News / Africa

Experts Disagree on African Mercenaries in Libya

A suspected mercenary from Chad keeps his hands on his head after being detained by Libyan militia member from the forces against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi at a roadblock near Marj in eastern Libya, February 27, 2011
A suspected mercenary from Chad keeps his hands on his head after being detained by Libyan militia member from the forces against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi at a roadblock near Marj in eastern Libya, February 27, 2011
Delia Robertson

Within the first few days of the uprising against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi there were reports he had deployed sub-Saharan African mercenaries against the protesters. There is now a growing backlash of violence against sub-Saharan Africans by the opposition. However, it is likely that the number of mercenaries fighting for the besieged Libyan leader is quite small.

It is unclear how many mercenaries Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has deployed against Libyan protesters, but African analysts such as Na'eem Jeenah, executive director of the Afro-Middle East Centre in Johannesburg, suggest the number is relatively low.

"It is difficult to say exactly how many mercenaries are operating in Libya and how widespread it is, but I think it is safe to say that they number at least in the hundreds," said Jeenah.

Jeenah and other analysts says Gadhafi has a long history of using mercenaries from Chad, Nigeria, Niger and perhaps even the Central African Republic in other conflicts outside of Libya. Jeenah said some mercenaries were flown into Tripoli in the first few days of the uprising. He says there is an established relationship between Gadhafi and these individuals that would enable such a quick response.

"So in a sense, as much as one can use such a term, there is a kind of relationship that pre-exists," added Jeenah.  "And so yes, they can be called up at short notice therefore, called up at short notice, transported in to the country as [some have] been, etc."

But other experts are more skeptical.  Issaka Souare, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, says such a rapid reaction by Mr. Gadhafi is questionable.

"The reason why I doubt the thesis is that we started hearing these claims just the third day of the revolt, and I would imagine it would take some time before you really can go and have recourse to these mercenaries, unless you are foreseeing that your own army is not going to be loyal to you," said Souare.

Souare suggests there may be another explanation for the incidents where sub-Saharan Africans are thought to be involved in attacks on protesters.

"So I don't exclude the possibility through migration that some sub-Saharans have integrated, having taken the Libyan nationality, have integrated the Libyan army, or that Gadhafi at some point created a militia formed mainly of these people, and that these are deployed, and then protesters see these, conclude that no they are mercenaries," noted Souare.

Souare added that of the 6.5 million people in Libya, one million are foreign nationals, many of them sub-Saharan Africans. Most are there legally, employed in a range of occupations. Others are undocumented, asylum seekers, or in transit, hoping to travel onwards to countries in Europe.

Afro-Middle East Centre director Jeenah says that if Africans are being recruited by Gadhafi in their home countries, the governments of those countries could be ignoring it.

"A number of African governments as you know received different kinds of funding, or have received, from Gaddafi and so overlooking something like this which for them doesn't pose a big threat to [them], is not something that is farfetched," said Jeenah.

In addition to sub-Saharan Africans willingly fighting for Mr. Gadhafi, experts say reports from Libya suggest that many are unwilling, who have been forced or coerced into bearing arms against the Libyan people.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs