I and a few African Diaspora spent the best part of last year preparing for a Historic Conference in Tripoli. There were several workshops across European capitals throughout the year. The reason Gaddafi or the Headmaster as he became known amongst us had seen the injustices that Africans in the diaspora suffer at the hands of our hosts in Europe and had decided that something must be done.
He would throw whatever resources that were required to find an answer/solution as he saw it. Either –
A Dignified life in Europe or a happy return home
On 13th January 2011, he ferried in at least 600 of us from across the world all expenses paid, kings and queens of Africa, Reps from the Pan African government, the African Union commission, Intellectuals, an ex Congress Woman etc
The outcome of this was an agreement to Establish an African Union in the Diaspora with a representative from each of the 6 continents with the Headmaster (KING OF KINGS/BROTHER LEADER as he is referred to in Libya) as the honorary President of this organization.
As we deliberated the political situation in Tunisia was unfolding before our very eyes. I got to know a couple fellow delegates from Egypt well during the conference and they would update me on the situation. Ironically back then they thought that Libya would fall next and there was anxiety if this should happen during our stay. But how time flies
As this conference was about the life of African immigrants in Europe, the issue that most speakers at the conference raised time and time again was the need to address the reason why Africans seek to and or migrate to Europe.
We had reps from the Libyan border control and I can’t tell you folk how distressing the scenes that these folk face in the desert everyday. Scenes of exhausted and often injured Africans trying to make it to Europe were heart wrenching. The video clip was the sort that would require a warning before transmission.
The question on all of our lips was WHY DO FOLK PUT THEMSELVES THROUGH THAT? This is a question I keep asking over and over again at Ethnic Supplies Blog
Some of the most obvious reasons include
- poor governance
- want of better life
Libya and maybe Egypt or even Tunisia have served as the access routes to Europe for many black Africans seeking a new life in Europe, with Libya bearing most of the “burden” so much so that an agreement was reached with Libya to help Europe fight illegal immigration of Black Africans to Europe.
Well that was then- the most recent events in all these countries mostly due to poor governance have meant that the citizens of these countries are now crossing the desert and the Med Sea to the safety of Europe.
The Question is
What will Europe Do about it?
Back to the Historic Conference in Tripoli
I and few delegates got to meet and speak with Black Africans that live in Tripoli and asked them what life is really like for them. They told us
We get discriminated against by the Arabs, harassed sometimes, but the cost of living is cheap, we don’t pay for electricity nor water and housing is cheap, gatherings of more than 5 people are not allowed, you must get permission for that sort of thing. But we are fighting for our rights and I think we are getting there. Oh and we don’t think the headmaster knows about this as he would not allow it to happen
Driving through Tripoli it was evident that a major regeneration scheme was going on with old buildings being torn down and new ones going up. We told most of this was housing for the poor. On the face of it this looked like a country going places and with a great love for their leader.
We eventually got to meet the headmaster on the final day of the conference and I can’t tell you how painful the preparation for this was. We were not allowed to take our handbags, phones, cameras pens or anything else for that matter.
Gaddafi- was his eccentric self, softly spoken and articulate. he told us that other African leaders were mistaken in their view that he wanted to take control of the whole of Africa. He sees himself as a servant of oppressed Africans allover the world with no desire for power.In fact he told us he was a revolutionist and left government to others
What I found interesting about this was that he sat through 3 hours of speeches before he said a word and having spoken he retreated to the largest tent I have ever seen!
There are always two sides to each story and whatever his reasons were-
He is the first African leader that has paid attention to the issue of African Diaspora in Europe, where other African leaders do not value its diaspora in spite of the financial contribution we make to the African economy, which in some cases is reportedly higher that Aid donations.
Gaddafi wanted to see a situation where African leaders can negotiate a better life for Africans in Europe and take an active role in lobbying European leaders for rights and called on us Africans to observe the law of the land of our adopted countries in a nutshell that with all rights come obligations and we must observe these. Wise words indeed from the headmaster and he left us in no doubt that he had our interests at heart!
For those of us that live in the UK, we came away with a point of view that that the Libyan people at least those that we met seemed to have a genuine respect and love for their president but for those of us used to life in the UK this is not something that we could understand given what we read about and hear about Gaddafi.
But there you go- given what we know now appearances can indeed be deceptive! At the time of writing this a Senior Army officer has sought refuge in Malta, Senior Diplomats have resigned and called for action against the Colonel, word on the street is that the colonel himself has fled to Venezuala and by the time you read this no doubt a lot would have happened so stop by and update us.
Last week he was reported to have said that he would join the protesters on the streets as he too was unhappy with the government, having met him I actually believe this is something he would do!
Make of that what you will, but do share your thoughts here.
Is this the end of the term for the Headmaster?
Entertainers at our last dinner in Tripoli courtesy of the Headmaster