Haiti and the endless revolution

First published in Pambazuka News  - Issue 522


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Aristide’s return to Haiti, the West’s war on Gaddafi, AU intervention and protests in Senegal and Morroco are among the stories covered in this week’s round-up of African uprisings, compiled by Sokari Ekine.

On Friday 18 March, President Bertrand Aristide returned to Haiti after being ousted in a US backed coup on 29 February 2004. For the past seven years the US has done everything to stop him from returning home. This time they failed as the South African government refused to prevent him from leaving.

Haitian lawyer and blogger, Ezili Danto wrote about Aristide’s home coming and warmly remembered:

Father Gerard Jean-Juste and Lovinsky Pierre Antoine and all those who gave their life for this dat of return of the people’s voice’.

A new struggle now awaits the Haitian people and their allies. In this post, Ms Danto asks that we ‘don’t be distracted by Aristide in Haiti’:

‘Keep vigilant for the carnival of violence will be blamed on Lavalas and Aristide. No doubt about this, the chest board is set. The perpetrators will be seen as the peacemakers along with those in white trucks (horse?) justifying over $860million per year for their presence in Haiti. A larger game, in which we anti-Duvalierists Haitians are pawns, is playing out. Supposedly, Obama and Ban Ki Moon called Zuma to ask the South African president to delay the flight. Zuma said he would not. What’s the outcome, an assassination where Obama points to his efforts at stopping the return before the fraudulent US selections in Haiti take place? Who knows, but this effort is the work of unseen hands? Perhaps the universal good will turn their plans around??? As of now at Ezili’s HLLN we see the liberators, Haiti’s peoples, as mere CONSUMERS of this orchestrated “return.” Not a good empowering position at all. Stay tune.’

LIBYA: THE WEST DECLARES WAR ON MUAMMAR GADDAFI

I am confused by the UNSC decision to enforce a No-Fly zone [NFZ] over Libya. I’m not the only one. Yesterday US Congresswoman for the DC, Eleanor Holmes Norton expressed her concern that Congress had not been properly consulted and raised a number of questions: ‘Why was the decision made immediately after Congress went on recess? Is it that Gaddafi must go or is it to protect civilians? Are we involved in a NFZ or is this an all out attack on Libya?’

I search for the right questions as to what is happening and wonder where will it all end? The Libyan people rising up against Gaddafi is right and long overdue. But what appears to be happening is quite different. The US, France and Britain are bombing ground forces, military installations and Gaddafi’s compound. Does it matter that the US/UN are once again displaying their and hypocrisy along with the usual righteous arrogance? What about the millions of innocent civilians who have been killed by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq —and this despite their so-called precision weapons? Their own torture chambers, imprisonment for years without trial and recent photos of yet more US army personal torturing prisoners this time in Afghanistan. Does it matter that the US has chosen to intervene in Libya but not in Bahrain? Will they intervene in Yemen where last week government forces killed 52 unarmed protestors and where the US has supplied US$300 million in military aid? And if uprisings spread to Saudi Arabia and Syria — will they attack them? What criteria is being used to make these military decisions? The British prime minister, David Cameron uses ‘double speak’ in his response to the bombings which I interpret as the Security Council resolution will be applied as we see fit and that might well include getting rid of Gaddafi. In response the British Parliament voted an incredible 557 to 13 in support of the war.

Since the Libyan opposition/rebels/revolutionaries/freedom fighters (depending on who is speaking) called on the West to intervene, do any of the above questions matter, even though their actions immediately went well beyond policing Libya’s airspace? Who are we supposed to listen to? Who are the Libyan opposition leaders and fighters and does their support of the NFZ and bombings make the war legitimate?

@ShabbaLibya — ‘Libyans welcome the NFZ and Libyans also welcome strategic airstrikes #Libya #Feb17 #gaddaficrimes’, so who are we to raise questions?

However, Phyllis Bennis of the Institute of Policy Studies, sees the UN action as a declaration of war on Libya:

‘The legitimacy of the Libyan protesters’ demand does not mean that the decision by the United Nations and the powerful countries behind it was legitimate as well. The Libyan opposition, or at least those speaking for it, asked for a no-fly zone, for protection from the Qaddafi regime’s air force, to allow them to take on and defeat their dictatorship on their own terms. [But] the Security Council resolution went far beyond a no-fly zone. Instead, the United Nations has essentially declared war on Libya…While the UN resolution was taken in the name of protecting civilians, it authorizes a level of direct U.S., British, French, NATO and other international military intervention far beyond the “no-fly zone but no foreign intervention” that the rebels wanted. Its real goal, evident in the speeches that followed the Security Council’s March 17th evening vote, is to ensure that “Qaddafi must go,” – as so many ambassadors described it. Resolution 1973 is about regime change, to be carried by the Pentagon and NATO with Arab League approval, instead of by home-grown Libyan opposition.’

