Black Africans at risk in Libya
Fears of ethnic cleansing rise as the Libyan Revolution unfolds. As we and the international community continue to give understandable solidarity to the self-proclaimed revolutionaries of Libya, it is also important that we give equal weight to the condemnation of reported atrocities now surfacing against dark-skinned people (Black Africans) by the revolutionaries, or by those acting in the name of the revolution.
These practices should end. There is no place in revolution for ethnic cleansing. Revolution is about positive change. It is about constructing deeper humanity and bonds among people.
I write this letter to bring attention to the under-reported but troubling issue of possible ethnic cleansing in Libya. As the Libyan Revolution unfolds, fears of possible ethnic cleansing are gripping the more than 1.5 million migrant workers from sub-Saharan (Black Africa) now working as low-waged workers in the oil industry, as domestic servants, and as general labourers in Libyan society.
Fears of potential ethnic cleansing are motivated by reports from migrant organizations and some news organizations that dozens of black African Libyans and foreign black workers have been killed thus far, while countless thousands are in hiding because of the hunt now on for Black African mercenaries. Since the protests began, Libyan dictator Gaddafi has relied on Black African mercenaries, recruited from among the armies of his friends on the African continent, especially from Chad and Niger.
The presence of these mercenaries has complicated the problem for other peaceful Black African Libyans and Black African migrants, who are in the country as workers or as refugees. Any black-skinned person is viewed as a suspected mercenary. Black Africans are now, by default, linked to the state-orchestrated violence and mass killings carried out by the regime. This is a most dangerous development.
Ongoing reports of atrocities against innocent people based on their shade of blackness are horrendous, to say the least. What is more horrendous is that these atrocities are being carried out by lighter-skinned against darker-skinned Africans (Libyans), and between lighter-skinned Libyans against their darker-skinned brothers and sisters, their guests from other parts of Africa.
While killings of the innocent cannot and should not be sanctioned, such ethnocide is further complicated when it is being done by one group of Muslims or non-Muslims against another group of Muslims or non-Muslims because of differences in skin colour. Where are the leaders and teachers of the Muslim and other religious communities here and in the world on these issues?
It is the duty of the leaders of the revolution and of the newly formed National Council, now ensconced in the East of Libya, to investigate the reports of ethnic cleansing, to declare such acts as inhuman and as illegal, and to take action against the perpetrators of such horrendous acts.