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

Mugabe Dismisses Male-Female Equality

'It is not possible that women can be at par with men' incoming African Union president declares on eve of summit More

Somali Terror Suspect's Light Sentence Raises Questions

Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, could have spent 15 years in prison but judge instead sentenced him to a halfway house, and a program to try to integrate him back into the community More

Video Kobani Ravaged Following Kurdish Ouster of IS Militants

Even so, hundreds of refugees sheltering in Turkey seek to return; Kurdish forces hold some back, saying fighting continues 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.
Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Goghi
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid