If there is one place in the world best not to have a black face it has to be
Libya. This is a country, months after the fall and brutal murder of Colonel Gaddafi, where political power still comes from the barrel of a gun, and the guns in question belong to the numerous militia units. Hundreds of Sub-Saharan Africans have been rounded up and held for months on no authority at all. Why? Simply because they are black and all black people are suspect.
Formerly people from
Chad, Niger and Mali, countries to the south of Libya, were encouraged to come as a source of cheap labour. Thousands arrived and of these thousands a few hundred were hired by Gaddafi as mercenaries. They were among the last defenders of the regime.
Because of this and because - as we all know - it’s impossible to tell one black face from another, all those who could not escape the mayhem of the brave new Libya were automatically assumed to be guilty. They are being held, so the story goes, as ‘illegal immigrants’ awaiting deportation.
Deportation, alas, is proving to be a particularly lengthy process. Some people have been kept for months in particularly dire conditions. Martin Fletcher, an associate editor of the Times, journeying through the country, found one such holding centre, a former police training camp, in the
Sahara Desert near the town of Gharyan.
There, in scorching heat, some 1250 black Africans are living in metal huts with no air conditioning. Fletcher says that they have no contact at all with the outside world. I assume this means that not even representatives of their own governments are allowed to see them. Neglect is one thing, but there is more than simple neglect here. Many of the men, held in makeshift camps across
Libya, have also been tortured, according to one western human rights official.
The ‘defence of the revolution’, incidentally, embraced the destruction of Mushashya. This once prosperous community has been turned into a ghost town, inhabited only by scavenging cats and dogs. Fletcher discovered that all of its 8000 inhabitants, men, women and children, had been driven out, denounced as “Gaddafi’s dogs.” He neglects to say where these ‘dogs’ are now. I’m guessing he simply does not know. Does anyone, I wonder?
My attention was drawn recently to something G. K. Chesterton wrote. It goes like this;
You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution.
It’s wonderfully ambiguous.
France, after all, had a revolution without a democracy. But the attempts thereafter to give substance to the ideals of the revolution saw a descent into the worst forms of bloodshed and terror. Chesterton’s words push at deeper realities beyond mere politics. The real revolution has to be in attitudes and attitudes in Libya are clearly no different now than they were in the past. Brutality walked out of one door and in through the other. Brutality is the true king of kings in Libya. Here it will continue to reign, no matter the outcome of next month’s planned elections. The black detainees could tell you as much