ALL AH WE IS ONE: Libya and the OECS
The winds of political change that have swept North Africa and the Middle East have made landfall in Libya in the form of civil war, rather than as mass public demonstrations witnessed elsewhere.
Whilst the explanation for this may lie in Gaddafi’s iron-fisted response when compared to the “soft-gloved” approach of others, the role of the Western forces historically hostile to Gaddafi in sustaining the military confrontation cannot be discounted.
Thus, whilst it might have pained the West to see the fall of their ally Mubarak, their eagerness in pushing for the fall of their once bitter foe Gaddafi has been publicly displayed.
Thus, the Western media has been unabashed in its call for “no-fly zones” and other forms of support for the anti-Gaddafi military forces.
Whatever the feelings of Western powers towards Gaddafi, a number of the left-of-centre Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) countries and political parties have adopted their own independent lines of engagement with Libya.
Such an approach was seen as necessary in the pursuit of a non-traditional foreign policy that was rationalised in the context of small countries’ ability to benefit from the assistance from as wide a range of friendly governments as possible.
In this scenario, Libya has been a willing and extremely generous international friend.
Thus, St Lucia’s George Odlum, Antigua’s Tim Hector, St Vincent’s Ralph Gonsalves, and later Dominica’s Roosevelt Skerrit, have had close ties with Gaddafi and, in the case of St Vincent and Dominica, some of the major development projects in recent times have benefited from Libyan funding.
It is therefore not surprising that the opposition forces in these countries have sought to tar their governments with a Gaddafi brush.
Thus in St Vincent Arnhim Eustace accused Gonsalves of receiving Libyan blood money, while in Dominica the opposition’s declaration of support for democracy in North Africa was deliberately pitched to link Skerrit’s association with Gaddafi to the perceived democratic deficiencies in Dominica.
Indeed, the recent upheavals in the St Vincent parliament cannot be separated from the developments in Libya, since Eustace might be anticipating a weakness in Gonsalves arising out of Gaddafi’s troubles.
On show, however, is the opportunistic use of foreign policy as an extension of the petty political divisions that characterise the dichotomised politics in the OECS, as witnessed in the China-Taiwan tussle in some of these countries.
Both sides of the political spectrum have been guilty of this type of political posturing.
The conservative regimes have used “anti-communism” as an easy way of winning assistance from the Western powers whilst the radical groups have turned to states like Libya as ready sources of aid.
This opportunistic use of foreign policy, however, is an indication of an underdeveloped sovereign consciousness.
We can build consensus on who we are, present a united face to the world or continue as international harlots.