Fahamu (Oxford)

9 June 2011

North Africa: Maghreb Uprisings - Truth is 'Impossible to Find'

Photo: Naicomenó / Flickr
Egyptian protesters (file photo).

KalliophDespite all the news and analysis on Libya, we still don't know very much about who the rebels are and where their support comes from, writes Sokari Ekine.

LIBYA

With all the analysis and news on Libya, we still do not know very much about who the rebels are and where their support comes from. This week I try to shed some light on anti-Gaddafi supporters as presented by Libyan bloggers and Tweeters as well as the highlight the humanitarian crisis which has developed as a result of the intervention. Twitter accounts by far outnumber blogs and many of these consist of photo and video dairies.

FEBRUARY 17TH

By far the most informative and interesting site is Feb 17: The Libyan Youth Movement (@Feb17Libya) which has live stream updates from a huge bank of sources - western and Arab media, tweets, personal videos and photos. This report by Ayesha Daya for Bloomberg on who in OPEC and the Middle East is supporting the rebels and how the cartel plan to offset the loss of Libyan oil production - a mix of "personal politics and economic reasoning".

'OPEC's decision on production quotas this week may be complicated by hostilities in Libya as members meeting in Vienna find themselves supporting opposing camps of a military conflict for the first time in 21 years...Not since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 has the producer group gathered with some nations giving financial and military support to a movement seeking to topple the government of a fellow member.

'The main regional supporters of the rebels, at least those who admit to doing so, are Qatar, the U.A.E., Kuwait whilst Algeria is the lone Gaddafi sympathizer which seems to contrary to the African Union position. President Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania who heads the AU panel trying to find a resolution has also called for Gaddafi to go whilst at the same time condemning NATO bombing. Other countries which have formally recognised the rebel led National Transitional Council are Senegal and Gambia and of course, the US, UK, Canada, Spain, Portugal, France and Italy. Russia not willing to commit to either Gaddafi or the rebels has taken the position of supporting both sides. On Tuesday Russia special envoy to Africa made the following statement on a visit to Benghazi.

'"Russia has a unique situation in Libya now: We did not sever relations with Tripoli, we have established relations with Benghazi," Margelov told Russia's state-run Rossiya-24 television upon arrival in Benghazi.

'"We are ready, if it's possible, to act as middlemen in establishing an internal Libyan political dialogue. Russia is ready to help politically, economically and in any possible way."'

YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU!

Enough Gaddafi

Enough Gaddafi by blogger and tweeter, Sofiyan Amry (@enoughgaddafi) writes a mix of personal accounts, rebel reports and criticism of Gaddafi and any one who continues to support his regime. Here he reports on one reasons Gaddafi must go, the oppression of the Amazigh (Berbers) by Gaddafi (and elsewhere in the Maghreb):

'For the past 42 years, the Libyan government has participated in a deliberate movement to erase the Amazigh from Libyan history and to assign them an Arab identity in order to justify nationalist ideological claims, despite long-lasting exchange between ethnic groups. The "Arabicization" of Amazigh history began with the onset of Gaddafi's 1969 revolution, declaring Libya as an Arab state, naming Arabic as Libya's only language and ignoring the 10 percent of Libya's population that identifies as Amazigh. Their indigenous language, Tamazight, was outlawed, and those who were found speaking it were punished.

'In Gaddafi's Libya, Amazigh names were also banned, and Amazigh history was excluded from school books. Amazigh Islamic religious practices, based on the Ibadi School of jurisprudence, were rejected by the regime. Even Amazigh cities, primarily located in the region west of Tripoli called the Nafusa Mountains, have been stripped of their Amazigh names and replaced with Arabic monikers.'

Who are the rebels? Gaddafi's claim that the rebels are part of al Qaeda is refuted by Najla Abdurrahman:

'Although Libya is in some ways a traditional society, al Qaeda remains deeply unpopular among its people, many of whom have been keen to stress that this uprising is in no way connected to the terrorist organization. Indeed, they have repeatedly scoffed at Qaddafi's absurd accusations to the contrary. The Libyan revolution is a decidedly nationalist, democratic movement, two characteristics that render it fatally incompatible with al Qaeda's delusional goal of resurrecting a pan-Islamic caliphate; the Libyan people have no intention of allowing their movement to be hijacked by al Qaeda. That a handful of rebel fighters may have a history with the LIFG does not mean that the Transitional National Council or the pro-democracy fighters are connected to al Qaeda, yet this is precisely what the Qaddafi regime would have the international community believe. Indeed, the council just released a statement refuting allegations aimed at associating al Qaeda with the revolutionists in Libya, and affirming its commitment to combating terrorism and implementing Security Council resolutions on counterterrorism."

Mistaken ideals? Cythnia McKinney, 'deluded and ill informed' is taken to task for her continued support of Gaddafi as 'NATO and the international community continue their efforts to force Gaddafi from power.'

