While I do not condone the “humanitarian intervention” and the murder of its leader Muammar Gaddafi, Mr. Njogore’s article is typical of a particular strain of sectarianism which has gained respectability in our global, political discourse. Njogore’s comments are asymmetrical, to use the polite, modern term for what we used to call chauvinism, and is an excellent example of the disease. He sees demerit in Western values where it exists and where it doesn’t, yet his powers of vice detection fail him completely when it comes to non-Western cultures. It seems that no criticism of the West is too defamatory for Mr. Njogore, nor any platitude for Gaddafi too grandiose.
Let’s take a look at his protagonist. “Muammar Gaddafi came from an Arab tribe living in Libya.” Indeed he did. And he established an Arab-dominated government despite the objection of the non-Arab population who have complained about Gaddafi’s parochialism since he seized power. In fact, Gaddafi even went so far as to rename the country the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, and thus humiliated the Berbers and all other non-Arabs in Libya. Yes, he was that arrogant.
“He therefore did not—and never pretended to—champion Western values of so-called “democracy” and “freedom”. Oh yes he did. Mr. Njogore might do well to learn a little about his subject before he lifts his pen. Gaddafi invented what he called the Third Universal Theory, whose stated goals were freedom and democracy. And in his theory he was guided in part by many radical, Western thinkers as he was only too happy to point out. Let’s not forget that he christened his new creation the Great Socialist…Jamahiriya. Where Gaddafi stands in the lineage originating with Marx is open to debate, but to put him outside and contemptuous of this Western tradition is flatly false.
“He took measures to ensure that Libya’s oil wealth was used for the benefit of the Libyan people.” Actually he took half measures. He never fully nationalized libya’s oil and Western capital was always welcome in Gaddafi’s Libya.
“When the Europeans started the troubles in March this year…” I do not believe that the troubles were started by Europeans. They eventually stepped in and commandeered the revolution, but if Njogore has evidence to the contrary he needs to share it.
“Gaddafi was not a modern European or American to believe arrogantly and foolishly that good governance consists only in regular elections and the limited term of a ruler.” I am not sure why this is either foolish let alone arrogant (although I defer to Njogore’s greater experience with these traits), and if it is then the people of Tunisia, Egypt, South Africa, and many other African locales are equally foolish and arrogant.
“The ridiculous thing is that Westerners believe only systems of governance developed by themselves are to be adopted.” This is not true of all westerners, although admittedly some of us can be as insular as Mr Njogore. I was part of a group which studied various historical attempts at establishing non-hierarchical forms of governance. One of the most popular, particularly among white members, was the indigenous American Haudenosaunee Federation. It is simply not true outside of Wall Street that Westerners are not open to non-Western ideas.
That having been said, I believe real, face-to-face democracy is the best thing yet devised for the sharing of political power, and I’m not going to apologize to Mr. Njogore for it.
“Gaddafi assisted freedom movements in other countries of Africa, notably South Africa.” This is very much in dispute even among Africans and people of African origin. His role in Chad, Sudan, Liberia, and Uganda are difficult to marry with Njogore’s great African benefactor. Some think he tried to co-opt the AU on behalf of Western interests, and others that he had his own designs.
” He armed and financed the African National Congress of Nelson Mandela when the Western powers were doing normal business with the white-dominated apartheid (race-separation) regime.” Western powers are still doing business with SA, and with the blessing of Nelson Mandela whose neoliberal policies have resulted in an even lower standard of living for the average South African than had existed under the Boer Government. Unless one is obsessed by race, one has to acknowledge that the South African Revolution has been no revolution at all. The white management team has been replaced by a black management team. The ANC has been the agent and administrator of a transition to black rule which has enriched the white and new black bourgeoisie at the expense of the white and black working classes. The ANC is universally despised by rank-and-file South Africans and SA is on the verge of a new revolution. It is that ANC which sold out its people which Gaddafi assisted, perhaps, it is sometimes said, at the behest of, and with funds provided by, the West. This may or may not be true, but certainly any connection to the infamous ANC is no feather in Gaddafi’s cap.
Mr. Njogore should read the South African press.
“It is an absolute shame to see the mainstream media, including the Kenyan media, join in mouthing cliches about “dictator Gaddafi”, “despot Gaddafi”, and the “tyranny” suffered under Gaddafi. The other day a local newspaper published a tasteless, highly offensive cartoon about Gaddafi. This is all due to ignorance and brainwashing by the Western Media Juggernaut. We have many Africans who are quite incapable of thinking as themselves and for themselves. You can call such people mental and spiritual slaves.”
