R2P Or P2R: The Story Of A Brave New World To Save Libya That Never Was

Published on 15th June 2015

I thought that the late Col. Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and anything related to him would be the last thing I would say a word about  in my lifetime, much less to be sympathetic of the grizzly fate that waited for him, and that wasn`t by an accident. During the height of the Cold War in 1977-1978, this writer was among the youth of WSLF fighters in the Ethiopian Somali region against Ethiopian repression over a century. As we put on a hard fight and pushed relentlessly the mighty Ethiopian army, the battle fortunes turned against us overnight. As it turned out, the ex-Warsaw Pact launched a massive military rescue package to rescue them: a state-of-the-art logistics, superior air power and tanks and the rest was history. Other members of the pact supplied the hardware/ expertise and Gaddafi was tasked to finance the war machine. Later, he recklessly dabbled with myopic Somali oppositions to disfigure Somalia proper. From that day on, I pitied and loathed him and what he stood for.

As Libya struggles with chaos of lawlessness cum extremism and as immigrants perish at sea, the West and NATO alliance who led the collapse of Gaddafi’s regime have seemingly chosen to remain silent on the whole sad affair, save for an occasional hand wringing and some self-serving political statements about the influx of desperate African immigrants trying to reach European shores.

What a difference it makes compared to four years ago when these same foreign nations were beating up drums for a regime change. These actors were the forefront among NATO’s successful destructive campaign to topple the Libyan regime and then held victory and self-congratulatory parades at the cost of millions of tax-payers’ dollars in their respective capitals to mark the occasion. It was all about a job well-done except it wasn’t in terms of the would-be consequences of both capital and human costs. Not only that, the faux objective of the organized violent mission per se was also very questionable from the beginning. The dubious destructive war was sanctioned by the international body (UN) in the highest level despite Libya being a sovereign member and quasi-stable one that posed no or little immediate threat to others at the time.

The mission was done in the name of the much-vaunted and recently enacted UN charter of responsibility to protect (R2P) that morphed to what seemingly become a pretext to wreak havoc (R2W) soon after. The public was told it was an altruistic gesture in a new brave and caring world to save Libya from the clutches of a perennial and notorious brute and to replace it with an enlightened and democratic system for the sake of the wrenched Libyans, who would happily wave flowers to the godsend liberators. But it was not to be, if not the reverse is true, and the proof is what has happened and still is happening on the ground after the fact — more human deaths and human rights abuses, civil war, extremism, immigrants’ death trap, wanton disorder etcetera.

It was then the UN Security Council Resolution of 1973 as a cover for NATO war machine that essentially turned a supposedly humanitarian mission of no-fly zone operation into a hunt-and -destroy mission. On top of an being illegal manhunt to kill Gaddafi, the mission laid waste the country in terms of institutions, infrastructure, resources, law and order. If there was any doubt about the mission’s primary objective, Western leaders put it to rest at end of the assault by reminding the public and international bodies alike that their military war planes participated in the war and illegally cleared away Gaddafi’s remaining mechanized divisions and materially assisted the rebels – a hopeless and rag-tag militia armed and prodded none other than the same outside powers– to take Tripoli by storm.

The consequences of the ill-conceived mission are self- evident today, including the reported killing and abduction of African immigrants at the hands of extremists in the subsequent chaos. Worse yet, none among the actors are willing to take any responsibility for what it was and still is: an abject mission failure in terms of the policy outcome and human costs, on top of being illegal and unethical act to begin with. There is no mea culpa in the whole disaster, and if nothing else, the story laid bare once again the hypocrisy and new mask of neo-colonialism agendas toward Africa and elsewhere. The rest of the story about the war was either an afterthought or a cover up for PR’s exercise to legitimize the move to the gullible and weak. How else can one describe to obvious political discrepancy and collective amnesia after the fact on the party of the belligerent foreign powers? Obviously the decision of the regime change was solely based on some realpolitik and other economic and geo-strategic interest of the actors rather than genuine democratic ideals or altruistic notions.

As a matter fact, no sooner the so-called Libyan liberation mission was over in 2011 than foreign powers openly and confidently mused that the Libyan National Transitional Council couldn’t be a lesser evil than Colonel Gaddafi’s rule. Furthermore, it is not as if the potential consequences of meddling in Libya were an unknown and less predictable. As a debate on Resolution 1973 unfolded in New York in March 2011, Brazil noted that the use of force “may have the unintended effect of exacerbating tensions on the ground and causing more harm than good to the very same civilians we are committed to protecting.” As if that wasn’t enough, the African Union and some western intelligence service had also warned that Libya would disintegrate if the Gaddafi regime was removed. The war also affected large swathes of North and West African nations like Mali, Niger and Nigeria, inter alia, due to the displacement of large number of émigrés living and gainfully employed in Libya. The sad influx of mass movement and the spill-over factor destabilized those nations as well. But those warnings were conveniently ignored at all cost since they served little for a predetermined policy mindset.

The reality today is exactly as the Brazilians and others predicated. The country is gripped by chaos, extremism and lawlessness. For human traffickers and migrants from across Africa and elsewhere, all roads now lead to the Libyan coast where border posts have been deserted long ago and the coastline remains open for all sorts of illegal activities. Against this backdrop, thousands of African immigrants lose their lives in perilous journey attempts across the sea while hundreds of others are either killed or abducted in the hinterland desert by extremists.

Furthermore, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), approximately 1,750 migrants have drowned and fed by the sharks in the Mediterranean so far this year alone. And what is the response to it on the part of the original instigators of the nefarious conflagration mess so far? Nothing serious apparently. In other words, no help for what’s left of lawless Libya and certainly no humanitarian life-line of help to the abused and stranded black immigrants. On the contrary, these nations are readying now an armada blockade to catch and return those desperate black immigrants back to the coast while still busying themselves to devising various schemes to loot the oil and other resources of the broken nation.

The question now is, where is the civility, humanity and high moral standards that these nations preach so much about now and then? Don’t they have a sense of ethical obligation at least to assist to clean up the mess of their own doings? Don’t victims, including those who perished and the abused immigrants caught in the gruesome conflict deserve some sympathy or rescue on humanitarian grounds from the inferno on earth that is Libya? Or is the global players’ wish to absolve their culpability in the name of responsibility to protect (R2P) that turned a pretext to wreck (P2R) trumps over everything else?

By Mohamed Awale
Email:[email protected]


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