By Sam K. Zinnah
The proposed idea of the unification of Africa into one state is one brilliant idea amongst many but the source of the idea remained widely questionable. For centuries, the world’s second largest and most populous continent after Asia, Africa, has been and continued to be rubbed of its resources.
The successful division of the African continent by the West has largely continued to maintain its proposed “disunity”. Africa is divided into (more than) seven (former) colonies; France, Britain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, and the United States.
The main reason behind the idea of division is believed to be for economic gains by those (former) colonies. Although the continent is believed to be overtly free today, there are still covert colonial activities everywhere on the continent. Governments are covertly controlled or influenced by their former colonies.
The division of the continent also divides the mind of the continent and it inhabitants. Each of those former colonies does or deals with issues differently. i.e., during my stay in former British colony Ghana as a refugee, I traveled through former French colony La Cote d’IVoire (Ivory Coast) by means of road/ground.
In Cote d’Ivoire, travelers (from different African Countries) were constantly harassed by Ivorian security forces. More often than not, the Ivorian security forces would stop (commercial) commuter vehicles and take away every passenger’s travel documents.
Those collected documents were then used to verify who’s from where. This process was usually referred to as classification. Money was squeezed out of travelers based on their nationality.
Some from former British colonies like Ghana or Nigeria were charged higher than someone from another colony. Reasons for the different charges were best known to the Ivorian security forces. I am of the strongest belief that those charges were connected to some colonial reasons. On the other hand, someone from the West coast of Africa caught in the Central, North, or East of the continent is treated harsher.
The above attitudes exhibited by the Ivorian security forces in the sub-region shows the level of disunity on the continent of Africa.
In 2006 when I served as the secretary of the Liberian Students Association in the U.S., a case involving several Liberian Students in Egypt and Morocco surfaced on my desk. In Morocco, a Liberian student was sentenced to ten years in prison for carrying a document that was expired for few weeks.
Boakai Karnley, a representative of the Liberian group I spoke to in Morocco told me that the gentleman visited the immigration offices on several occasion to renew his documents but was told to check back after the holidays. According to Boakai, it was during that time that the document expired. Karnley described their stay in Morocco as frustrating.
“We are always hunted for, chased even into our bed rooms. Our rents are increased on the monthly basis simply because we are either black, refugees or from another country”, Boakai said.
How can we unite when the continent Africa is so badly divided into so many pieces? Such unity (if ever possible) will only show on paper (like the African Union that barks than it bites) but completely different in reality.
One African leader, ‘Libya’s col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi’ has for a long time advocated for the creation of a United States of Africa with its Government including a foreign minister, defense minister and minister of trade but Gaddafi’s activities in Africa and around the world do not show any positive connection to his political rhetoric.
This author’s attention was recently caught again when Gaddafi threatened to turn his back on Africa if the continent’s leaders again reject his (Gaddafi’s) proposals for closer unity. He said he would instead look towards Europe and the Arab world.
I am not sure if Gaddafi, during his political rhetoric speech just ahead of the opening of a summit of African leaders in Ethiopia, was considering his past failed relationship with the same Europe and the Arab world.
According to BBC’s Rena Jawad in Tripoli, the Libyan leader said he’s prepared to move his African investments, which he said, amounted to more than $5 billion (2.5 bn euro) to Arabs and Mediterranean states.
Muammar Gaddafi is the Arab world’s longest-serving leader. The colonel came to power in a bloodless coup in 1969 against the ailing King Idris I. Gaddafi was inspired by the late Egyptian leader Gamal Abdul Nasser, who dominated the Arab politics in the 1950s and 1960s.
Gaddafi’s attempts to ride on Egypt Nasser’s dream of unifying other Arab States met with less success. Immediately after taking over the Country Libya, Gaddafi expelled more than 24,000 Italian, ousted U.S. and British military forces, converted the Catholic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the Mosque of Gamal Abdul Nasser, nationalized foreign banks and squeezed higher royalties out of more than 35 oil companies operating in Libya.
With all the oil money flowing into his pocket, Gaddafi paid up to $55 million annual subsidy to Egypt. Gaddafi has also been funding Jordan for the fight against Israel. After General Hafez Assad seized power in Syria, Gaddafi audaciously flew to Damascus, Syria, and reportedly left a $10 million dollars check as his personal support for the general.
With a $10 million dollars check in the general’s pocket after a few hours visit, he had the unsetting experience of learning that a plane with Gaddafi aboard would buzz his capital and economy in few minutes.
During Morocco’s abortive coup in 1971, Gaddafi offered King Hassan’s enemies military aid before he even knew what was happening or who the rebels were.
In the 1990s, he turned to Africa and proposed what he referred to as the United States of Africa but his covert activities/deeds in the region are quite different from his proposals.
Looking as far back as the 1970s, Gaddafi introduced the Jamahiriya -a system of Governance based around people’s committees and free of partisan politics in Libya.
The formation of Jamahiriya sends a strong message to political pundits in Gaddafi’s range of politics in Libya. By the late 1980s, he had given up his official titles to become leader of the revolution while retaining absolute power.
In the mid-1980s, Gaddafi was widely regarded in the west as the principal financier of international terrorism. Reportedly, Gaddafi was a major supporter of the black September movement which perpetrated the Munich Massacre at the 1972 summer Olympics in Germany, and was accused by the United States of being responsible for the direct control of the 1986 Berlin bombing that killed three people and wounded more than 200.
Gaddafi is also said to have paid “Carlos the Jackal” to kidnap and then release a number of Saudi Arabian and Iranian oil ministers.
Gaddafi in one of his usual covert activities in 1984 shot British police Yvonne Fletcher who was policing an anti Gaddafi demonstration outside of the Libyan embassy in London.
