Is Al-Jazeera TV complicit in the latest vilification of Libya’s Blacks?

Michael Mumisa

gaddafi berlusconi  442627s 300x205 Is Al Jazeera TV complicit in the latest vilification of Libyas Blacks? During his visit to Rome in August 2010 Colonel Muammar Gaddafi spoke at a ceremony in Rome and warned
, “We don’t know what will happen, what will be the reaction of the white and Christian Europeans faced with this influx of starving and ignorant Africans.” We are fortunate in that we live in a society where we can easily dismiss this as a racist statement. That is because we have heard it before from far-right and fascist groups in the UK and Europe.

Although Gaddafi styled himself as a fellow “Brother” to black Africans and was even bestowed the ceremonial title of Africa’s King of Kings by the West Africa Conference of Chiefs, Kings and Sultans, he presided over a society where some of the worst forms of racial prejudice and racist attitudes and practices towards black Africans and others became normalised and part of the mainstream. In 2000 about 5,200 Ghanaians fled Libya after racist violence against blacks that left more than 135 dead and many more seriously injured. George Auther, one of the victims, was quoted as saying, “The problem is, the Libyans don’t like blacks.”

There have since been many reported cases of racist violence against black Africans in Libya. On 16 February 2010 the UN Human Rights Council issued a written statement asking Libya to “end its practices of racial discrimination against black Africans, particularly its racial persecution of two million black African migrant workers.”

Amidst the high emotions of the horrifying violence meted out by Gaddafi’s loyalists against demonstrators, the desire on the part of social media and social network groups to claim yet another dictator’s scalp, and the haste by traditional media to be the first to break a story, the vilification of black Africans in Libya has proliferated unchecked. We can only imagine the impact that this will have on Libya’s own black African tribes and other minorities after the dust has settled. Surely we are not ready for another Darfur.

Since international journalists have been banned by Gaddafi from reporting from Libya it has made accurate reporting almost impossible. Foreign media outlets have had to rely mostly on unverified reports posted on social network websites and on phone calls from Libyans terrified of Gaddafi’s ”savage African mercenaries who are going door-to-door raping our women and attacking our children.” A twitter user based in Saudi Arabia wrote how Gaddafi is “ordering african (sic) mercenaries to break into homes in Benghazi to RAPE (sic) Libyan women in order to detract(sic) men protesters!” In what is clearly a staged video reminiscent of a scene from Four Lions a demonstrator displays what is claimed to be a weapon captured from an African mercenary but is incapable of following simple instructions from the cameraman on how to describe it. Should he describe it as an American, Jewish, Christian, or Algerian gun?

Even Al-Jazeera TV has based most of its news coverage of bands of marauding savage Africans on information posted via tweeter, facebook, and other social networks. That there may be African mercenaries operating in Libya is very possible but there are also credible reports from Serbian military sources as well as other Western agencies that [[Serbian mercenaries are fighting to protect Muammar Gaddafi. Yet nothing has been said about Gaddafi’s Serbian and Russian mercenaries.
Black Africans have always been a ‘visible’ and persecuted minority in Libya. By giving credence to potentially dangerous and unverified reports and rumours posted on social networks without taking into consideration the
racial context of Libyan society Al-Jazeera and other foreign media outlets are complicit in the latest vilification and scapegoating of Libya’s Black minorities and its African migrant workers.

Michael Mumisa is a PhD candidate and Special Livingstone Scholar at Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge. Picture credit: Reuters

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  • Frenchie

    Nothing speaks more to racism, revisionism, and ignorance than how often North Africans forget that they are living in Africa and, therefore, African.

  • CarolBee

    A very good article. I heard about racism in Libya but I did not know that it was that bad and that Black migrant workers and refugees from other African countries in Libya have always been victims of racist attacks since as early as the 1990s! Instead of travelling around Africa preaching African unity and African identity, Gaddafi should have started his preaching in his own country to his people. By cutting them off from the rest of the world he created a Libyan Arab nation very ignorant of its own African identity.

  • CarolBee

    A very good article!

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