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Tue Nov 25 02:37:59 SAST 2014

Black life is cheap in Libya

Justice Malala | 19 September, 2011 00:04
Justice Malala
Image by: The Times

They are killing black people in Libya. They are killing them in the street, they are killing them in hospitals, they are killing them in transit camps, they are killing them in their houses.

They are not killing any old African. They are killing black Africans, the dark, sub-Saharan Africans. Skin tone, the darkness of one's skin, has become for many blacks in Libya the difference between prison and freedom, death and life.

The rebels who gunned for the toppling of the dictator Muammar Gaddafi have for the past six months been killing anyone who looks dark. Given that there are between a million and two million black Africans in Libya, a slow and under-reported massacre is unfolding in that country.

No one is saying anything. When African leaders such as President Jacob Zuma speak, they speak for Gaddafi but not for the people who are now being routinely murdered at the hands of the rebels - the people who are today in power across large swathes of Libya.

African newspapers and television channels report on the conflict as if they are European, Chinese or American. We never write about the fact that over the past few months anyone with a dark skin has been stopped in the streets of Libya and searched. It is almost like the days of apartheid. These people are then either arrested, tortured or murdered.

No one cares about their fate. They are black after all, and black life is cheapest among Africans. That is why we are not up in arms.

The killings in Libya have cover. Gaddafi, at the beginning of the conflict, used his considerable wealth to hire mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa to terrorise locals and push back the rebel advance. The mercenaries were from everywhere. There were Nigerians, there were veterans from the wars in Ivory Coast and word is that there were even South Africans among them.

These were some of the hired guns of Gaddafi's regime.

These mercenaries would be the ones staging shows of force as Gaddafi shook his fist at the free world. They drove around in Jeeps, shot into the air and pretended that all was fine in the world.

It was not. Now Gaddafi has fallen. Many of the mercenaries have returned home, their hundreds of thousands of dollars stashed away. What is left in Libya are the ordinary black people, the ones who have been cleaning for the Libyans all along, building the roads and doing the menial jobs that the rich Libyans would not do.

They are the ones who are dying now. On August 31 an Amnesty International team reported that black Libyans and sub-Saharan Africans "are at high risk of abuse by anti-Gaddafi forces".

"An Amnesty delegation visiting the Central Tripoli Hospital last Monday witnessed three thuwwar revolutionaries (as opposition fighters are commonly known) dragging a black patient from the western town of Tawargha from his bed and detaining him. The men were in civilian clothing.

"The thuwwar said the man would be taken to Misratah for questioning, arguing that interrogators in Tripoli 'let killers free'. Two other black Libyans receiving treatment in the hospital for gunshot wounds were warned by the anti-Gaddafi forces that 'their turn was coming'."

Amnesty International is being extremely diplomatic with its language. Human rights activists are reporting that black people have been disappearing all over Libya over the past nine months as the rebels started taking out Gaddafi forces. As rebels arrived in towns, they merely sought out blacks and either killed them on the spot or arrested them. Many have died of starvation in those "prisons".

Wherever alleged Gaddafi forces are found to have been executed, most of those murdered have been black. Video footage of ordinary black men who have been working in Libya being executed is available on the internet. Their sin is that some black mercenaries worked for Gaddafi, and their sin now is that they are black.

The US and Nato, after helping the rebels bomb Libya, have been quiet on this issue. They have blood on their hands. Would they be so quiet if whites were being murdered in such large numbers in Libya?

And where are the Africans? The AU is petulant, refusing to speak or intervene, while their brothers and sisters are being murdered.

What a courageous bunch.

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