Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, covering an immigrant rights rally in Clark Park in southwest Detroit on Oct. 12, 2008. (Photo: Alan Pollock)., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
The Battle for Libya Rages On While Imperialists Rush to Legitimize Rebels
Persecution of Black Libyans draws international outcry
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Despite the visit of British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolai Sarkozy to Libya on September 15, the struggle for the control of the oil-producing North African state of Libya is far from complete. Battles for the control of Bani Walid and Sirte illustrate that the people who support the government of Muammar Gaddafi still represent a disciplined fighting force against the U.S.-NATO fighter jets and military operatives who are backing the National Transitional Council (NTC) rebels.
The visit of the leaders of Britain and France was carried out to demonstrate their support for the NTC rebels who have so far failed to pull together a provisional government. This descending of the former colonizers of Africa also represented the two European countries way of claiming responsibility for the death and destruction they have wrought against Libya over the last seven months.
At the United Nations 66th General Assembly, the Obama administration hailed the NTC rebels as the legitimate government of Libya. This is being done despite the undemocratic and disorganized character of the opposition council.
Nonetheless, the resistance to the expansion of TNC rule in the western regions of the country has been quite effective over the last several weeks. Loyalist fighters in Bani Walid and Sirte have repelled several attempts by the western-backed rebels to enter and remain inside both of these cities which are strongholds of the Gaddafi government.
Muammar Gaddafi remains at-large and his spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim says that the leader is still inside the country and is directing the resistance to the rebels and their NATO backers. At the same time NATO is continuing the bombing of civilian areas of Bani Walid in an effort to clear out the population so that the NTC forces can enter and proclaim victory.
Also in Sirte, the home area of Gaddafi, fighting has been fierce as the rebels have attempted on several occasions to enter the coastal city. Loyalist units have struck the rebels with sniper fire and mortars killing many of their members and forcing them to flee in confusion from the area.
In a report written by Hadeel al-Shalchi of the Associated Press, it states that “The fighters (NTC rebels) push into the city in the morning but withdraw at night, forcing them to battle their way in each day. When they decide to enter the town, they charge in half a dozen pickup trucks, only to retreat a short while later.” (AP, September 19)
This same article said of the fighting on September 19 that “On Monday, three of their cars rode right into an ambush by Gaddafi forces on a street none of the outsiders was familiar with. One of their fellow fighters, Wassim Rajab, said he heard that four of them were killed.” In another example of the intensity of the resistance by the loyalist forces, rebel Lutfi al-Shibly from the western mountains said “We (rebels) entered the city, 600 meters from the city center, but we didn’t have enough forces, so we lost the position and had to retreat.”
Mercenaries Reported Captured
Another significant development in the fighting near Bani Walid was the announcement by government spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim that loyalist forces had captured 17 mercenaries from France, Britain and Qatar. All throughout the war in Libya since February 17, there have been confirmed reports of intelligence operatives and special forces from the U.S., Britain, France, Egypt and Qatar coordinating and bolstering the military actions of the NTC rebels.
Both the foreign offices of Britain and France immediately denied the allegations made by Ibrahim. However, the Libyan governmental spokesperson said that the resistance to the assaults on Bani Walid and Sirte has resulted in the capture and killing of hundreds of NATO-backed personnel. Ibrahim told Al-Rai Television based in Syria that “Sirte is the symbol of resistance in Libya.”
As a result of the intensification of the resistance to the NATO-led forces, the NTC rebels have broken down into confusion in the areas under assault. According to the Associated Press, the so-called “trained military of the NTC pulled away from Bani Walid to regroup and reinforce for a new assault after they were heavily beaten in the city Friday (September 16). That has left bands of ragtag, undisciplined fighters on the front line.” (AP, September 19)
This same report continues by observing that the remaining personnel from the NATO-led forces are mainly teenagers who have no direction. The AP says “These include fighters as young as 18 who spend hours smoking hash, shooting at plastic bottles, arguing with one another and sometimes just firing wildly into the streets out of apparent boredom.”
