Category Archives: Connecting the dots

Open Letter to the Mayor of Durban

Dear Mr. Nxumalo, Mayor of Durban, South Africa

I have been informed that you are trying to be helpful to the poor, by way of being charitable, and sensitizing richer people to donate whatever they can to improve the conditions under which the poor live. From what is being reported, it does seem that you are not interested in listening to what the poor themselves are saying with regard to deal with their living conditions.

I do have many questions, but the one that really dominates is the following: why is it so difficult for you (and others in your administration, in the justice system, locally and nationally, in your party, locally and nationally) to look at people who are protesting on the basis of values (like solidarity, for example) that most Africans, nay, most humans, are proud to share? Is it not possible to put aside what capitalism, colonialism, apartheid, slavery, drilled into our minds, and listen with the kind of care, love, compassion someone like Francis of Assisi once did as a way of reminding us what we do have in common. One does not have to be a former catholic believer to admire someone like Pope Francis giving examples of humility, compassion, generosity, recently embracing a disfigured person. Or have you so imbibed the concept of power as power only when exercised with impunity, that you do not see how closely you are reproducing what went on during apartheid?

In his novel, KMT –In the House of Life, subtitled, an epistemic novel, Ayi Kwei Armah has provided an enlightened response. In this novel, Ayi Kwei Armah tries to understand why Ancient Egyptian Civilization fell apart. In a nutshell, it boiled down to a struggle between two antagonistic understandings of how to advance knowledge (and humanity). On one side there were the keepers (using knowledge as a way of accumulating power) and the sharers (using knowledge as a way of promoting solidarity, and the continuing emancipation of humanity).

Mr. Mayor, have you ever entertained the idea that, given your position, you could play a significant role, not only in Durban, but beyond, toward a complete and total emancipation of humanity, from the predatory practices of capitalism? What has been missing in Africa, since the years of Independence? What has been missing in South Africa, since the end of Apartheid? In all these cases can one seriously talk about transition when those who most benefitted from the predatory liquidation of Africa organized themselves to carry on with the predatory system? The predators are keepers and reproducers of the knowledge that made them powerful and super rich. The residents of Kennedy Road, Cato Cress Manor are trying to make you understand their messages about sharing in solidarity, not through charity. The latter is a healing message, the former is a transaction aimed at keeping the poor poorer and the rich richer.

There is a world of difference between solidarity and charity.
The latter calls for silence
Acquiescence, submission
Acceptance of poverty
As something akin to predestination
Calls for audacity
In liquidating misery
Forever everywhere
Not just in one corner of a territory

The poorest of the poor
Took to the streets because they had no other way
To be heard in their own voices
By themselves, for themselves

In today’s world dominated by violence
The voices from the poorest of the poorest
Are healing voices seeking
To heal wounds, visible and invisible

Mr. Mayor, it is easier to focus on the visible wounds, the ones everyone can see and understand, but the deepest wounds tend to be the ones that are invisible from the outside. Real healing means going as deep as possible in those hidden wounds, with the help of those who are vocal and those who have been so badly wounded that, more often than not, they would rather keep quiet.
There is one humanity, indivisible. In the end, each one of us will be asked, whatever our beliefs what did we do in order to heal that which appeared irreparably destroyed.

Jacques MF Depelchin
Hugh Le May Fellow Rhodes University (August-December 2012)

Edward Snowden: A healing voice

Like many people, I was surprised to hear of Edward Snowden’s decision to leave his job and move toward Hong Kong in search of a place where he could reconcile his conscience with his understanding of humanity and the US Constitution. Ever since, I have been trying to understand how he had come to a decision that, one may be certain, others contemplated, but then did not pursue for reasons that are not important, at this point, to figure out.