'What a triumph for the sinking ship that is the Gaddafi regime--as Here is their shiny white knight: an American diplomat who's willing to defend them against the Western-Imperialist-Al Qaeda-rats. Mckinney continues to defend Gaddafi as a 'hero' of African rights and refuses to acknowledge the crimes of his regime'.

'In this narrative NATO's imperialist forces have become the savior of liberation struggles for democracy - not bothering to recognise the increasing removal of democratic rights and freedoms from their own citizens. But thats another story, one not told here. This is a highly competitive and bloody game of propaganda - if it's on Sky News then it must be true!

'Cynthia Mckinney says she's in Tripoli because she wants to "understand the truth." And yet professional journalists who've been stationed there for months say that the truth, in Tripoli, is impossible to find. "If there is a hell for journalists," wrote Sky News' Emma Hurd, "It will probably be a lot like the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli."'

There is truth in some of the reasons presented by the writer: Gaddafi's support of Charles Taylor and Fonday Sankoh; his war against Chad; acting as Europe's proxy border control by imprisoning of thousands of African migrants in the most terrible conditions, to name a few. He also refutes claims about Libya's subsidized "healthcare and education and housing":

'Again, these are not state secrets. A cursory Google search would've led Mckinney to the truth. Instead, Mckinney stews in conspiracy and panders to the Libyan government, disseminating their lies and perpetuating a Gaddafi-approved narrative. Mckinney freely lambasts Obama and NATO-- who are in no way above criticism--but refuses to acknowledge the irrefutable war crimes of the Gaddafi regime. She would rather not acquaint herself with the truth, it seems--instead, she'd prefer to rub elbows with known war criminals and mass murderers on Libyan State TV.'

Sofi misses the point and is so taken with his own position and propaganda that he cannot or does not want to acknowledge McKinney's position - which is against UN/NATO imperialism and the bombing campaign. Opposing these is not the same as supporting Gaddafi, though in McKinney's case she does state her support for him and his regime.

Other Libyan blogs such as Feb17th Tripoli (in Arabic), Epic Libyan, Libyan Thinker and Rubicon Libya, use photo and video to report on the conflict and some of the many Libyan Tweets @Libyan4life, @ShababLibya, @ArabRevolution, @LibyaAlHurra and @LibyansRevolt who also blogs at the comprehensive Libya 17th February. See here for a list of Libyan social media sites.

LIBYA AND AFRICA

The refugee crisis in Tunisian camps and on the Mediterranean continues as thousands and thousands of migrant workers and Libyans flee the conflict. There are reports of an increasing number of migrants escaping in flimsy boats and drowning at sea. It seems to me that this humanitarian crisis is not only being ignored by NATO countries but they are in fact making the situation worse as their concern does not extend to helping the most vulnerable. At the very least providing safe passage and properly equipped boats to evacuate refugees. Last month the Telegraph reported that 800 refugees had drowned whilst trying to escape. Mayibuye Blog by Priority African Network has a series of reports on the fate of refugees. Pan African Newswire reports on the latest deaths of 150 African migrants found of the Tunisian coast last Tuesday.

'"Up to now 150 bodies of refugees have been found off the shores of Kerkennah," Carole Laleve, an official with the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, told Reuters. She added: "Search operations are continuing."

'The boats encountered problems on Tuesday about 12 miles off Kerkennah as they headed for Italy, Tunisia's state news agency TAP reported.

'Tunisian coastguards and military rescued 570 people, but many others went into the water when a stampede to get off the small fishing boats - combined with the effect of rough seas - capsized some of the vessels, an official said.'

To put the Libyan rebels' view in perspective, Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report, makes the important point that everyone was consulted before the Libyan attacks except Africans 'whose latest peace plan has been rejected'. He also comments on the rebels:

'These rebels have lost all legitimacy in deciding to become the ground troops for an invasion of neo-colonial North Africa.' As subordinates, they will only obey orders......The U.S. and Europe consider that Africans have no say in what happens in Africa. The President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma , made a second trip to Libya this week on behalf of the African Union to negotiate a diplomatic end to NATO's war against the government of Muammar Gaddafi. Colonel Qaddafi has accepted the peace plan just as he had agreed that a peacekeeping mission last of the African Union in early April. And exactly the same way, the so-called rebels and their U.S. and European bosses have refused to even consider a ceasefire. It is obvious from the beginning of this farce "humanitarian" than white European moguls and "Mascot Wall Street" as the U.S. called on Obama, want a regime change in Libya and nothing else-and the devil Africans and their ideas on the issue!'

