The Rebels of Benghaziby Andy Davis / 18.03.2011
Let’s hear it for the rebels of Benghazi. Spare a thought for the free people of that besieged city in Eastern Libya. Give it up for the students, school teachers, doctors and nurses. The soldiers, policemen and civil servants who crossed sides, and along with their families took to the streets, climbed on the tanks and shook off the yoke of an autocratic megalomaniac dictator, 40 long years in the making.
Let’s celebrate these heroes of a stalled revolution, as Gaddafi’s, well-equipped, highly trained militias, mercenaries and regime thugs close in on them, encircle their homes and prepare to exact their revenge for having the temerity to demand freedom and democracy from an ageing autocrat with a god complex not to mention his administrtion of vampires, grown fat and rich on Africa’s largest oil reserve. It’s a kak vibe up there in Benghazi. Flanked by successful revolutions in both Egypt and Tunisia, emboldened by their relatively peaceful transitions, the people of Libya took to the streets. Their revolution almost succeeded. But unlike Mubarak in Egypt and Ben Ali in Tunisia, Gaddafi is a proper maniac. He met the resistance with machine guns and mercenaries. There were fears of mustard gas. Soldiers who refused to shoot the protestors were executed.
And while the unsung revolutionaries of Benghazi bunker down and prepare to fight for their new found freedom, untrained and under-resourced, they evoke memories of more famously celebrated revolutionary movements like Umkhonto We Sizwe and the Sandanista’s of Nicaragua. One expects the world to intervene. To weigh in on the side of democracy. The wave of popular dissent sweeping through North Africa should be supported, not stopped in it’s tracks by an autocratic, oil rich warlord.
And yet the wheels of the UN grind slowly, the West wrings its hands, afraid to intervene on behalf of “liberty” in case it’s perceived as further meddling from the white crusaders. America can’t afford (neither in terms of finance or reputation) to get involved in another war, with another Muslim country in the Middle East. As James Clapper, the US Director of National Intelligence, said: “The story will no longer be the educated, the social network-connected, the aspiring youth rising up to say they are done with the corrupt, rotting terms of the social contract between government and the governed in these countries, the story becomes: what is the West doing now?” More meddling in Libya. We’ll talk about all that oil in a minute.
But let’s spare a moment and think about those brave, stupid young boys with the Kalashnikovs and not enough bullets. The ones driven to join a badly organised, under-gunned resistance. Spare a thought for the families caught in the cross fire. The refugees flooding the border posts of Tunisia and Egypt to avoid a collective punishment. The popular resistance, Gaddafi flips between calling Al Qaeda and Western backed mercenaries, armed gangs and drug addicts. While the general feeling on the ground, as reported by the BBC is:
“Why is it being described as a civil war when people are united, and the government and its hired forces are killing us?
“The pro-Gaddafi supporters who occupy Tripoli’s city centre are likely to be secret police, or members of the revolutionary guards and their families.” Adding that “to the best of my knowledge, the price of fresh allegiance from average citizens came at a hefty sum of 17,000 dinars in cash, a new car and a lethal weapon – provided they pass some test proving their loyalty to the Gaddafi regime.”
Fortunately the smear of oil hangs over this conflict. Which is likely to see it resolved sooner, rather than later. Unlike Zimbabwe, Tibet, Myanmar, Ivory Coast and many other stifled revolutions – where the will of the people is left to rot under tyrannical regimes because the real-politik of global capital does not strategically require immediate “regime change”. Lucky for the people of Libya, their oil is important enough to have mobilised the UN and its powerful nations into some direct action. And Gaddafi is crazy and isolated enough to have few friends on the council, in the League of Arab States or the African Union. In fact his most recent sabre rattling tirade, warning Benghazi that he was coming and the his forces would “show no mercy” may have finally forced the issue at the UN security council last night. Regardless of whether he takes Benghazi or not, his future looks grim. But he still has a few rolls of the dice left. A fortune in amassed oil revenues, enough to keep his planes dropping bombs, tanks pushing forward and the militias loyal and well equipped. Enough to spell trouble for the rebels of Benghazi, and other towns like Ajdabiya and Zintan.
But what of the rogue oil companies, sanctioned by the West? “Respectable” global corporate citizens, who play such an important, complicit role in propping up despots like Gaddafi. The oil must flow. It matters not what political configuration. Autocracy or democracy. The people, to hell with them. Oil now, democracy later, if it comes at all.
And what of South Africa’s role in fêting the great dictator of the North, from being a guest of honour at both Mandela and Mbeki’s inaugurations, to his cellphone-jamming cavalcade and luxury tented bedouin camp during the World Summit for Sustainable Development; South Africa has regularly rolled out the red carpet for this insane carpet bagger. We, the SA government on our behalf, I meam, despite our brief moment of Mandela-inspired moral, high road glory, almost always back the wrong team while cowering under the wet blanket of being “non-aligned”. Gaddafi in Libya, Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Gbagbo in Cote D’Ivoire (albeit secretly), China in Tibet, China in Africa. It’s not like our government really believes in the values of democracy and liberty. Well not to the extent that they want to protect those values as foreign policy. Lip service is fine. It was just the vehicle, the horse and carriage that galloped them into power, anyway. Power is the thing now. Message to the world, don’t expect us to support your democratic revolution anytime soon (unless you got something we want). Ain’t lowest common denominator capitalism a bitch. The moolah always wins out over the principle.
So, fine people of the Mahala-verse, can we get with the liberation movements of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt? Can we get behind the emancipation of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Morocco? What about Zimbabwe? Can we line up to give all the pot-bellied dictators that infest the gravy-boat governments of so many African countries the kick into exile they so badly deserve? Will we, one day soon, read about the siege of Harare? Until then, I’m with the rebels of Benghazi.