As I stated at the onset, I find absolutely no justification for the attack on Libya. However, my fervent objection to the military intervention in Libya should in no way be interpreted as an endorsement for the self anointed “Brother Leader” and self proclaimed “King of Kings of Africa ” or his regime. In the first instance, I am not overly impressed with Qaddafi’s credentials as a Pan Africanist. Though he has certainly liberally spread Libya’s oil wealth throughout the continent, his behavior has been inconsistent even erratic in his selection of causes. My recollection is that Qaddafi supported Idi Amin, the delusional dictator of Uganda, one of the most murderous rulers in Africa since independence. Interestingly enough, some of my Black Nationalist comrades also viewed Amin as a hero because he summarily kicked East Indian business interests out of the country – apparently causing them to turn a blind eye to Amin’s atrocities. Brother Leader also backed Charles Taylor whose reign as President wreaked havoc on Liberia and the region, especially Sierra Leone. Most recently, the Pan Africanist “King of Kings” also played a role in creating and supporting the Janjawid, the Arab militias that terrorized the people of Darfur in the Sudan for years. Our Pan African heroes should be made of much more credible stuff. I can’t imagine Fidel Castro aligning Cuba with such despicable leaders and questionable causes!
As the proposals for mediation, which the African Union has recommended, there are real problems in Libya as reflected in the demands for reforms by a significant segment of the population. Therefore, even if Qaddafi were the “baddest” revolutionary Pan Africanist of all time, the question would remain, how are principles of social justice and human rights incorporated into the system of governance, and how does the regime respond to demands for change/reform? Another way of looking at the question is to think in terms of what kind of nations/societies we are striving to create as an outcome of revolutions; what kind of society do you want to live in and what kind of freedoms, liberties, social, economic and human rights would you like to enjoy, and shouldn’t they be available to all human beings as delineated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
It is not entirely clear why protests erupted in Libya, a very complex nation where tribal and regional tensions and conflicts have been a reality for generations. To his credit, Qaddafi came to power as a secular reformer seeking to modernize the economic and social systems and build a more cohesive society. He has been the glue holding a fractious nation together. Unlike Egypt and other North African and Arab nations, where poverty and high unemployment among aspiring professionals was a contributing factor to the upheavals, Libya has the highest standard of living on the continent. This is because early on Qaddafi used oil revenues to provide education, health care and jobs to the population.
A relatively high standard of living apparently was not enough to satisfy the aspirations of a significant segment of the population. Emboldened by scenes of revolt in other nations, dissidents mobilized large demonstrations which started in Benghazi and eventually spread to Tripoli. Though regional and tribal antipathies may well have been a source of some protests, the overriding demands were for political reforms to open the system to greater engagement without repression and an end to corruption. These demonstrations were not puny; they were massive, and it appeared that the Qaddafi regime might be toppled by peaceful means until he ordered a crackdown by the police and the military. His son Seif Al-Islam threatened a bloodbath if the protesters did not halt their actions. Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, the opposition made the fateful decision to abandon peaceful means in favor of armed resistance. This is an important point because the move to armed insurrection transformed the dispute into a civil war. This does not nullify the rebel’s cause, but it does give Qaddafi greater license to use force to suppress their rebellion.
Despite the defections of some high level officials and some military personnel, it is clear that Qaddafi and his sons still command a degree of loyalty and support among some of the tribes, the bureaucracy, some units in the military and the population. In fact there was at least one report where “civilians” in a town took up arms to repel the rebels. So, it is conceivable that Qaddafi may be able to survive the military assault by the coalition and the armed opposition of the rebels. If Qaddafi is able to cling to power, how he responds to the demand for reform remains the crucial issue to monitor for progressives eager to support his regime.
(Part Three on Monday)
Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. His articles and essays also appear on the IBW website www.ibw21.org and www.northstarnews.com. To send a message, arrange media interviews or speaking engagements, Dr. Daniels can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.