Since the vote of the UN Security Council resolution 1973 on Thursday 17th March 2011 to strike against Muammar Kaddafi, and the start of the bombing of Libyan airbases and units of military command, memories came straight back about that Rwandan old woman whose life was incidentally shortened and died a horrible death without any decent burial in a foreign land far away from those she loved because of another decision from the same international instance. The UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Rwanda in resolution 918 of May 1994, almost six weeks after the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6th, 1994. The justification of that UN directive was that the then official Rwandan authority was committing genocide against its own people.
A few weeks into the situation in Libya a friend called asking my opinion about what was going on in that country. He was angered about the lack of objectivity in the reporting of the events by Western media. I know him to be a strong Africanist, someone having Africa at heart for many years. ‘Have you seen the rubbish they are throwing to us to swallow as the true picture of what is happening there?’ he enquired. ‘I can guess,’ I answered him. I went on to explain my take on the whole Libyan uprising thing.
I don’t watch television for the only reason I don’t wish to get my mind controlled by somebody else completely. But I keep up with the news that matters in a much controlled way. I choose to have an informed opinion on issues and not to be only a forced consumer of information and unable to make sense of it however biased it could be because of its power of persuasion. Maybe I have fallen victim of the Rwandan tragedy during which the international media misrepresented the facts on the ground so much so that I have come to consider each published information on war situation particularly always in comparison to that sad past experience of news reporting.
Understandably what has been happening since the emergence of capitalism a few centuries ago, news as any other important factors of the system has been controlled and delivered in the interests of business. As a consequence, without knowing, most people around the world, and particularly in Western countries, unconsciously and blindly have come to approve of what their governments do in their name, because these are said to be democratically representative. UN support of the Rwandan Patriotic Front in 1994 and the coalition for war against Iraq in 2003 have today proven to be two clear examples of miscarriage of public trust.
As it turned out to be in the two situations, the international community’s interventions were for the wrong reasons. In Iraq it was not about the weapons of mass destruction because they were not anywhere to be found in that country after thorough investigation when Saddam Hussein was anymore around, but the manufacturers of weaponry and other industries associated with war needed apparently a market for their products. Let’s not forget access to Iraqi petrol. In the case of Rwanda, a genocide against Tutsi and massacres of hundreds thousands of Hutus and millions of Congolese were to be the cost to bear to access strategic minerals in the soil of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
On Sunday 20th March 2011 I went to the local shop to buy my newspaper. But I couldn’t. I had flashback about that old Rwandan woman who died as a consequence of a UN resolution intended to protect her. All the papers had on their front pages these images of the successful strike of combined US, UK and French forces against Kaddafi’s military targets. It looked frankly fearsome. This time the so called international community was doing its dirty work without using any intermediaries unlike in the Rwandan case where local proxies were in action in 1994 and the years after for the whole region. It did not seemingly come to mind that what was going on in Libya was about humanitarian protection for civilians at all. Like in Iraq situation there are people who are starting to question if this is only about what they are officially being told to be.
It is true Kaddafi has had a past of terrorist supporter. He has been there far too long. He has stood up against Western interests very vocally each time he had an opportunity to do so like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. In fact, the pair has been quite rare commodities on the African continent; probably that explains why international predators of resources have been after them for many years. In addition, Libya has important reserves of petrol that the West needs. As we presumably live in a human jungle, these could at least be acceptable reasons to strike against the Libyan leader. But the public should not be taken for stupid. Like in any jungle, a lion which strikes on a herd of antelopes does not have to explain to the birds or giraffes why it strikes, for example saying it is for their safety. Furthermore, when their turn comes, the lion should not do any explaining at all. That is the rule of nature. But because we are ‘civilised humans’ we need to work with others to justify hypocritically what we are doing, and in the process many old women, children, and others get caught and die justifiably because of a UN rubber stamp for our actions.
The images I saw in the papers that Sunday reminded me of other victims of greed and lack of humanity in places like Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo or Iraq and probably many others I couldn’t immediately name. Victimisation has been in humankind history a way of justification of preying on others. That is how Tutsis, Hutus or Congolese have died over the last 20 years in the Great Lakes region of Africa and continue to die. Seeing Libya with the consequences of the UN Security Council resolution 1973 demonstrates that our humanity has not much evolved. Unlike in the animal kingdom, we humans have found important to first call names and shame, then rally others, before descending on our prey. This is very futile. We are still in the jungle. Let’s not fool anyone.