On 31/8/11, Colette Braeckman, a Belgian journalist, wrote a note
in French on the plight of Black people in the New Libya, only days after Gaddafi had been overthrown from Tripoli. The course of events, particularly in reference to what might come to be called revenge killings in the future, reminds of what happened to Hutu refugees who, after the defeat of Juvenal Habyarimana’s soldiers in 1994, were pursued and hundreds of thousands of them were killed inside Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. It was only 16 years later [exactly on 1/10/10] that the international community through the UN Mapping report acknowledged that atrocities including those of genocide nature had been committed by the victorious RPF and other affiliated armies. Can David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy learn from such recent history of military conflicts and stop their humanity from being blinded by the riches they are counting from their venture in Libya? Please read an English translation of Braeckman’s note.
There is no doubt about the sad fate of having black skin in the New Libya. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders, and ICRC, have compromising evidence and are making numerous accounts of troubling cases. According to MSF, in Tripoli, hundreds of migrants, mostly from black Africa, Sudan and Somalia among others, live in fear without security or medical care. A thousand of them are hiding in boats, an abandoned a military base, and 200 more have sought refuge in a farm since fighting erupted south of the capital. They all refuse to leave the camps, fearful of being harassed, beaten or killed.
For its part, a delegation of Amnesty, which visited hospitals in Tripoli, has seen “thuwwar” (rebels) hit black patients, extracting a black patient from his bed and arresting him.
These men with dark skin are not all migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, many of them are Libyans by birth, including those from the city of Tawargha, west of the country, an area where many black Libyans live. While visiting detention centers in Tripoli and al Zawiya, Amnesty found that a third of prisoners were from Sub-Saharan Africa; and a group of terrorized Eritreans was also discovered in a poor neighborhood of the capital. They said they were hiding, afraid to be victims of violent attacks. As if to confirm those fears, British journalists from The Guardian and The Independent newspaper found thirty decomposing bodies, all apparently black Africans who had been killed in a makeshift hospital while they were lying on stretchers or were in an ambulance.
Although the National Transition Council has issued guidelines which encourage respect for international law, on the ground, the rebel fighters are chasing black Africans, believing that they are mercenaries paid by Gaddafi. There was a rumor denied by Peter Bouckaert, from Human Rights Watch, who confirmed not having met with no African mercenary in the battlefield. In fact, the insurgents do not just hunt down members of a potential “fifth column” of African origin: the New York Times reveals about their “racist abuses” and recalls that in Misrata for example some slogans promised to “purge the country of its slaves with black skin” while another graffiti even treated Gadhafi of “evil Jewish”.
In addition to the anti-black racism, which is found in Egypt and other Arab countries, the attitude of the rebels is also explained by the fact that under Qaddafi, Libya employed more than two million workers of African origin. The latter occupied the menial jobs often despised by the native Libyans who looked down on these “trimmers” of their economy, however, had too access to medical care and decent housing.