As days, weeks, months passed, most citizens of the US had difficulties in assessing Edward Snowden’s act: was he a hero or a traitor? In the midst of these hesitations, his father embraced him tightly. [His mother may have done the same, but more discretely, so discretely in fact, that no one but herself and Edward and his father know about it]. It was a very encouraging and courageous act even if it had to be handled, as too many things have to, in these days, with the help of a lawyer.

Is this lawyerly mediation of father-son love a sign of the times we are living in?

Solidarity, generosity, love,
Natural as humans for thousands of years
Cannot be expressed without consulting
Lawyers, expert navigators in protecting
Humans from being liquidated by other humans
So blinded by the exercise of power with impunity
They and/or their lobbyists
cannot see how such insanity
Has led to a slow, possibly
Irreversible process
Of annihilation of values that
Once defined humanity

In these turbulent and confusing times, the striking quality of Edward Snowden’s voice may account for the silence it has tended to generate among his fellow humans. In the ideological dictionary of how to catalogue him, the specialists are at a loss, between honoring him as a hero and castigating him as traitor. Yet, his voice has come out as clear as crystal, as simple as a healing voice echoing his own conscience, a conscience fine tuned to how it was defined thousands of year ago when humans began to gain a conscience of themselves as different from animals.

As one reads Ancient Egyptian texts, especially around the concept of Mâât (justice, balance, ethics, solidarity, etc.), it is not difficult to see the connection between Snowden’s Ba (inner spirit, soul, conscience, according to the Ancient Egyptians) and that of The Man In Dispute of His Ba, a text from the 12th dynasty. (See Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature. Vol. 1: The Old and Middle Kingdom. UCLA press, 1975) It is not difficult to imagine Snowden debating with his Ba on how to decide what to do in the face of doing work that told him that it was not right.

As in that text from the 12th dynasty (1990-1785 BC), one could imagine Snowden thinking like that man:

To Whom Shall I Speak Today
The Constitution shows one way
My bosses kept messaging me: stay away
From your conscience
They would say
Insisting you are
Too young to know anyway
The right from the wrong way

Still I kept asking myself
To Whom Shall I speak today
While being encouraged to go
against the right way

To Whom Shall Speak Today
Facing solitary incarceration
Because I cannot help say
Yes to my conscience

Knowing what he did and what he was being asked to do, it is not difficult to imagine how he first tried to push his conscience away, silence it, telling himself that his job was to follow orders and not think about the bigger issues of whether it was right or wrong. But his conscience or his Ba kept coming back, sometimes in the middle of the night. He may not have thought the same as The Man from the text in Ancient Egyptian 12th dynasty, but it is also clear that it is those words that led him to look for people with whom he could share the load weighing on his conscience/Ba. The pain from the load was too much. Like any reasonable human being he looked for help, searching for someone he could speak to, without facing punishment concocted by generations of misguided, gone astray guardians of laws built on lies, violence, still unacknowledged crimes against humanity.

We do know that our brain/body still react physically/psychically in ways that were learned from thousand of years ago, whether in the face of threatening danger or in the face of dilemmas dealing with life issues. Living as human beings means that one is permanently connected to one’s conscience. That umbilical cord that connects us to primordial times has never been severed, but it will come under severe strain, now and again. In times past, land and conscience were as inseparable as any of the organs that make humans what they are. Inheritors of that crime against humanity see nothing wrong in cashing in on that original impunity by invading the soul/conscience of every single human being to own it as they owned the land they conquered.

Could it be that the difficulties of figuring out how Edward Snowden decided to do what he did stems from a station in the evolution of humanity that is showing signs of being split from its conscience. Put in another more brutal fashion: could it be that one of the consequences of the way humans are being organized economically, politically, scientifically, culturally, religiously, humanity as we have known it, is being liquidated, along with its history and being replaced by a species fashioned to respond without resistance to the rules and regulations that are being imposed in all spheres of life, all of them rooted in the impunity that sanctioned the severing of the land from people whose conscience kept repeating:

You are the guardian of the land
Earth, air, water one way
As Corbin Harney used to say
Only one way to stay
The integrity of humanity
Let no one take your land away
Because not long after they
Will take your conscience away
They turned the land into a commodity
With names like plantation, reservation,
Bantustans, colonies, commonwealth,
How far is humanity
from unrecoverable cacophony
hibernation, isolation, desolation. Liquidation?

