Libya’s revolution, initially full of hope like in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt, where dictators stepped down, has turned ugly as Colonel Muammar Al-Qadhafi has turned his military against the population in an effort to control power. Now refugees are streaming over the borders of Libya into both neighbors that yet have to put new governments into place.
This situation is causing more demand for international humanitarian aid in a continent riddled by anarchy and civil strife. On March 16, Ban Ki-moon called on the Libyian leader to cease his assault on civilians to put down a revolution by ordinary civilians. As some of the military has refused to fire on civilians Colonel Al-Qadhafi has resorted to killing such soldiers to make an example of them, and employing mercenary and foreign soldiers. This has led to brutal repression of the civilian population.
As the tide of war turned ugly, the international community has hesitated to act, even with the urging of the Arab League to impose a no fly zone against the Libyan air force. Citizens in Benghazi grew frustrated as the United Nations and United States condemned the regimes’ repression with words but offerd no support. “What is the purpose of the UN if it won’t protect innocent civilians?” they asked.
UNHCR’s Andrew Purvis, on the Libyan border in Tunisia, reported that everyone is standing in long lines for something in a refugee camp, that were largely self-organized by the vast multinational community leaving Libya with the help of Tunisians and international NGOs. However he also reported ethnic discrimination against blacks for sub-Saharan Africa. One reason is that black Africans are being hired as mercenaries by Col. Qadhafi. Marauding gangs in Libya beat blacks and steal what they have.
Walking through the camp Purvis observed:
Nationalities are sticking together, though they may have not known each other before, forming committees, making sure each other is informed about tents, knows meal times. I wander over to the Eritrean area, underneath the gum tree and just down from the Tunisian military hospital. The Ghanaians are now over there, beyond the UNICEF latrines. The sifting by nationality is quite natural and driven in part by interests: the Bangladeshis all want to go home, now; the Somalis are desperate not to… Ghanaians want to help their brothers in Tripoli who have been stuck there for weeks. Somalis corralled a power outlet near the Tunisian military hospital and were selling it Bangladeshis for a fee.