Media misreporting and Libya’s support for Africa

By Jehron Muhammad | Last updated: Apr 14, 2011 - 11:49:23 PM

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Graphic: MGN Online

( - To show the absurdity of recent events concerning Libya, consider Senator John McCain's 2009 visit to Libya to meet with Col. Muammar Gadhafi under his Bedouin tent. The Arizona Republican praised Gadhafi for his “wisdom and strategic vision to talk issues of concern to the world and … to sustain peace and stability in Africa.”

Western corporate run media is complicit in hiding the laundry list of Western heads of state and representatives, including McCain, who previously engaged Col. Gadhafi.

It is interesting to go back and review how these leaders—notably former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Nicholas Sarkozy of France and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy— praised and benefited from Gadhafi's economic initiatives. This includes Italy paying Libya $5 billion in reparations for past colonial practices, while securing a contract to build a highway from Egypt to Tunisia. Now they condemn Gadhafi as a “mad” dictator with “40 years” of “brutal” treatment of the Libyan people.

Out of the biased mountain of reporting by corporate press comes a New York Times' half hearted job of painting Gadhafi as a benevolent dictator willing to share Libya's oil wealth with the African masses. But even the way the Times frames Col. Gadhafi suggests his use of Libyan wealth was to buy influence and not for altruistic purposes.

One of the few bright spots in the piece “Libyan Oil Buys Allies for Gaddafi ” is a defense of Gadhafi by Mali's presidential spokesman Seydou Sissouma. “He's a great African,” the spokesman said, bristling at the idea Gadhafi was buying friends. “That is not the case,” he said. “Libya has accepted to share its resources with others. Other African oil producers, like Nigeria, don't do this.”

Taking a surprising editorial policy position, the generally objective, peachcolored Financial Times, joined America, France and the United Kingdom's call for “regime change.” “Regime change is not part of the coalition's mandate,” read the FT editorial. “But it is clear that there will not be lasting peace in Libya while Col. Gaddafi remains in Tripoli.”

When did Financial Times editorial policy expand to support illegitimate overthrow of a sovereign nation? To receive objective, unbiased views of the crises in Libya and to get a clear picture of how Col. Gadhafi has used Libya's signifi cant oil wealth, one must read mostly from the African press. According to Kenya's East African, Libya has put “$65 billion in sovereign wealth funds, including one designed to make investments in Africa.”

The “Libyan Africa Investment Portfolio was launched with $5 billion in capital,” wrote East African correspondent Charles Onyango-Obbo.

Some of the funds projects include the LAP Green Network, “a mobile phone operator that has commercial operations in Niger, Ivory Coast, Uganda and Rwanda and is (at least before sanctions against Libya were being imposed by some African countries) planning to launch operations soon in Chad, Sierra Leone, Togo and Southern Sudan.”

Libya wanted to link African states to “each other” and created Afriqiyah (Arabic for Africa) Airways. A unique characteristic of this Libyan air carrier is that “it operates routes that are poorly served by major airlines. Destinations include Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, Bangui in the Central African Republic and Douala in Cameroon,” according to East African.

Libyan investments include other aviation support, banking, real estate, textiles, and hotels in Madagascar, Comoros, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic, Mali, Chad, Niger, Mauritania, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Guinea and Liberia.

In the past Col. Gadhafi gave a $250 million grant to UNESCO to support scholarships for 250,000 African students and coughedup $50 million to sponsor the precursor to the African Union— the Extraordinary Organization of African Unity Summit held in Libya and attended in 1999 by this writer. I dare say, if not for Gadhafi 's largess and commitment to Africa, the reigniting of Kwame Nkrumah's vision of a United States of Africa would not have gained any traction.

During my decade-ago exclusive interview with Col. Gadhafi , the Libyan leader called past support of terrorism “mistakes made in good faith.” “In the beginning, we supported certain movements too quickly. Take the issue of Northern Ireland: Instead of political support to resolve the problem, we were involved in supplying arms,” he said.

Dressed casually and talking through an interpreter, he said, “When you work you are bound to make mistakes. Also, the changes that took place in the world also should be taken into consideration.”

One thing that has never changed is Western exploitation of Africa. According to the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, at a March 31 press conference, Brother Gadhafi was “shocked” those he befriended turned on him.

A good example is the French. According to the January 2010 edition of The Northern African Journal, “With a growing clout and expanding resources, it is no surprise that the Libyans are getting a lot of attention from those seeking money, and the French are the fi rst ones knocking at the door.

The French business development agency Ubifrance, acting on behalf of French corporations has been rather proactive courting the Libyan fund managers.”

While France was chasing Libyan money, Sarkozy sponsored several summits in Paris to launch a Mediterranean Union. According to the British Daily Telegraph, “Sarkozy's big idea is to use imperial Rome's center of the world as a unifying factor linking 44 countries that are home to 800 million people.”

The Libyan leader had no part in the summits. He announced Libya would boycott the gathering, wrote the editor of Stop Nato Rick Rozoff, “denouncing the initiative as one aimed at dividing both Africa and the Arab world.” “We shall have another Roman Empire and imperialist design. There are imperialist maps and designs that we have already rolled up. We should not have them again,” Gadhafi declared.

Three-years-later Sarkozy called an emergency war council at the presidential palace in France as protests blossomed in Libya. With agreement on military action, he announced French warplanes were in the air preparing to attack Libyan targets. “The initiating of an ongoing war being waged by France, the United States, Britain and what the world news media refers to as an international collation—twelve members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Emirate of Qatar—to overthrow the Gadhafi government and implant a more pliant replacement (has began),” wrote the editor of Stop Nato.

Libyan investments in Africa and the important contributions Gadhafi made toward the continent's development are worth noting. He might be the single most important individual in recent history in terms of creating a mechanism for African development. To trash him and his accomplishments and to force African leaders to impose sanctions on Libya, the way the Western powers are doing, with President Obama, President Sarkozy and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain leading the charge, smells of imperialist designs on the continent.

If the destruction of Libya's infrastructure continues and “the push for sanctions against Tripoli become massive,” wrote East African correspondent Onyango- Obbo, “it might be a nightmare for a continent that has only recently started to restore some international business confi dence after years of failed state-managed economies and reckless nationalization.”

Concerning sanctions, Onyango- Obbo writes, “The danger for Libya is that even before the sanctions, its companies were embroiled in too many business and regulatory disputes (in various countries), and the UN resolution could embolden rivals to pounce on them, or regulators to punish them.”

According to Onyango-Obbo, this is because the “trail of Libyan money in Africa is simply too deep.”

(Jehron Muhammad can be reached at [email protected].)