Libya, Egypt, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire: Confusion remains

First published in Pambazuka News – Issue 521

& nbsp


Manal & Alaa’s bit bucket
In this week’s round-up of social media activity around Africa, Sokari Ekine highlights reasons to oppose military intervention in Libya, the politics of a ‘no-fly zone’ and reports of torture of Egyptian activists at the hands of a military previously heralded as a champion of the people’s cause. She also focuses on the Cameroonian government’s Twitter crackdown, planned protests against Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and Côte d’Ivoire’s ongoing post-election crisis.

LIBYA

It is becoming increasingly difficult to know where to begin in writing about Libya. The Arab League have given their support to the suggestion of a ‘no-fly zone’ but have no intention of becoming directly involved. The question is: Is their call for a ‘no-fly zone’ just hot air, knowing that no one is going to go for it anyway? Europe, Canada and the US are indecisive and one gets the feeling that they are losing their nerve and probably asking themselves why they came up with this idea in the first place. While many of us wish to support the revolutionaries on the ground, the idea of foreign forces intervening in Libya is abhorrent. Stop the War have a list of ’Ten reasons why military intervention’ is a bad idea.

As of writing @feb17voices tweets that Ajdabiya, Misratah and Benghazi are under attack from the air and land. The Libyan Youth Movement @ShababLibya remain focused believing ‘the game is over but the question is how many more will die’? They also tweet Al Jazeera’s challenge to Gaddafi to appear on TV along with his sons.

Immanuel Wallerstein writes on his blog that there is so much ‘confused analysis and hypocrisy’ about what is happening in the country, and he makes some good points. For example, the left is split in support for Gaddafi, with Hugo Chávez and other Latin American states on the one hand and the Middle East, Africa, US and European left decidedly against him. Gaddafi’s very recent friendships with various European powers hardly speak to an anti-imperialist stance:

‘First of all, for the last decade and up to a few weeks ago, Qaddafi had nothing but good press in the western world. He was trying in every way to prove that he was in no way a supporter of “terrorism” and wished only to be fully integrated into the geopolitical and world-economic mainstream. Libya and the western world have been entering into one profitable arrangement after another. It is hard for me to see Qaddafi as a hero of the world anti-imperialist movement, at least in the last decade.’

Despite statements to the contrary, are we really to believe that the Arab League and southern European countries are not secretly hoping Gaddafi will prevail? Their dilemma is now how to stop fleeing refugees from North Africa landing on their shores. Only yesterday Malta and Italy turned away a ship carrying 1,800 refugees from Libya. The Italian foreign minister was quoted as saying, ‘We can’t know if there are terrorists aboard.’ A boat from Tunisia carrying about 40 people capsized. Another boat managed to rescue just five of the passengers. At present there are about 10,000 refugees on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The people however think differently, as these two quotes show:

‘Any ambivalence about that regime, gone, gone, gone. It is brutal, corrupt, deceitful, delusional’ (Helen Sheeham, Marxist scholar invited to Libya just before the revolt broke out).

‘COSATU does not accept however that these achievements in any way excuse the slaughter of those protesting against the oppressive dictatorship of Colonel Gaddafi and reaffirms its support for democracy and human rights in Libya and throughout the continent.’

Libyan writer Mustafa Abduallah writes that Gaddafi may have won a battle here and there but his regime, his theory, is over. The Green Book is so obsolete that it cannot even be recycled. Abduallah’s essay is a sad lament for the losses the revolutionaries have incurred. He lays some of the blame on those who ‘remained silent’ in the face of the young who have given their lives in the pursuit of liberation.

EGYPT

The Egyptian revolution remains in a critical stage, as explained by bloggerSandMonkey in his post on the state of the ‘Free Republic of Egypt’.

‘The Mubaraks are still free, so are Fathy Surrour, Zakaria Aazmy and Safwat ElSherief, alongside with all the corrupt NDP officials in all branches of government, not to mention all the state security and police officers who spent the last 3 decades terrorizing, monitoring, torturing & killing those they were supposed to protect. The Political prisoners and detained Jan25 protesters are still unlawfully in prison, the stolen money is still in foreign countries, and the Minimum wage of 200 dollars a month for all Egyptians is still not enforced.’

There are some Egyptians who are satisfied with Revolution Part I, but not at all happy with the continued protests, Revolution Part II, III and so on. SandMonkey takes the doubters to task on their concerns over the ‘lagging economy’, which is due to the ‘complete and total corruption in all government institutions’, concerns over ‘thugs attacking and robbing’ people and property, forgetting that prior to the revolution the police did this every single day, and concerns that ‘Islamists are going to take over the country and turn it into Afghanistan’ but are not ready to demand a ‘complete overhaul of the education system, the end of bigotry & discrimination against minorities in all job positions (private or public), the removal of hate-inciting Imams or Priests from Mosques and Churches’.

Arabawy links to an article in the Washington Post ‘Dictator Watch’ which reports on the turnaround by the Egyptian army, which only a few weeks ago was welcomed as heroes by the people. Since 9 March there’ve been reports of torture. Samira Ibrahim Mohamed was one of the many protestors arrested on 9 March and subsequently tortured.

‘Samira was handcuffed to a wall in the museum complex. For nearly seven hours – almost every five minutes, she said – Samira was electrocuted with a stun gun. Her torturers would sometimes splash water on her and others to make the shocks more painful. The electrical jolts were applied to her legs, shoulders and stomach. She pleaded with the soldier to stop. Repeating what the demonstrators had chanted in Tahrir Square, she said, “I begged them. I said, ‘You are my brothers. The army and the people are one.’” Her tormentor replied, “No, the military is above the nation. And you deserve this.”’

In another torture story from Egypt Alive, revolutionary singer Rammy Issam gives his testimony from 9 March.


Rammy Issam – torture victim‘They began to kick my body and face, and hit my back and feet with sticks, whips, pips, wires, and hoses. Afterwards, they got an Electric detonator, the same kind that was used in the demonstrations and started electrifying different places in my body — with one device at first, then with more than one device at the same time. The military officers would leave me, throw stuff at my back, step on me, and throw shoes at my face. They cut my hair (It was long), and finally they put my face in the dirt and then filled my body with dust.’

WEST AFRICA — CAMEROON, SENEGAL, COTE D’IVOIRE

Last week in a desperate attempt to halt communication by protestors, President Paul Biya’s government forced mobile operator MTN to ban Twitter SMS. Cameroonian blogger Dibussi Tande rightly commented:

‘unless the government plans a total Internet blackout, including the banning of all mobile phones and standard SMS, then it has embarked on a very futile battle which it will never win.’