The myth of ‘African mercenaries’

The Myth of African Mercenaries

Julien Teil

Exposing the lies about the presence of ‘African mercenaries’ in Libya Amnesty International

The presence of ‘African mercenaries’ in Libya was a lie used by NATO and their mouthpieces in the mainstream media to de-legitimise and demonise the Libyan government and cover up the mass racist lynchings, torture and imprisonment of black Libyans and migrant workers by the ‘rebels’. Surely as a self-proclaimed human rights organisation Amnesty International should have exposed these heinous ‘rebel’ crimes to the world, condemned the mainstream media’s complicity and campaigned on behalf of the black communities in Libya facing this racist onslaught.

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20th March 2011

The War in Libya: Race, ‘Humantarianism and the Media – Maximilian Forte

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One of the interesting and very neglected features of the current “humanitarian intervention” in Libya is the extent to which it implicitly buys into racialized nationalist myths produced on the ground in Libya, adopting them without question and thus without concern for context, with little in the way of a critical examination of the media manipulation and calculated spread of racial fear by the leadership of “the rebels.” It is not a simple matter of the Libyan opposition showing signs of xenophobia — if that were true, it would resent the involvement of North Americans and Europeans. Instead, this is a racially selective xenophobia, with a preferential option for Western (i.e., U.S. and European) intervention, and against the presence of “Africans” (code for Sub-Saharan, black Africans). It reminds me of an old racial saying I learned in the Caribbean, truncated here: “If you’re white, you’re alright . . . and if you’re black, go back.” The point here is to explore and critique an issue that thus far exists only on the margins of media coverage and human rights discourse around Libya, that being the extent to which racism, and specifically the demonization of Sub-Saharan Africans, provides the unifying logic that bridged local revolt with imperial intervention.

In a situation where we have been told so little, and so many blind spots have been calculatingly put in place, what is apparent?

First, it was right from the intended start of the national protests (that is, Feb. 17 — although protests in fact began two days earlier) that several opposition spokesmen, anonymous “Libyan” Twitter accounts, and other persons who would become associated with the insurgents’ “Transitional National Council” (TNC) produced the paradox of racial/racist hysteria and humanitarian intervention. This was a double-barreled rhetoric: one barrel firing off accusations about foreign/black/African mercenaries engaged in “massacres” against Libyans, and the other barrel firing off demands for immediate Western intervention in the form of a no-fly zone — the latter to help protect against the former. The two went together — that is not an adventurous conclusion, as the two came together.

Read More

http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2011/forte200411.html

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By Patrick Cockburn

Friday 24 June 2011

Rebels have repeatedly charged that mercenary troops from Central and West Africa have been used against them. The Amnesty investigation found there was no evidence for this. “Those shown to journalists as foreign mercenaries were later quietly released,” says Ms Rovera. “Most were sub-Saharan migrants working in Libya without documents.”

Others were not so lucky and were lynched or executed. Ms Rovera found two bodies of migrants in the Benghazi morgue and others were dumped on the outskirts of the city. She says: “The politicians kept talking about mercenaries, which inflamed public opinion and the myth has continued because they were released without publicity.”

Nato intervention started on 19 March with air attacks to protect people in Benghazi from massacre by advancing pro-Gaddafi troops. There is no doubt that civilians did expect to be killed after threats of vengeance from Gaddafi. During the first days of the uprising in eastern Libya, security forces shot and killed demonstrators and people attending their funerals, but there is no proof of mass killing of civilians on the scale of Syria or Yemen.

Most of the fighting during the first days of the uprising was in Benghazi, where 100 to 110 people were killed, and the city of Baida to the east, where 59 to 64 were killed, says Amnesty. Most of these were probably protesters, though some may have obtained weapons.

Amateur videos show some captured Gaddafi supporters being shot dead and eight badly charred bodies were found in the remains of the military headquarters in Benghazi, which may be those of local boys who disappeared at that time.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/amnesty-questions-claim-that-gaddafi-ordered-rape-as-weapon-of-war-2302037.html

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Amnesty International crisis researcher, Donatella Rovera spent the period from 27 February to 29th May in Misrata, Benghasi, Ajabiya and Ras Lanouf. Yesterday she was interviewed by Austria’s ‘The Standard’ and had this to say on the subject:

“We examined this issue in depth and found no evidence. The rebels spread these rumours everywhere, which had terrible consequences for African guest workers: there was a systematic hunt for migrants, some were lynched and many arrested. Since then, even the rebels have admitted there were no mercenaries, almost all have been released and have returned to their countries of origin, as the investigations into them revealed nothing.”
Read more: http://digitaljournal.com/blog/12863#ixzz1eP7rZOwx

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By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and ROD NORDLAND

Published: August 23, 2011

And there is the mantra, with racist overtones, that the Qaddafi government is using African mercenaries, which rebels repeat as fact over and over. There have been no confirmed cases of that; supposedly there are many African prisoners of war being held in Benghazi, but conveniently journalists are not allowed to see them. There are, however, African guest workers, poorly paid migrant labor, many of whom, unarmed, have been labeled mercenaries.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/24/world/africa/24fog.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all

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Journalists visit prisoners held by rebels in Libya

March 23, 2011

By Luis Sinco, Los Angeles Times

The prisoners looked on as we crowded into the yard, some with fear clearly written on their faces. The whole thing started with one official telling the prisoners to say out loud where they were captured. One by one, the men said Bin Jawwad, Ras Lanuf, Port Brega, Ajdabiya or Benghazi — all scenes of heavy fighting in recent weeks

A middle-aged African waited for a moment before loudly proclaiming his innocence to no one in particular. “I am a worker, not a fighter. They took me from my house and [raped] my wife,” he said, gesturing with his hands. Before he could say much more, a pair of guards told him to shut up and hustled him through the steel doors of a cell block, which quickly slammed behind them.

Several reporters protested and the man was eventually brought back out. He spoke in broken, heavily accented English and it was hard to hear and understand him amid the scrum of scribes pushing closer.

He said his name was Alfusainey Kambi, and again professed innocence before being confronted by an opposition official, who produced two Gambian passports. One was old and tattered and the other new. And for some reason, the official said the documents were proof positive that Kambi was a Kadafi operative.

I moved on to other prisoners who had also been trotted out for photographs and questions. The whole scene had an unsettling feel, as if these men had already been tried and convicted — and all that was left were their executions.

Times reporter David Zucchino, our interpreter and I skipped the bus ride back and instead got a lift from a passing motorist. In the car, our interpreter, a Libyan national, asked Zucchino: “So what do you think? Should we just go ahead and kill them?”

http://framework.latimes.com/2011/03/23/journalists-visit-prisoners-held-by-rebels-in-libya/

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Channel 4 News

31st August 2011

Migrants narrowly escape racist rebels

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