Libya, Gaddafi, oil: another view

Hands off Africa demonstration, Accra. Photo by Christiane Badgley

On the African continent, a more nuanced appreciation of Gaddafi and the Libyan rebels.

While fighting continues across Libya, grisly details of the NATO-backed assault on Tripoli are beginning to emerge. At the same time the rush for Libya’s oil is on and it appears that the countries who provided early support for the rebels will have a competitive edge for new oil contracts (read The rush to grab the trophy is on! in Arab News for more details on likely winners and losers in the post-Gaddafi era).

Despite all the indications that NATO has played a critical role in the “uprising,” the disdain for Gaddafi in the West has led to incomplete and one-sided coverage of the Libyan situation.

If you read reporting on Libya from across Africa, however, you’ll discover a slightly different appreciation of the current situation.

An article in The Citizen (Tanzania) describes Libya’s “forced collapse,” asking, “What does it portend for Africa?”

The author, Amengeo Amengeo writes, “When this conflict was forced on the Libyan people, the African Union insisted that there must not be any military intervention, but was soon sidelined and completely ignored by the coup-makers and a compliant Western press. While a sovereign nation, a member of the AU was being attacked, African efforts to find a mediated solution were completely ignored and ridiculed.

“The leaders of Africa who should have denounced with one voice the aggression against an African country cravenly acquiesced with the Nato war, making lame token protests.

“What happens in Libya is a harbinger of what the West has in store for Africa. True independence and African unity will not be tolerated. Africa is too rich in resources that the world needs to be allowed to control its own destiny.”

Dimas Nkunda, a columnist from Uganda’s Observer, penned a similar piece a few days earlier, “Why Gaddafi mattered for Africa.”

Nkunda writes: “Even when you hate Gaddafi with all the trappings of his ego, there was simply no African person who had the same courage as Gaddafi.

“That is why for all purposes and intent, the West was more than happy to see him out and buried. Libya has been one of the richest countries on the continent with huge oil reserves. Through Gaddafi there was nothing that was going to stop Africa from standing shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world.”

Many of the people I’ve spoken with in Ghana are deeply troubled by NATO actions in Libya. Rather than debating the relative merits of Gaddafi and the rebels, they’re looking at what the NATO actions in Libya mean for the rest of the continent.  After watching the French take out Gbagbo a few months ago and NATO forces bringing about the demise of Gaddafi today, it’s hardly surprising that many wonder who may be next.

With the scramble on for Africa’s resources, how much room for maneuver do African governments really have?

One thing is certain: when Western actions are selective and seemingly motivated by resources and self-interest, talk of human rights and support for democracy building fall on deaf ears.


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