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Opinions of Sunday, 2 October 2011

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

On Libya: Seventy Victims or Mercenaries?

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

North African Arabs, including ousted Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddhafy, are generally not known to be very charitable towards indigenous Africans who happen to find their way into their countries. In the case of Libya, in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring, we even learned that bona fide Black-African citizens from that country, largely the South, were being subjected to ill-treatment, primarily because they did not appear to fit into the stereotypical description of what a true Libyan national is supposed to look like.

We also highlight the fact that the allegedly widespread maltreatment of Black-African immigrants by some members and operatives of the newly-installed Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) may not necessarily be a peculiarity of the so-called Benghazi-dominated government. Not very long ago, the ousted Libyan dictator was widely reported to have informed the Italian and other southern-European governments of his willingness to drastically stanch the influx of Black-African immigrants who used his country as an entry point for their dangerous journeys across the Saharan Desert and the Mediterranean for a handsome fee. Mr. Gaddhafy was further reported to have implicitly indicated that if the Europeans wanted to preserve their enviable civilization, then, of course, they had no other recourse than to ensure that Black-Africans, whom the deposed Libyan leader cavalierly branded as “barbarians,” were effectively barricaded.
We highlight the foregoing as a way of emphasizing the grim fact that while insufferably repugnant, North-African racism against Black-Africans is a veritable and insidious canker which the faux-populist “pan-Africanist” Mr. Gaddhafy did a piddling little to meliorate.
Having meticulously exposed the foregoing, it becomes equally imperative to underscore the fact that matters have not been helped by the fact that Black-African regimes that received military and economic assistance from the former Libyan strongman, in a bid to entrenching themselves, for the most part, slavishly pursued a pro-Gaddhafy agenda. In the case of Ghana, even a group of chiefs, dubiously claiming to be representing that country’s National House of Chiefs, and by extension the citizenry at large, had shamelessly attempted to fly into Tripoli in order to confer the imperialist title of “King of Kings” on the Sirte native, but for the timely and foresighted intervention of Prof. John Nabila, a former faculty member of Ghana’s flagship academy, the University of Ghana, and the substantive president of the Ghana National House of Chiefs. In all likelihood, the unabashedly pro-Gaddhafy government of the so-called National Democratic Congress (NDC) was smack-dab behind such lurid move.
Likewise, as noted elsewhere before, in the wake of the Benghazi-centered revolt against the Gaddhafy regime and the consequent efflux of Ghanaian residents of that North-African country, the National Democratic Congress government issued a strongly-worded statement in which President John Evans Atta-Mills and his cohorts vowed to relentlessly prosecute any returnees suspected of having fought on the side of the now-ruling Libyan Transitional Council. Ordinarily, one would have expected the government of a country that vocally prides itself in its Non-Aligned foreign policy to have cautioned its Libya-resident citizens against taking sides in the purely internal affairs of that North-African country.
Needless to say, no such balanced diplomatic statement was issued. Instead, we witnessed such operatives of the National Democratic Congress as former President Jerry John Rawlings frantically working around the proverbial clock to ensure that Mr. Gaddhafy finessed those clamoring for the establishment of a constitutional democracy in Libya.
And so, really, while the decidedly grievous allegation of the Libyan National Transitional Council vis-à-vis the summary arrest and detention of some seventy Ghanaian citizens suspected to have fought in the pay of Mr. Gaddhafy cannot be readily accepted as such, the patently unwise foreign policy agenda pursued by the Mills-Mahama administration, can only be aptly envisaged to have further aggravated the vulnerability of the seventy Ghanaians. We even learn that the figure could be considerably higher.
Still, whatever the outcome of investigations aimed at ascertaining the veracity of the purported relationship between the captive Group of Seventy and the proverbial Arab Spring, we hope that decency, respect, fairness and justice would become the watchwords of the new Libyan authorities.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Ghanaian Politics Today” (Lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net.
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