But there is a silence around the British and French bombing of forces loyal to Gadaffi. Once answer is provided by @LibyanThinker:

And to those questioning the airstrikes @ShabbaLibya — ‘Without mentioning any names,a lot of ‘political analysts’ out there,condemning airstrikes & a NFZ why didn’t you put on ur tin hat & fight’

@ShabbaLibya blames pro-Gaddafi supporters for starting the ‘foreign invasion’ by using mercenaries and rolls his eyes at the African Union’s call for an end to the military action.

LOSING CONTROL

The African Union is not alone in calling for a stop to military action. The AU’s weakness aside, they are legitimate and are right to point out that diplomatic options have not been given a chance. According to one report the AU had requested permission to visit Libya to try and reach a negotiated settlement but were refused by the UN. Forgive my naivety but why does the AU have to ask the UN’s permission and why is the UN refusing the opportunity for a negotiated settlement?

The Arab League who agreed to the NFZ are now also confused over the lack of clarity and what appears to be a far-fetched interpretation of the UN resolution. Possibly thinking about their own uprisings and potential intervention, they’ve called an emergency meeting on the bombing campaign:

‘“What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians,’” he said.

‘He requested official reports about what happened in Libya in terms of aerial and marine bombardment that led to the deaths and injuries of many Libyan civilians.’

Middle East correspondent, Robert Fisk reminds us that previous ‘Allied bombing campaigns’ have themselves resulted in the death of civilians — if the bombing continues, then it is only a matter of time:

‘The Americans killed Raafat al-Ghosain, puctured above, just after 2am on 15 April 1986. In the days that followed her death, United States officials claimed that Libyan anti-aircraft fire might have hit her home — watch out for similar American claims in the coming hours — not far from the French embassy in suburban Tripoli.’

Like always, there are many sides to this story, many different truths. The mother of Raafat al-Ghosain’s hopes ‘they get him this time’. I am sure her wish will come true sooner than later and the discussion will move to who takes over the country?

The Arabist has some thoughts on this:

‘The Qadhafi regime is over as far as the international community is concerned, and mission creep will ensure that things will swiftly move from imposing a no-fly zone to more direct efforts, including ground missions. This might be good for the insurgents, might split them, and might not be so good for the countries leading the intervention…Although the insurgents have insisted on a united Libya, the fact is that historically there is strong regionalism in the country. A split could perdure, backed by both the regime’s control through force and genuine tribal support in its favor. The international community could be moved to escalate the mission to make it officially regime change, or push other actors (some would like that to be Egypt) to intervene directly.’

Amidst the online media discussions there are real war tragedies taking place such as reports from Misrata:

@February17Voices AJA: caller #Misrata: #Gaddafi forces fired on peaceful protests today,also fired (possibly artillery) at buildings in Civilian areas #Libya

And @Libyan4Life calls out those who want to compare Libya to Iraq:
‘I wont b responsible 4 my words/actions if I hear 1 more person say ”#Libya will be the next #Iraq” When you say that ur stupid is showing’

Lenin’s Tomb’s thoughts on the motives behind the West’s intervention make a great deal of sense:

‘One is to re-establish the credibility of the US and its allies by appearing to side with an endangered population and thus partially expunge the “Iraq syndrome” as well as efface decades of arming and financing dictatorships to keep the local populations under thumb and permanently endangered. But a more fundamental motive can be inferred from the context: the region is experiencing a revolutionary tumult, and the revolution in Libya is no less genuine than those in Tunisia and Egypt (and the uprisings in Bahrain and Yemen). The thrust of this revolution is not just anti-dictatorship, it’s also anti-imperialist, against the IMF and alliances with Israel. So I would hypothesise that the US and its allies have been desperate to find a way to halt this revolutionary process somehow and, where they can’t do that, shape it in a direction more favourable to continued American hegemony in the region. The former regime elements in the leadership of the Libyan rebellion have been more open to an alliance with the US than other revolutionary movements partly because of the particular history and nature of the Qadhafi regime, whose legitimacy continued to rely somewhat on his past standing as a regional opponent of imperialism.’

Maybe there is a price to pay for Gaddafi to go, after all it’s what millions of Libyans wish more than anything. Mohammed Nabbous, the courageous Libyan citizen journalist from Benghazi, who was shot and killed on Saturday is one of the many who paid with their life.

‘Nabbous established Libya AlHurra TV to broadcast online live feeds and commentary from the popular uprising that began last month. Nabbous was killed while reporting on attacks by pro-Gaddafi forces.’

