Libya, Africa, and AFRICOM: An Ongoing Disaster

The scale of the ongoing tragedy visited on Libya by NATO and its allies is becoming clearer with each passing day. Estimates of those killed so far vary, but 50,000 seems like a low estimate. Indeed the British Ministry of Defense was boasting that the onslaught had killed 35,000 as early as last May. But this number is constantly growing. The destruction of the state’s forces by the British, French, and American blitzkrieg has left the country in total chaos. Having had nothing to unite them other than a temporary willingness to act as NATO’s foot soldiers, the former “rebels” are now turning on each other.


Earlier this year, in-fighting resulted in 147 killed in Southern Libya in a single week and in recent weeks government buildings, including the Prime Ministerial compound, have come under fire by “rebels” demanding cash payment for their services—$1.4 billion has been paid out already, demonstrating again that it was the forces of NATO colonialism, not Gaddafi, who were reliant on “mercenaries.” Payments were suspended last month due to widespread nepotism.


Corruption is becoming endemic. Another $2.5 billion in oil revenues that were supposed to have been transferred to the National Treasury remain unaccounted for. Libyan resources are now being jointly plundered by oil multinationals and a handful of chosen families from among the country’s new elites—a classic neo-colonial stick-up. The use of these resources for giant infrastructure projects, such as the Great Manmade River, and the massive raising of living standards over the past four decades (Libyan life expectancy rose from 51 to 77 since Gaddafi came to power in 1969) sadly look to have already become a thing of the past.


But woe betide anyone who mentions that now. It was decided long ago that no supporters of Gaddafi would be allowed to stand in the upcoming elections. Recent changes have gone even further. Law 37, passed by the new NATO-imposed government recently, has created a new crime of “glorifying” the former government or its leader, subject to a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Would this include a passing comment that things were better under Gaddafi? The law is cleverly vague enough to be open to interpretation.


Law 38 is more indicative of the contempt for the rule of law by the new government—a government, remember, which has yet to receive any semblance of a popular mandate and whose only power base remains the colonial armed forces. This law guarantees immunity from prosecution for anyone who committed crimes aimed at “promoting or protecting the revolution.” Those responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Tawergha—such as Misrata’s self-proclaimed “brigade for the purging of black skins”—can continue to hunt down that cities’ refugees in the full knowledge that they have the new law on their side. Those responsible for the massacres in Sirte and elsewhere have nothing to fear. Those involved in the torture of detainees can continue without repercussions  as long as it is aimed at “protecting the revolution,” i.e., maintaining a NATO-TNC dictatorship.


Nor has the disaster remained a national one. Libya’s destabilization has already spread to Mali, prompting a coup and huge numbers of refugees—especially among Libya’s large black migrant population. The latter has fled to neighboring countries. Many Libyan fighters, their work done in Libya, have now been shipped by their imperial masters to Syria to spread sectarian violence there too.


Most worrying for the African continent, however, is the forward march of AFRICOM—the U.S. military’s African command—in the wake of the aggression against Libya. It is no coincidence that barely a month after the fall of Tripoli and the murder of Gaddafi (October 2011),  the U.S. announced it was sending troops to the Central African Republic, Uganda, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In addition, AFRI- COM has recently announced an unprecedented 14 major joint military exercises in African countries for 2012. The military re-conquest of Africa is rolling steadily on.


None of this would have been possible while Gaddafi was still in power. As founder of the African Union, its biggest donor, and its one-time elected chair, he wielded serious influence on the continent. He offered cash and investments to African governments who rejected U.S. requests for bases. Libya under his leadership had an estimated $150 billion of investments in Africa and the Libyan proposal—backed with £30 billion cash—for an African Union Development Bank would have reduced African financial dependence on the West.


Now that he is gone, AFRICOM is stepping up its work. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan showed the West that wars in which their own citizens get killed are not popular. AFRICOM is designed to ensure that in the coming colonial wars against Africa, it will be Africans who do the fighting and dying, not Westerners. The forces of the African Union are to become integrated into AFRICOM under a U.S.-led chain of command. And if you want a vision of Africa under AFRICOM tutelage, look no further than Libya, NATO’s model of an African state, condemned to decades of violence and trauma and utterly incapable of either providing for its people or contributing to regional or continental independence. The new military colonialism in Africa must not be allowed to advance another inch.



Dan Glazebrook writes for the Morning Star newspaper and is one of the coordinators for the British branch of the International Union of Parliamentarians for Palestine. Ths article was originally published on Counterpunch.