After the successful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, the Libyan people are also trying to free themselves from totalitarian rule. Ute Schaeffer looks at how Europe should respond to this movement.
We do not know much about current conditions in Libya. How many people were victims of the fighter jet attacks on protesters? Who opposes the regime? There are no photos; there is no trustworthy news, there are no names for the victims. The dictator Moammar Gadhafi has achieved his goal. He has veiled Libya from the public eye and sealed his people into the socialist Islamic republic that he conceived. The EU's timid reaction is embarrassing. After hours of debate by the foreign ministers, there was not even a single sanction.
The EU is well aware that it is cooperating with a dictator whose role models are Mao, Stalin and Hitler. Gadhafi is a long-time harborer of international terrorism who is to blame for the attack on the La Belle disco in Berlin as well as for the Scottish Lockerbie bombing. For decades the self-proclaimed "King of African Kings" has fuelled wars in Africa by delivering weapons to and financially supporting various groups. The continued instability in Central Africa can be traced back to him.
Europe also knows how Gadhafi is all too prone to make exorbitant demands. At the last European-African summit meeting in Tripoli, he rambled on with an hour-and-a-half tirade without anyone leaving the room.
Now Europe is finding out what it means to make a pariah into Europe's policeman. Last October, the EU signed an agreement with Gadhafi to cooperate on migration. The agreement came despite the fact that African refugees consider Libya to be a brutal police state. The more than two million Africans who try to escape to Europe through Libya every year are placed in camps where human rights do not exist, before being deported to neighboring desert states. This inhumane policy contradicts Europe's fundamental values.
And it is a scandal that the EU has provided funding for this practice. Gadhafi runs an unjust regime that has not signed the Geneva Conventions on refugees and has no asylum procedures. Perhaps the current photos from Benghazi or Tripoli will make the EU re-evaluate its relationship with Gadhafi. But right now that does not seem likely.
Ute Schaeffer is head of Deutsche Welle's Mideast and Africa service
In Brussels, Berlin, Paris and Madrid it has been common to hear the view that "we need Gadhafi, and that's why we are cooperating with him." Libya is the fourth largest oil producer in Africa and is Germany's third largest supplier of oil. But if you make a pact with the devil, you cannot be surprised if you lose your credibility. It is much easier simply to deport immigrants than to confront complex problems like how migration can be prevented through peace and development. It is a double standard that hurts the credibility of Europe's foreign policy. Europe should not support a flimsy stability founded on dictatorships like Gadhafi's.
Now we can only hope that the UN Security Council will take a clear position on the events in Libya. At least Russia has condemned the massacre that occurred over the weekend. In a certain sense, Gadhafi anticipated the current events in his vision of an Islamic socialist people's republic. The "state of the masses" sketched out by him at the end of the 70s would rule itself and would do without a ruler. That is exactly what the people in Libya are currently working for. Gadhafi should go.
Author: Ute Schaeffer, head of Deutsche Welle's Mideast and Africa service / sk
Editor: Michael Lawton