Libya: African migrants caught between both sides

AlJazeera on April 9 reports from a refugee camp in Tunisia, where African migrants who have fled Libya tell both of being threatened and expelled from the country by rebel forces—and being press-ganged by Qaddafi’s military and forced to fight under pain of deportation. The interviewed migrants are from Nigeria, Niger, Mali and Ghana. One worker from Ghana said he was abducted by the Libyan military when soldiers stormed his house in Sirte: “They asked us why we were trying to leave the country and that we must stay to fight for when the Americans come.” Some of the interviewed migrants had deserted Qaddafi’s forces, while others were forced to flee by rebels under accusation of being Qaddafi collaborators.

Qaddafi forces shelled rebel defenses near Ajdabiya April 9, challenging the insurgents’ hold on the city. The attacks forced rebels to retreat, slowing their westward advance toward the oil port of Brega, which has changed hands repeatedly since the uprising began. Meanwhile, a Red Cross aid ship docked in Misrata, a rebel-held town that has been besieged by Qaddafi forces for weeks. (AlJazeera, VOA, April 9).

Ali Aujali, who resigned in February as Libya’s ambassador to the US, appealed in a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for the rebels to be granted immediate access to Moammar Qaddafi’s frozen assets. (Reuters, April 9)

Qaddafi on April 6 wrote his own letter to President Obama saying he was “hurt” by the military action against his regime. Seemingly affecting his pose as the “king of Africa,” he condescendingly told Obama, “you will always remain our son whatever happened. We still pray that you continue to be president of the USA.” He goes on to write affectionately if not coherently: “Our dear son, Excellency, Baraka Hussein Abu oumama [sic], your intervention is [sic] the name of the USA is a must, so that NATO would withdraw finally from the Libyan affair.”

He also replayed the recent tactic of trying to appeal to Washington on GWOT grounds: “To serving world peace [sic]…friendship between our peoples…and for the sake of economic and security cooperation against terror, you are in a position to keep NATO off the Libyan affair[s] for good.” He also played his more customary anti-imperialist card: “Libya should be left to Libyans within the African Union frame.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quickly rejected the appeal, retorting: “His forces need to withdraw from the cities that they have forcibly taken at great violence and human cost. There needs to be a decision made about his departure from power and…his departure from Libya.” She added: “I think that Mr. Qaddafi knows what he must do. There needs to be a ceasefire. His forces need to withdraw from the cities that they have forcibly taken at great violence and human cost.” (Winnipeg Free Press, April 9; PRESS TV, April 7; VOA, April 6)

If Clinton openly states that the aim is Qaddafi’s “departure from power,” what incentive is there for Qaddafi to accept a ceasefire—or do anything other than fight to the bitter end?

Just asking.

See our last posts on the Libya and the new regional revolutions.

Please leave a tip or answer the Exit Poll.