Non-Libyan Africans are reportedly becoming the target of revenge killings in Libya, owing to the perception that foreigners form a large part of Moammar Gaddafi’s mercenary force paid to kill anti-government protesters,
The violent backlash is focusing primarily on black Africans below the Sahara desert, including migrant workers who had nothing to do with Gaddafi or his killing machine whatsoever.
There are an estimated 1.5-million black African migrants in Libya, most of whom work as lowly-paid laborers toiling for the country’s oil, construction, agriculture and service sectors.
Reportedly, dozens of black Africans have already been murdered and hundreds, perhaps thousands, are hiding from enraged Libyan mobs seeking vengeance.
Saad Jabbar, deputy director of the North Africa Centre at Cambridge University, told Al Jazeera: These [black Africans] people… they will be slaughtered in Libya. There is so much anger there against those mercenaries, which suddenly sprung up,:
According to reports, more than 150 black Africans from at least a dozen different countries escaped Libya by plane and landed at the airport in Nairobi, Kenya with horrific tales of violence.
We were being attacked by local people who said that we were mercenaries killing people. Let me say that they did not want to see black people, Julius Kiluu, a 60-year-old building supervisor, told Reuters.
Our camp was burnt down, and we were assisted by the Kenyan embassy and our company to get to the airport, he said.
A native of Mali, Seidou Boubaker Jallou, told Al Jazeera: the most dangerous situation is for foreigners like us - and also us black people - because Gaddafi brought soldiers from Chad and Niger who reportedly killed Arabs.”
Human rights organizations warn that thousands of other black African workers are trapped in Libya as their home governments have either refused or failed to evacuate them to safety.
Hein de Haas, a senior fellow with the International Migration Institute, wrote in his blog: Why is nobody concerned about the plight of sub-Saharan African migrants in Libya? As victims of racism and ruthless exploitation, they are Libya's most vulnerable immigrant population, and their home country governments do not give them any support,
Haas added that African immigrants are now linked to state-orchestrated violence and mass killings, and we may therefore fear the worst about the violent backlash that may follow particularly after Gaddafi is ousted.”
Jabbar further warned: I think it is urgent to do something about it now, otherwise, a genocide against anyone who has black skin and who doesn't speak perfect Arabic is possible.”
Ironically, it has been reported that those African mercenaries who were hired by Gaddafi regime to kill Libyan protesters would likely be immune from any war crimes prosecution because a clause in this weekend's UN resolution that was demanded by the U.S.
The US insisted that the resolution be worded such that no one from an outside country that is not a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) could be prosecuted for their actions in Libya.
As a result, mercenaries from certain countries like Ethiopia would not face prosecution since their nations are not members of the court.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the US made this move in order “to prevent a precedent that could see Americans prosecuted by the ICC for alleged crimes in other conflicts. While the US was once among the signatories to the court, George W. Bush withdrew from it in 2002 and declared that it did not have power over Washington.”
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.