Meanwhile a Turkish C-130 cargo plane was fired upon while purportedly dropping humanitarian aid over Bani Walid on September 17. Turkey, a longtime member of NATO, had initially expressed reservations about the war against Libya, but later joined the fray and has recognized the NTC as the government of Libya.
Anti-African Terror Can No Longer Be Concealed
The war in Libya has been characterized by the persecution of Black Libyans and Africans from other countries on the continent who the NATO-led forces have falsely labeled as “mercenaries.” Thousands of guest workers and expatriates from other African states who have good relations with Libya have been dislocated, harassed, detained, imprisoned, beaten, tortured and even lynched.
It is this blatant racism fostered by the imperialist states that are financing the war which has prevented the African Union (AU) from recognizing the rebel TNC. The AU has taken this position despite the tremendous pressure the continental organization has been under from the U.S. and other NATO countries.
In an article published by the Digital Journal it points out that ”Black Libyans and African migrants have been targeted by Libyan rebel fighters who even have a special unit for this purpose. The ‘Brigade for Purging Slaves, black skin’ have torched homes of residents of Tawergha, whilst black African migrants are rounded up in Tripoli and thrown into prison, suspected of being mercenaries in the employ of Gaddafi.” (Digital Journal, September 19)
This issue has been rarely raised in the corporate media since it seriously contradicts the image promoted by the imperialists that the rebels are fighting a dictatorial regime and are imbued with ideals of “democracy and freedom.” However, even the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have been forced to report on this phenomenon that has permeated the counter-revolution in Libya.
U.S. Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. of Chicago has called for an investigation of the matter by the International Criminal Court (ICC) which has played a largely reactionary role in Africa with the indictment of the president of Sudan along with the most recent issuance of warrants for the arrest of Muammar Gaddafi and other leaders in Libya. Jackson says that he will “raise this issue with my colleagues and condition any financial support for the reconstruction of Libya and its transition to a democratic society.” (Digital Journal, September 19)
The White House and NATO, who have stated repeatedly that their involvement in Libya is designed to protect civilians, have failed to acknowledge the persecution of Africans inside the country. In a September 18 report from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) it cited the plight of a family from Nigeria which had been in hiding since the advent of the occupation of Tripoli.
NTC rebels approached the family’s home and their 16-year-old daughter said that “A group of armed men came to our house. They started knocking, they came in saying ‘murtazaka’ (meaning mercenaries). They locked my mother inside a toilet. Six of them raped me. They took our belongings and money. My father tried to stop them but they hit him and carried him away.” (BBC, September 18)
This incident took place three weeks ago and the young woman said that she has not seen or heard from her father since this time. Similar stories abound throughout Libya where the NTC rebels have gained the upper hand.
Other people have also complained of home invasions, beatings and robberies by the NTC rebels. One man quoted by the BBC who wished to remain anonymous said that “This is the African continent, I am an African, this is my land. Is it because of my color, because I am a black man? We don’t have a voice. Who would you turn to?”
A recent report on RT satellite television documented the “police-state” conditions prevailing in Tripoli since the NTC rebels entered the city. Many civilians interviewed on the streets said they still supported the Gaddafi government but could not speak out for fear of retribution. (RT.com, September 15)
Libyan Occupation Doomed to Failure
Even though the NTC rebels have been given full diplomatic, economic and military support by the imperialist states and their allies, they have still been unable to form a provisional government. Various factions have expressed hostility and suspicion towards each other.
Anti-war and social justice organizations inside the U.S. and other NATO countries must demand that all foreign military forces be withdrawn from Libyan territory and its waterways. In addition, it is essential that the racist persecution of Black Libyans and Africans in general be immediate halted.
The developments in Libya illustrate that there is no such thing as a good imperialist war of aggression and occupation. The aim of imperialism is to subjugate the masses in Libya in order to steal their resources and labor.