Literally, of course, Gaddafi was a dictator, and no amount of denial or apologetics is going to change that. The Western media is loathesome to be sure, but in this case they are correct and Njogore’s criticism is thus rendered shrill and meaningless.
And there are plenty in Libya who believe Gaddafi and his Revolutionary Committees were despotic.
“Gaddafi believed that the Arabs were the descendants of Black Africans and taught his people that they owed special respect to blacks.” Arabs are Semites, and Semites originate in Africa and many Semitic groups are black. That Gaddafi was aware of this is no cause for approbation.
” (One of his sons, Hannibal, was named after a famous black African general who used elephant-mounted soldiers to fight the Roman army around the time of Christ; Hannibal served the state of Carthage which was geographically situated in Libya.)”
Hannibal was black? This is news to me. Certainly he is not depicted as black in the images we have of him. If it is true then I stand corrected, but I do not believe it is. Carthaginians were Phoenicians, and were the color of the modern inhabitants of Libya. Gaddafi’s son Hannibal is probably very close in complexion to his eponym.
But more importantly Njogore’s remark about Hannibal demonstrates his enormous double standard. Njogore rightly denounces white aggression, but yet he speaks of the aggressive Hannibal with pride. Apparently Njogore is not offended by imperialism, just white imperialism.
Imperfect as Roman polity was in those days, it was nevertheless the world’s first republic, and it tried on many occasions to find a just peace. It even agreed to pay tribute to Carthage, but to no avail. This is not to suggest that Rome acted in all cases well and Carthage ill. These two nations were engaged in unfriendly competition and it is hard to see one as more honorable than the other. Hannibal decided to take the war onto Roman soil and launched an impressive invasion. In this matter Hannibal was the aggressor, and two thousand years later Italians still talk about his savagery, about the towns he levelled and the civilians he murdered. In one case, in the town of Masala before he left Italy, he demanded tribute of the terrified villagers in return for their safety. They gave him everything they had, and he slaughtered them anyway.
Hannibal was a brilliant militarist, but there his virtues end. He fought on behalf of an belligerently expansionist empire which exploited the labor and resources of its occupied peoples. Carthage and Hannibal were no worse than the other imperialists, but they certainly were no better. More relevantly, Hannibal was engaged in precisely those activities for which Njogore calls whites predators. Yet Njogore claims Hannibal as black, and writes proudly of him.
“And Gaddafi put in place a policy where black Africans were welcomed into Libya as employees and even members of the Libyan army.” This is the nicest description of hiring the desperately poor to be your mercenaries and cheap labor, of cruel economic exploitation, that I have ever heard.
“It is said that by the time he died, he had conceived the idea of an African Bank which would compete against the white-dominated World Bank.” And this is to his credit? He wants to be a bankster?
“Of course the so-called mainstream media wouldn’t appreciate such things; and neither would they be horrified by what the “revolutionaries” have been doing—including the rounding up and massacring of black people while putting others in concentration camps.” I seldom find myself in the position of defending the mainstream media, but again Njogore is mistaken. This news was discussed in the American media and with a good deal of outrage, albeit feigned. But this did get a lot of attention nonetheless.
What would be said of a Westerner who wrote as hatefully about African culture as Mr. Njogore does about Western culture. Surely the epithet racist would be employed. Is not Njogore guilty also? Has he not attributed to all the crimes of a few? Reading Njogore’s screed I am left to wonder whether it is not he who is the mental and spiritual slave, ever animated by a passion which distorts reality.
I share Mr. Njogore’s disdain for the West’s conquest of Libya, but unlike him I feel no need to lionize those who are just like their conquerors. And unliike Mr. Njogore I make a distinction between a culture and the gangsters who have hijacked it. In Europe and the US, a majority have opposed the war in Libya from the beginning. And, unlike Njogore’s idol Gaddafi, Americans and Europeans have supported the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. These same Westerners are now Occupying major cities and fighting the power Njogore despises. We should not confuse the criminals with their victims.
About the author: Dave Fryett is an Anarchist and Activist based in Seattle, Washington. Click here to visit his blog.
Editor’s Note: Suggested Reading: “The Destruction of Libya and The Murder of Muammar Gaddafi“