I still support the revolutionaries in Libya, though much more hesitantly than I did prior to the reports of their racist persecution of black African minorities. My reason for supporting the revolution is that Gaddafi was a brutal dictator who used Libya’s oil wealth to primarily benefit him, his tribe, and his loyalists, he created a cult of personality around him, and he brutally crushed and tortured his dissenters. I will cheer any time the country’s people overthrow a corrupt dictator who ruled the country with an iron fist for 42 years.
However, in an earlier post I criticized American black nationalists who did not stand with the rebels because, the way they saw it, it was an imperialist war by the U.S. and they supported Gaddafi. With the disturbing stories of the rebels’ racist persecutions — which is neglected by the majority of the American media, as well as NATO and the NTC — black nationalists and Pan-Africanists have gone further to explain their defense of Gaddafi as one out of protecting black Africans. I doubt any of them expected or realized this racist persecution would come at the beginning of the revolution though. Gaddafi has often claimed to be a Pan-Africanist, a leader of Africa, and is a strong supporter of the African Union, but when he first took power he tried to be a Pan-Arab leader, unifying the Arab world and the successor of Nasser in Egypt, but he was generally disliked by the rest of the Arab world, so he switched his allegiance to the African continent and attempted to be the leader of Africa. Gaddafi was simply a narcissist who wanted more power, and when he failed in the Arab world, he reached to the African world.
For those who truly believe Gaddafi cared about Pan-Africanism from the beginning of his rule, think about this: he changed Libya’s Pan-African of red, black, and green flag with a crescent on it to three different variations of common Pan-Arab flags before finally settling on a simple all green flag, which is a symbolic Islamic color and appears in almost all Arab flags. If he was a Pan-African all along, why would he switch the flag colors from Pan-African colors to Pan-Arab colors?
Some “revolutionary Pan-Africanists,” as the site that I linked above claims to be, consider the rebellion one of counter-revolutionaries who are racist against Africans and detested Gaddafi’s vision of a united Africa. Gaddafi was also racist; he suppressed Berber culture and exploited migrant black Africans. Gaddafi supported the African Union (AU), and while the AU is a good idea in theory, its leaders are too plagued by corruption for it to be truly effective in improving Africa. For instance, the AU failed to take any actions against Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe after he refused to step down after being voted out of office. Thus, I do not believe the AU truly represents what is in the best interests of Pan-Africanism or the African people. The AU’s approval and support of Gaddafi has prevented it from recognizing the NTC as the legitimate government of Libya, though some have already. The leaders of Zimbabwe, Algeria, and South Africa have taken a firm stance against the NTC, which will only push the new Libya further into the Arab orbit rather than the African one, which is a mistake by the AU. Gaddafi’s defeat is already obvious, so it is in their best interests to recognize the NTC and begin working with the new transitional government, especially since Libya is an oil rich country that could help the African economies. In addition, support from other African nations may reduce the animosity black Africans face from the Libyan rebels.
While I understand why “revolutionary Pan-Africans” may see the revolution in Libya as a “counter-revolution” rather than a true revolution: 1. Gaddafi was a leading supporter of the African Union. 2. The rebels have persecuted the black Africans and have identified with being Arabs rather than Africans. 3. In recent decades, Gaddafi has used “Pan-African” rhetoric. 4. NATO’s support of the rebels may lead one to believe that the war was a neo-colonialist war for oil. 5. The article I linked to above claims “Gaddafi is not Mubarak and Libya is not Egypt,” and my only question for that is: why not? What’s the significant difference?
But the truth is: Gaddafi was a brutal dictator who was generally disliked by his people. The African Union is, despite its best intentions, is plagued by corruption due to the amount of corrupt leaders that participate in it. Gaddafi’s claims to be Pan-African and unite the African world only came after he attempted to be Pan-Arab and unite the Arab world, but the Arab world rejected him because they saw him as a narcissist only looking to grab more power. The rebels are primarily Arabs and Berbers, both who primarily disliked Gaddafi for their own reasons (Berbers especially, since Gaddafi disliked them), and they make up the majority of the Libyan population. The instances of the rebels’ racism and violence toward black Africans is completely inexcusable and needs to be addressed by NATO and the NTC immediately. Nonetheless, this is a true revolution that is overthrowing a brutal dictator, which I support. They face many challenges ahead; any time you topple one government, the attempt to build a new one is never easy. There will be struggles for power, there will be rebellions, there will be unacceptable instances of violence, and it will take a while before they achieve stability, but their long-term future is brighter without Gaddafi than it is with him.
Remember, it was not easy for the U.S. to build a new government when it first declared its independence; there were many challenges they faced, struggles for power, various rebellions, and they entirely scrapped their first government (the Articles of Confederation) before adopting the Constitution. Political problems plagued the U.S. government’s stability for many years before it managed to achieve a semblance of a true democratic government (which, even then, was not true democracy since it deprived so many people of the vote). Libya’s racism is inexcusable and needs to be ended immediately, and I believe NATO and the NTC need to take a firm stance on the issue, but I still believe this is a revolution — and not a counter-revolution — that will benefit the Libyan people in the long term.