News / Africa

Libya Turns From Africa to the West

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) welcomes Mustafa Abdel Jalil (C), chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC), and Mahmoud Jibril (R), the head of Libya's rebel National Transitional Council, prior to the opening of the
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) welcomes Mustafa Abdel Jalil (C), chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC), and Mahmoud Jibril (R), the head of Libya's rebel National Transitional Council, prior to the opening of the "Friends of L
James Brooke

Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya was known for cultivating support in Africa and tangling with Europe, the United States and moderate Arab governments. But now there appears to be a big foreign-policy shift toward the West in the air.

Two political snapshots capture the new directions for the foreign relations of Libya, holder of the largest oil reserves in
Africa. Last week, South African President Jacob Zuma, speaking for the African Union, refused to recognize Libya’s rebels as the new
government of Libya.

This week, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of Libya’s transitional authority, was feted in Paris at a Libya meeting by the leaders of
France and Britain and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

On the streets of Tripoli, the view is that Libya will turn away from African states south of the Sahara and cultivate relations north of the Mediterranean.  

"We can’t flee Africa.  We are part of the continent, but we want the U.S. and Europe to help us," said Abdurazeg Akhmeda Jamour, a rebel leader:

Moammar Gadhafi, Libya’s fugitive leader, spent billions of dollars to cultivate African leaders.  A decade ago, he launched the Africa Union.  Two years ago, he styled himself Africa’s “King of Kings.”  He called for the formation of the United States of Africa.

Peter Cole, a Libya expert, says Mr. Gadhafi’s generosity toward sub-Saharan leaders explains the African Union’s reluctance to follow
the lead of the 75 nations worldwide that have extended diplomatic recognition to Libya’s National Transitional Council.

“[They are] very, very tiny countries - Libyan spending in there could be a significant part of GDP.  So there is a lot of genuine fear among AU members that they will lose out,” Cole said.

Libyans are watching who is slow to extend diplomatic recognition to the rebels.  Russia, Algeria and the African Union - all
friends of Mr. Gadhafi - have been the laggards.

Rafa Rejeibi, who once taught Arabic in the United States, pauses from celebrating the rebels' seizure of Tripoli to offer an explanation.

“Libyans now are a little bit sensitive to the way the African countries had reacted to the Libyan revolution.  We were counting more
on them, and really we saw the opposite,” Rejeibi said.

Instead, Rejeibi and others say, Libyans now want to open up to the wider world.

“Libyan people are just very thirsty and hungry to open up to all nations and cultures.  It is not just to the U.S. and to France, as
people say, because they were pioneers to take action to protect Libya against Gadhafi militias,” Rejeibi said.

During Mr. Gadhafi's era, Libya’s foreign policy included giving weapons to European terrorist groups and blowing up two passenger jets - one American  and one French.  Now Libyans stress that Mr. Gadhafi’s hostility toward the West is not shared by modern Libyans.  Amar, a rebel unit fighter, speaks at a victory celebration.

“The people of Libya were not an enemy of America [loud bangs] Gadhafi was an enemy,” Amar said.

In a neighborhood near a walled compound that once served as the nerve center of Mr. Gadhafi's rule, Ali Azoz is the imam of a local mosque.  He also leads his neighborhood’s underground resistance organization.

"People don’t have any problems with America or any other country. The whole world should know that Gadhafi’s character only represents himself," he said.

Inside the compound, Nale, a 20-year-old dentistry student, is touring with her father, Khalid, an engineer.  Nale says she wants to discover the world. She resents Gadhafi’s past restrictions on studying English.

"We are not allowed to speak English, to study English in schools.  And his (Gadhafi's) son goes to London and studies in the best unis [universities.]  And we are not allowed to do that.  It’s so weird," Nale said.

Libyans caution that they want future relations with the West to built on the levels of mutual respect. They know their 20th-century history: an Italian colony for three decades, administered by Britain for a decade, home to a massive American air base until 1970, a close trading partner for the Soviet Union during the Gadhafi era.  But Libya has changed, and Libyans have changed.

In an upper middle class home, Fatma Ghobtan says Libyans are fast embracing the future.

“We don’t want the back history - [such as his ties with] Russia.  We want new faces, we want new people, we want new education.  We want everything new.  It’s 2011.  Everyone with a computer, with a mobile.  Everything has changed,” Ghobtan said.

Agreement comes from Milad Mohammed Arier, a 30-year-old fire extinguisher salesman, who is relaxing with neighbors on a street corner on a hot evening.

“We are so near to Europe.  Even our mentality is so open, because we are reading.  Technology.  Internet access.  Mobile phones, they are coming, and they are changing everything.  Even now if you are working in Tripoli, you will see the difference in the knowledge between the old men and the new guys, between 20 years and 40 years,” Arier said.

With half of Libya’s population under 15 years of age, the demographic momentum seems to be on the side of big changes in how Libya relates to the world.

You May Like

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

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