National

Libya rebels now target ‘blacks’

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By Tabu Butagira

Posted  Monday, August 29  2011 at  00:00

In Summary

Students safe. Ugandan students who had been held by the rebels have now been set free and are being housed at the World Islamic Call Society College in Tripoli.

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A Ugandan trapped in Tripoli has said rebels consolidating their hold on the Libyan capital are targeting, and killing, black Africans they suspect to have fought as mercenaries for Col. Muammar Gaddafi. “These black people came here to take up employment at oil fields, diplomatic missions and as domestic servants [but] the rebels are now killing them indiscriminately,” the source told this newspaper yesterday by telephone from Tripoli.

“When they arrest any black person they suspect to be a fighter (mercenary), they force them to wear an army uniform and then mutilate them using swords and machetes.”

Somalis, Eritreans, Ethiopians, Senegalese, Chadians and Nigerian nationals are the most affected, according to our source and human right groups. These revelations came as Col. Gaddafi, through regime spokesman Moussa Ibrahim, contacted the Associated Press by telephone, announcing that the Libyan leader, who is in hiding, is ready for talks with the insurgents he had mocked as “rats”!

The fighters, who have already overrun the presidential palace and are heading to capture Col. Gaddafi’s Sirte home town, dismissed the suggestion as delusional. They said there is no basis for dialogue and the runaway dictator should surrender himself to face trial.

Yesterday’s reports of increased xenophobic attacks energised AU lobbyists to intensify demands that only an all-inclusive transitional arrangement - but one that excludes Col. Gaddafi as agreed in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea on June 29 - would deliver true democratic dispensation to anxious Libyans, without widening tribal fissures and endangering its pivotal role on the continent.

The country’s oil riches made it possible for Col. Gaddafi’s crumbling regime to subsidise living for citizens and the stipends, combined with other lucrative opportunities, attracted African economic refugees, with some aiming to transit to Europe. But as the conflict intensified over its six-month course, reports, repeatedly denied by government officials, showed Col. Gaddafi drafted fighters from some friendly countries when it became clear NATO-supported rebels were determined to wrest power from him.

Zimbabwe and Kenya were named as contributors, although both countries refute the allegations. In yesterday’s telephone conversation, our contact; whom we cannot name for his safety, said the rebel fighters in Tripoli had ransacked buildings housing the embassies of Kenya, Zambia and Lesotho.

Cars and other valuables found at the residences of the foreign diplomats were either snatched or vandalised, he said. It is understood the rebels mark blacks for attacks because they helped subdue the anti-Gaddafi fighters in the early days in Misrata City.
It emerged last night that the 15 Ugandan students, whom government said it had lost contact with, were arrested by the rebels but later set free. They are safe at the World Islamic Call Society College in Tripoli.

tbutagira@ug.nationmedia.com