Democracy Now broadcast his clips from his last report and an interview from last month. In his own words — ‘I was not suffering under Gaddafi, but other were’.

SENEGAL UNITED BY ANGER

The promised protests in Dakar took place on Saturday 19 March when between 3,000 and 5,0000 people gathered in Independence Square.

Sahel Blog believes Senegal might lead the way in a ‘Sub-Saharan’ protest movement. The discontent in Senegal is not dissimilar to that in neighbouring Gambia, or other West and North African states: High unemployment particularly amongst youth, corruption, a president who is said to be planning a ‘dynastic’ succession to his son and in February a Senegalese veteran set himself on fire in front of the presidential palace.

Demonstrators headed to Dakar’s Independence Square Saturday to protest Wade’s rule on the 11th anniversary of his ascension. The protest appears to have been medium-sized — 3,000-5,000, by various estimates — and drew primarily young men. Significantly, though, one primary organizer was Sidi Lamine Niasse, the editor of Wal Fadjri, a major independent newspaper in Senegal. Niasse’s participation signals a willingness on the part of some elites to participate in a protest movement.

‘Demonstrators and organizers alike seem to agree that the goal is not to oust Wade immediately, but rather to send a message to the government that its current policies are failing to meet people’s needs. The protest also shows that the 2012 race is already underway, though Senegal’s fragmented opposition may find difficulty if it tries to turn the energy of the demonstrators into a united political force for change.

‘The government chose a different set of tactics in response to the protest by announcing it had foiled a coup plot on the eve of the demonstration and arrested 15 people.’

Niger 1 reports:

‘Senegal’s government said it had foiled an attempted coup just hours before anti-government protests were set to begin Saturday by arresting 15 people who had planned attacks across the capital…Justice Minister Cheikh Tidiane Sy announced on state television late Friday that the suspects wanted to target various sites including downtown’s bustling Sandaga Market…“The state prosecutor decided to nip the coup plot in the bud by arresting those individuals identified as members of the plot,” he said.’

MOROCCO: CALLS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM AND OPEN SOCIETY

In Morocco, thousands marched in Casablanca last Sunday in the ‘country’s largest pro-democracy protest’ since the Tunisian uprisings. This was the sixth protest in the past four weeks. Magharebia reports:

‘Protestors held up slogans denouncing tyranny, corruption and bribery. They also demanded that the government and the parliament be dissolved and that the judiciary be reformed.

‘This is a critical juncture in the history of Morocco, a time when we are trying to adopt democracy in our country. The demonstrations aim at supporting the reforms that the monarch announced to ensure they are not switched, and to exercise pressure so that royal instructions would translate into real reform.’

The Moorish Wanderer provides some background to the uprisings and the discussion over Morocco’s constitution…

‘We need to accept that idea of a Constitutional Convention is not a Pandora box. Under conditions of diversity, convention representatives are all set on an equal footing: political parties, unions, human rights charities, civil society, representatives of civil service (including the military and security apparatus), Islamic scholars, intellectuals and academics. The process of constitutional reform or change does need a national census, to be sure, but a consensus that is freely discussed and in perpetually put to the question in a never-ending debate.’

…and argues for an ‘open society’:
‘Living in a strict Islamic society is a nightmare for non-Muslims. Living in an open society is merely an annoyance for the true believer. Political diversity calls necessarily for social diversity too. The Moroccan nations (the plural is not a typo, believe me) do have a strong Islamic identity, but this has turned more into a set of rituals (that merged Islamic beliefs and ancient pageantry the Arab conquerors failed to weed out and had to live with).’

TWEETS FROM ACROSS THE CONTINENT

SUDAN

Fighting continues in the Abyei region of Sudan:

@sudanmonitor Sudanese Militia Kills Five in Abyei Region, Official Says – BusinessWeek http://bit.ly/dIwTe7 #Sudan

@dmsouthasia Darfur: Justice & Equality Movement & Sudan Liberation Army (Minnawi) call for overthrow of govt & creation of a civil, multiethnic state

@Sandmonkey [Egypt] I dream of the day saudis revolt on their governments and stop all the evil shit its doing in the region & the world. #jan25

@UNWatch Mahmoud Salem [Sandmonkey]: the idea of my blog was to be the voice of dissent. We eventually became an info pusher for local media @genevasummit @egypt

COTE D’IVOIRE

A response to news that young men were queuing up to fight for Gbagbo and continued minimal media reports on Cote d’Ivoire

@tweetur #WestAfrica Lurches Toward War, but Is Anyone Paying Attention?http://t.co/dibBQ3V #Libera #CoteDIvoire

@zunguzungu “We know that Washington’s motivation for intervention in any guise is self-interest”: http://tinyurl.com/4m6l3pr