According to British media reports, a burst of machine gun fire from the Libyan embassy was suspected of Killing Yvonne Fletcher, but Libyan diplomats asserted their diplomats immunity and were repatriated to Tripoli.
Fletcher’s death incident led to the breaking off of diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Libya for over a decade.
For most of the 1990s, Libya suffered economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation as a result of Gaddafi’s refusal to allow the extradition to the United States or Britain of two Libyans accused of planting a bomb on pan-am flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. Through the instrumentality of two of the continent’s most influential and high profile personalities South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and Ghana’s Kofi Annan, who visited Gaddafi and negotiated the turn over of the two fugitive, Gaddafi finally agreed to release the two fugitives in 1999 but under condition that the two would be handed over to Netherlands for trial under Scottish law.
Two years after Abdelbaset Ali and Mohammed Al Megrahi’s conviction, (in August 2003), Libya wrote the United Nations formally accepting responsibility for the actions of it citizens in respect of the Lockerbie bombing and agreed to pay compensation of up to $2.7 billion or up to $10 million per person to the families of the 270 victims of the bombing.
There have been some changes in Gaddafi’s politic for some time now. The most obvious was that the once wealthy Libya became much less wealthy when oil prices dropped significantly in the 1990s.
At that time, Gaddafi tended to need other countries than usual and could not kick out of foreign aid as he did when oil market was booming. Other possibilities for some of his changes could also be the failure or refusal of his fellow Arabs to subscribe to his idea of Arab Unity, the various arms and revolutionary organizations he supported did not achieve their goals, and the demise of the Soviet Union that left Gaddafi’s main symbolic target the United States stronger than he (Gaddafi) thought or could ever imagine.
In 2003, Gaddafi witnessed the digging out of one of his powerful and closest partners in crime, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein by U.S. and allied forces in Iraq. The capture of Saddam broke Gaddafi down into extreme fear.
He immediately announced that his country Libya had active weapons of mass destruction program but was willing to allow international inspectors (the request he had rejected for decades) into his country to observe and dismantle them.
U.S. president George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Toni Blair, and other supporters of the Iraq war portrayed Gaddafi as fear for the future of his regime if he continued to be arrogant. Italian Prime Minister Silvia Berlusconi was quoted as saying that Gaddafi had privately called him about the offer to dismantle his Gaddafi’s weapon program.
Over the years, Gaddafi has supported a broad range of militant groups including but not limited to The Irish Republican Army, The Palestine Liberation, Libyan militant presence in Iraq, Libya’s involvement in several attacks in Europe which led to U.S. Military strike in Libya in 1986, Libya’s involvement in the Lockerbie bombing and many more.
Notable in his politics has been the support for liberation movements, and also sponsoring rebel movements around the very continent he pretend to be so very serious in unifying. In 1989, Gaddafi unleashed Charles Taylor on Liberia with the intention of destabilizing the entire sub-region. Charles Taylor’s rebellious virus soon spread in the sub-region, catching Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote d’ Ivoire.
After destabilizing most of the West coast of the continent, Gaddafi is now pointing his bloody hand in different direction on the continent. He recently aligned with Kenya, Egypt and Zimbabwe. Gaddafi usually searches for strategy loopholes to use as a means of entry. He used politics, tribalism, religion and poverty to infiltrate the west coast of the continent and now he’s using trade to enter the East and other parts of the continent.
Recently, a group of African countries agreed to adapt common external tariffs in an effort to boost trade and move towards a better customs union.
The refusal of countries like Angola, Ethiopia and Uganda to queue to the direction of Gaddafi, citing concerns about the possible impact on their economies was a smart move.
Kenya and Zimbabwe either did not understand Gaddafi’s language or decided to take the risk at the detriment of the poor and opposition politicians in the countries. They (Kibaki and Mugabi) pretend to see tariff harmonization as a crucial step towards establishing a full customs union in the region.
In few months, few of the signatories to the union are already torn apart by violence and election rigging. Kenya, once known for its peace and stability in the region, was recently seen in flames after Kibaki clearly rigged the elections observers said was won by opposition led by Odinga.
Zimbabwe’s Mugabi, another member of Gaddafi’s tariff union, is the most recent of election rigging battleground. The world is still witnessing the aftermath of Mugabi’s elections stealing while he (Mugabi) is busy arranging business with Gaddafi.
Another reason that makes Gaddafi’s deeds far from his rhetoric is the arrest, torture and deportation of other Africans from Libya. As far back and much as I can recall, Ghanaians, Nigerians and other African immigrants have been mishandled and deported from Libya while Gaddafi still fly around the continent preaching rhetoric.
In June 1997, about 98 Ghanaians were arrested at various work places and detained for periods between two and three months. During the periods of their detention, according to some of the victims interviewed on local Ghanaian radio stations in Ghana, the detainees were tortured, dehumanized and later deported to Ghana by Libyan security forces.
In November of 2000, hundreds of African immigrants were arbitrarily rounded up in Libya. According to BBC, IRIN, the Associated Press and other international media, some immigrants were brutally killed at the hands of Libyan security forces.
Their possessions were taken from them and later expelled from Libya. Embarrassed over the treatment of his citizens, Ghana’s then President, flight lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings personally flew to Tripoli to take delivery of his citizens aboard a special flight.
I was among a group of people (in Accra) that went to witness the arrival of these Ghanaians from Libya.
In 2004, another batch amounting to 251 Ghanaians were again deported from Libya.
For decades now, Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s campaign to mount tele-guided regimes in various African countries has encountered series of frustrations but he still believes that the United States of Africa is a perquisite to African unity. The formation of the United States of Africa could be a good idea but the source of the idea remained widely questionable.
Sam K. Zinnah is a Liberian Student currently living and working in Delaware. He can be contacted at email@example.com