the 
present governments in Africa. Onyango Oloo, 
called on African civil society to stand up and 
demand action from governments. ‘We have marches 
in New York City but none in Africa. We need to 
be part of the global voice against military 
action. Innocent civilians are being killed we 
need to put pressure on our governments.’ This 
pressure on governments must include the support 
for the forces fighting for social justice in all 
parts of Africa. It is not too late for the 
progressives in Africa to learn from the positive 
lessons of the intervention of Tanzania to remove 
Idi Amin of Uganda, or the positive lessons of 
the Cuban assistance to defeat the apartheid army 
in Angola. In the same vein, it is not too late 
for those who organise the uprising in Libya to 
organise a clear political front to be able to 
build a strong internal political force to resist 
and remove Gaddafi without imperial 
complications. The UN resolution that authorised 
the use of force also explicitly authorised all 
necessary means to protect civilians and 
civilian-populated areas, except for a ‘foreign 
occupation force.’ The West is using the 
formulation of ‘all necessary means’ to give 
themselves the right to establish a new military 
foothold in Africa when revolution is sweeping Africa and the Middle East.


Brazil, China, India and Russia who were aware 
that Gaddafi was about to carry out massacres in 
Benghazi are critiquing the bombing by coalition 
forces. But it is time for members of the UN 
Security Council such as Brazil, Russia, India, 
and China to take a more forthright role against 
dictatorship in Africa. These four countries have 
expanded their commercial/mining relations in 
Africa in the past 10 years, but in the main have 
remained silent in relationship to stopping 
leaders such as Laurent Gbagbo and Gaddafi. In 
particular, Brazil represents itself as an 
emerging power, but seems to see its power as 
being in competition to sell arms to African 
leaders. In a country with over 80 million people 
of African descent and president of the UN 
Security Council in February, Brazil failed to 
take the lead in coordinating an international 
support for an African solution to the massacre 
in Libya. Similarly, China, India, and Russia 
have been condemning the bombings, but sat in the 
Security Council and allowed Britain, US, and 
France to manipulate the United Nations to start 
a new war. I agree with Peter Falk who has 
written elsewhere that, ‘The states that 
abstained acted irresponsibly.’ These states 
could have supported the no fly zone without 
giving the USA, Britain and France the leeway to 
insert language of ‘to take all necessary 
measures to enforce compliance with the ban on flights.’

We want to reiterate that Brazil, Russia, India, 
and China must realise that the interests and 
human dignity of the African people must be 
placed above the prospecting for minerals and 
oil. It is not enough to stand on the fence and 
decry Western military intervention; these 
countries must be able to show people in 
situations such as Benghazi that there is such a 
thing as international humanitarian intervention 
devoid of ulterior motives for oil, minerals, and 
arms sales. Ultimately, it is the citizens of the 
US, France, and Britain who must restrain their 
governments that are implementing austerity 
measures at home while funding the bombing of Libya.


The Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions have 
changed the political calculus in Africa. We need 
not repeat what has already been said about the 
hypocrisy of the West in intervening in Libya and 
not Bahrain and Yemen, where similar atrocities 
are being carried out. Could this Western 
intervention in Libya have been designed to plant 
Western military forces on the ground in Africa 
in order to derail the Egyptian and Tunisian 
revolutions? At this time, the US is seeking to 
use this intervention to give visibility and 
credibility to the US Africa Command, a proxy 
force for private US capitalist forces in Africa.

The Peace and Security Council of the AU has the 
legal authority to intervene in Libya as well as 
in Ivory Coast. It is up to the progressive 
forces in Africa to agitate to remove those 
leaders and governments that are standing in the 
way of a strengthened people-centered African 
Union. The Egyptian revolution has pointed to the 
possibility for the people to transform the 
African political process by their 
self-mobilisation and self-organisation. These 
forms of self-mobilisation would be called upon 
to strengthen the African Union for a 
people-centered intervention force, especially as 
Western intervention has complicated the 
struggles in Libya and has opened up new 
possibilities for counterrevolution which have 
dire consequences for the wind of revolution 
blowing across Africa and the Middle East. As 
noted by one commentator in the British newspaper, The Guardian:

‘The fragile consensus on intervention achieved 
last week, when the UN security council approved 
‘all measures necessary’ to protect Libyan 
civilians against Muammar Gaddafi's forces, has 
shattered in the wake of large-scale US, British 
and French ground and air attacks. The attacks 
were widely seen internationally as 
disproportionate, careless of civilian lives, and 
extending beyond the agreed plan to impose a defensive no-fly zone.’

The present bombings in North Africa have again 
alerted progressives to the laws of unforeseen 
consequences. Revolutionaries must coordinate 
internationally so that counter-revolution will 
not be the outcome of the present opportunism of the imperial powers.


* <http://www.horacecampbell.net>Horace Campbell is a teacher and writer.
* Please send comments to 
<mailto:editor at pambazuka.org>editor at pambazuka.org 
or comment online at <http://www.pambazuka.org/>Pambazuka News.

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