Toward African freedom in Libya and beyond

MOLEFI KETE ASANTE | 4/12/2011, 4:45 p.m.

No one has shouted any louder than Gaddafi that Africa must be for the Africans. In this he reminds us of the clarion voice of Marcus Garvey. With the fall of Tunisia, Libya, and possibly Morocco and Algeria, France will have succeeded in its major plan to bring those states, especially oil-producing Libya, into a grand Mediterranean Basin clique. In such a scenario the northern part of Africa will be declared the southern ridge of the European nation to the north. Gaddafi has been one of the major opponents of this neo-hegemony over African territory.

A United Africa would be a step toward overcoming disease, transportation problems, famine and land disputes. In our judgment we should not be so fast to criticize Gaddafi just because Western governments call for such an action. If they say that he is punishing his people, denying them free speech and keeping them from education, this must be proven.

Furthermore, why hasn't the Western world rolled into Israel or the West Bank and saved the Palestinian people who suffer true slaughter and discrimination at the hands of Israel? What is Gaza, if not the pits of hell? When shall we hear high-sounding words from the leaders of the Western world in support of those Arabs? Africans must beware of the gifts of Europe.

Since Kwame Nkrumah, Africa has rarely had a visionary as broad in thinking and as dedicated in commitment as Gaddafi. Perhaps in his desire to strengthen the continent and to make Africa powerful he went too far with his donations to the governments of Senegal, Chad, Burkina Faso and Zimbabwe, and did not do enough for the Libyan people.

No African nation was among those who came out to attack Libya on March 19. President Sarkozy of France has reported that some Arab nations supported the campaign against Libya, but even if that proves to be so one must not read too much into this without some appreciation of the Arab distress with Gaddafi's pro-African stance. Transformations are produced by those who are focused on long-term goals, not by those who make convenient alliances with the enemies of their people. As Nkrumah was fond of saying, "We face neither East nor West; we face forward."

It has been Gaddafi who has made Nkrumah's mantra his own; "Africa must unite or perish." Why would this language threaten the West? The Libyan leader has encountered, and continues to encounter, attempted setbacks and hurdles. The work of the Brother Leader, as he is sometimes called, has been to raise African consciousness to the point that some of the nations on the continent of Africa begin to reject the loyalty they hold for their colonial masters. Some African leaders seem to fear other Africans. Gaddafi has proposed that Africa do away with travel restrictions, create a common currency and ease trade tariffs and barriers. This African solidarity is not only a threat to the West--some who identify as Arabs have a difficult time accepting the Africanity promoted by Gaddafi.