When it comes to the truth in Libya-and it’s well known that the truth is the first casualty of war-it is difficult to determine exactly what is factual from either side of the turmoil.

Months ago it was reported that Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi had hired Black Africans as mercenaries to help quell the uprising. Then came charges of ethnic cleansing by the rebels. On Monday, the African Union expressed concerns that Libyan rebels may be killing innocent Blacks because of confusion over whether they are hired mercenaries or simply immigrants.

That would appear to be an easy matter if the Blacks were armed, since they would then be perceived as enemies no matter their color. This concern was voiced by Jean Ping, chairman of the AU, as one of the reasons the organization has not recognized the National Transitional Council of Libya as the country’s interim government, according to the Associated Press.

“We need clarification because the NTC seems to confuse Black people with mercenaries…They are killing normal workers,” Ping told reporters, insisting that both rebels and loyalists must “stop the killing.”

Meanwhile, some 200 African intellectuals and leaders have released a letter expressing their dismay about the “misuse of the UN Security Council to engage in militarized diplomacy to effect regime change in Libya,” as well as the marginalization of the AU.

“NATO has empowered itself openly to pursue the objective of regime change, and therefore the use of force and all other means to overthrow the government in Libya…objectives [that] are completely at variance with the decisions of the UN Security Council,” said professor Chris Landsberg, head of the politics department at the University of Johannesburg. This, he added, was a clear violation of international law.

Among the signatories were Thabo Mbeki, former president of the African National Congress; author and poet Dr. Wally Serote; professor Shadrack Gutto of the University of South Africa; and professor Mahmood Mamdani of the University of Columbia.

“The AU stands for peace, democracy and freedom of all people. This is the role that the AU still wants to play, whether you talk about the Ivory Coast, whether you talk about Sudan, whether you want to talk about Libya or whichever African country on the continent-the AU stands for that. It has a plan to put in place,” Serote said.

It is not clear if the AU has plans to mediate the conflict, though at the moment that would appear to be academic, with the rebels refusing to negotiate with Gaddafi and his forces.

Moreover, it is being reported that several members of Gaddafi’s family have fled to Algeria, while Gaddafi’s whereabouts remain a mystery.