Two activists from 'Global Peace for Civilians in Libya' send a number of informative video reports from Tripoli. Lizzie Cocker's report counters much of the West/NATO/Libyan rebel propaganda. There is very little security in Tripoli, business is as usual. There is a shortage of labour as many Black Africans have fled not least because of attacks against them due to the stories of 'Black mercenaries'. (It would be interesting to try to find out where Black Africans were fleeing from and specific reasons!).

In a second video Cocker interviews the general secretary of the Pan African Democratic Movement on the lynching of Black Libyans and migrants in the East of the country - rebel-held areas. None of this has been reported. To return to the point made by Enough Gaddafi, the interview mentions nothing about Gaddafi's imprisonment of thousands of black migrants in the south of the country and insists there is no racism in Libya.

Sukant Chandan, who blogs on Sons of Malcolm, interviews a hospital worker in Tripoli on the large numbers of people dying from NATO bombs. In a personal videocast, Sukant is highly critical of the anti-war movement in the West, which has been silent on Libya. He goes on to comment on Human Rights Watch report, which states that the cluster bombs found in Misrata are NATO's not Gaddafi's and that there are no black African mercenaries. Unfortunately CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera - which is itself so much part of the North African/Middle East uprisings, but which is becoming more like CNN everyday - simply unquestionably repeat NATO/UN statements.

MOROCCO: JOINING THE CLUB OF KINGS

Morocco has been invited by Saudi Arabia to 'join the club of kings' - the Gulf Cooperation Council, intended to protect the interests of monarchs against the 'Arab Spring' uprisings in the region'

Promises for constitutional reform have not taken place instead there has been a brutal crackdown against dissent.

'The wave of demonstrations rumbling through the main streets of many Moroccan cities today indicates that the woes of Moroccans are deep and intractable and the government and the political parties are dispassionate and guileful; now that the stone wall of fear has tumbled down, grievances that have long been stifled are bubbling at the surface. Resentment against a government no longer trusted, nor feared by the people, runs high. Most see the King 'speech and government officials' promises for the soon-to-be-implemented reforms as nothing more than temporizing.'

Last month Maghreb Blog commented on the international news media's lack of interest in the 'Moroccan spring' and increasing police brutality against the pro democracy movement:

'It is apparent that early statements on reforms were mere strategies to diffuse a rapidly contagious and popular movement for change in Morocco. That early tactical retreat by the regime was meant to allay the Feb 20 movement, riding high on the wave of Arab spring. However, the plight of the Moroccan spring is in tatters as the little media attention it once garnered has virtually faded, especially with atrocities committed in Syria, Bahrain, ongoing conflict in Libya and shaky post-revolt tumult in Tunisia and Egypt. The regime is betting on this "quiet repression" of the protests, while engaging in rhetorical support for clichéd talking points of democratic change.'

On 29 May a member of the country's main opposition group, Kamal Amari was killed in the city of Safi, allegedly at the hands of the police which led to thousands protesting across the country this past Sunday. Journalists have been beaten and arrested and there have been reports of Moroccan security forces harassing activists in their homes.

'Following Amari's death, Safi witnessed massive demonstrations on Sunday, with people calling for political reforms, an end to corruption and a democratic constitution with credible elections. Meanwhile in Rabat, thousands marched in defiance of a protest ban. Casablanca, Fez, Tangier, Marrakech and other cities also saw reform rallies.

'Demonstrators held up black flags and banners to express their grief. Some also carried coffins to symbolise Amari's funeral. Others chanted slogans demanding the trial of his alleged killers, while condemning authorities for using violence against peaceful protestors.'

Lastly Slate Afrique publishes a list of the top ten African dictators addicted to power with their name, country, age and number of years in power: Muammar el-Qaddafi, Libya, 69, 42 years in power; Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Equatorial Guinea, 69, 32 years; Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, 69, 32 years; Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe, 87, 31 years; Paul Biya, Cameroon, 78, 29 years; Yoweri Museveni, Uganda, 67, 25 years; Blaise Compaore, Burkina Faso, 60. 24 years; Omar el-Bashir, Sudan, 67, 22 years; Idriss Deby, Chad, 59, 21 years; and Isaias Afewerki, Eritrea, 65, 18 years.

Libya, Uganda, Burkina Faso and Cameroon have all seen uprisings to some degree. Africans wait for them and the rest to fall. Yemen has shown us all that with perseverance and conviction the house of cards will fall - eventually.

'"En Afrique, on ne peut pas désigner quelqu'un du doigt en disant qu'il est un ancien chef." Cette phrase qu'aimait répéter l'Ivoirien Félix Houphouët-Boigny explique que l'alternance politique ne soit pas la valeur la mieux partagée en Afrique. Quand on a du mal à transmettre à ses enfants le sceptre presidential, on s'y accroche d'années en décennies. Le Nigérien Mamadou Tandja aura payé de sa réputation cet appétit insatiable. Mais son expérience ne semble guère servir de leçon.'

Sokari Ekine blogs at the award-winning Black Looks.

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