Libya’s neighbours’ longer term – By Richard Dowden
So why didn’t NATO planes bomb the armed convoy that headed from Libya into Niger on Tuesday? Two possible answers: One it was part of a withdrawal deal that NATO knew about. Two that they suspected the Gaddafi was in the convoy. The worst possible scenario for NATO is that Gaddafi is killed by NATO bombs. That will make him an eternal hero among those who still believe that the West wants to recolonise Africa.
But why was it heading into Niger? Or was it passing through to reach Burkina Faso? Both countries have accepted that the Transitional National Council is the new government of Libya. But their Presidents both owe Gaddafi. He paid for President Mahamadu Issoufou’s election in Niger earlier this year and for many years Burkina Faso has been the conduit for Gaddafi’s support for people like Charles Taylor and Foday Sankoh, the war criminals of West Africa. It has always been a puzzle why President Blaise Compoare has not been fingered. He also went to Gaddafi’s World Revolutionary Centre – the training camp where Taylor and Sankoh and others imbibed Gaddafi’s pseudo Marxist ideology. Since then he has quietly backed all the worst rebels in the region.
Gaddafi spread billions of dollars around the region and its rulers. He virtually bought large chunks of it and the people who ran it. But it is unlikely that any neighbour would be willing and able to give permanent asylum to the former Libya leader. More important in the long run than where Gaddafi will flee to, is what will happen to the million or so Africans who have been living and working in Libya. Gaddafi recruited his “Arab Legion” from the Tuareg and Moors of Mali, Niger and Chad. Once lords of the desert, these nomadic or trans-Saharan traders were devastated by the droughts of the 1970s and 80s and were easily made into good loyal soldiers for Gaddafi. He used them and other West African immigrants to Libya to oppress the Libyan people. That is the main reason so many black people in Libya have been attacked and killed by the rebels.
Other Africans simply settled in Libya and found jobs and now they are trying to flee. I doubt if they will come back. There is a nasty anti black African xenophobia in Arab North Africa and I suspect if these cheap workers are replaced their jobs will be filled by Algerians and Egyptians.
So the Africans will be heading home, jobless, impoverished and politicised by their experiences. The loss of their remittances will impoverish their families and dent the economies of Niger, Mali Burkina Faso, Chad and the Central African Republic. This zone is already being destabilised by AQIM – Al Qaida in the Islamic Magreb – and the transSaharan drug cartels and smugglers of cigarettes and people. Their homecoming may have unforeseen consequences.
The only thing Gaddafi was consistent about was fear of Islamic fundamentalism. We have seen how the United States and Britain subcontracted the torture of suspect fundamentalists to Gaddafi’s secret police. It would be ironic if the removal of Gaddafi and the adoption of democratic government in Libya, left the region less stable
Spot an African manager in a Chinese company
As I have written before, there is a Royal African Society prize medal for the first person to find Chinese workers in Africa, working under an African boss. Unlike the former imperialist companies which will have Africans working at the highest levels, Chinese organisations do not employ Africans except in the lowest jobs. I suggested to a Chinese diplomat that this may become a problem. His answer was surprising. He said that the real reason may be that a Chinese manager will work for far less than an African at the same level who would be expecting a “Western” salary. Since it is hard to find out how much they do get paid this may be difficult to verify. However an Indian businessman who works in Africa suggests another reason. The Beijing government helps Chinese companies, especially construction companies, to find work anywhere in the world to keep their workers employed. They are terrified of unemployment. So why would they give away important jobs to Africans? Further thoughts on this very welcome.
I am on the board of the Africa Educational Trust, a neat little charity supported by Dfid which works in difficult places like Somalia and Sudan. Earlier this year one of its vehicles carrying exam papers got shot up in the wilds of eastern Somaliland. At first it was reported that they had all been burnt. Then it was discovered the boxes of exam papers were merely riddled with bullets. A debate ensued about where the holes were and whether the papers were still readable.
Now I have received a copy of this email from the organisation’s manager in Puntland:
The SL exam centre staff were burning old examination papers. They left the hole uncovered overnight and an innocent goat jumped into the hole. Unfortunately, below the surface, there was fire and the goat was roasted alive. The owner is here demanding to be paid for her goat and she is indeed crying with her son.
Kindly advise on the supporting documents to pay for the roasted goat. By Somali traditional law, we are the culprits and hence we must pay.
Suggestions welcome on how that item should appear in the Dfid accounts. And – BTW – who got to eat the goat?