The signal is clear: do not listen to your conscience, especially if tells you to denounce something that is damaging to other members of humanity.

Looked at from such an angle, Edward Snowden’s voice and action can be seen as healing gestures in a world increasingly being pushed to self annihilation by practices that emphasize, single mindedly, the competitive search for self-enrichment. In the face of such a disaster, should one be surprised that a person with a highly sensitive conscience could not help but follow it? When a healing voice, like Edward Snowden’s, emerges in the midst of an undeclared war against humanity, one can be certain that such a voice is the result of a massive healing energy being expressed from different segments of humanity. This voice is not an isolated cry. Could it be the water breaking preceding the birth of a renewed conscience and affirmation of fidelity to humanity?


It has been pointed out that the assassination of Amilcar Cabral marked the end of a sequence of history (Michael Neocosmos) namely the end of politics through armed struggles. In the process of thinking and re-thinking the legacy of Amilcar Cabral is it possible to say anything that has not been already said, either by himself, or by those who have written about him? Is it possible to go beyond just citing words and/or phrases that reconnect to his vision of an emancipated Africa? Is it possible to accept that, from the end of WWII, if not before, history has unfolded as imposed by the most powerful economic and political forces.

Discussing Amilcar Cabral, in a way, is no different from discussing other iconic and revolutionary figures whose lives were cut short precisely because of how they were perceived by their enemy. The long history of freeing Africa and Africans from the legacies of enslavement, colonization, apartheid, globalization seems like a never-ending task. The task could be made easier if one’s understanding of the above legacies were not too intimately tied to the Enlightenment.

In this essay, I would like to argue that one of the reasons Africa and Africans, and especially the poorest, are not better than they were in 1973 (possibly worse off), has to do, in part, with an inadequate understanding of how capitalism rooted itself in Africa, while uprooting its people, its culture, its history, and, at the same time pushing the splitting of humanity to levels that will make the task of coming back together appear impossible.

While most theorizers of capitalism and the processes linked to its expansion do mention violence, to my knowledge, none has really focused on the impact of cumulative violence on both sides. In addition, most theorizers, even if they may deny this, focus on the economic and financial impact of capital. The political and ideological impact resulting from the violence has not received the same kind of attention that the equation labor-capital has received. If capital, for the sake of its survival, shall feed on states, any of them, it will do so.

The financialization of capital and the kind of impunity it rests on must be analyzed through a theorization of how violence has been exercised while, at the same time, not being presented as violence. The towering dominance of finance capital is deeply connected with the violence present, represented and accumulated over the years in military organizations like NATO and the nuclear arsenals of countries with nuclear capability. In turn that latent violence which hangs over humanity like a Damocles sword has historical roots in processes that tend to be seen as separate. Ideologically speaking, capital and capitalism must be presented in the same light as, say the history of the US: the best, the greatest, incapable of committing crimes against humanity. The ruthlessness of capital, under any of its historical sequences, has been sanitized to the point of turning it into the “only acceptable alternative”.

The political and ideological power that has resulted from the violence inflicted during slavery and colonization deserves greater attention if the economic, political and cultural transitions are going to be understood, whether from slavery, colonial, apartheid to post-slavery, post-colonial, post-apartheid times. In a nutshell, the argument can be summarized as follows: from slavery through the current era called “globalization”, a type of power has emerged on a global scale that has not be given a name, as yet. In addition the cumulative effect of violence, physical and psychic has led to the emergence of a world in which violence will often take forms that have nothing or little to do with violence as is understood. To this kind of overwhelming power that is almost impossible to assess, one should add the power of technology. The creative side of technology is overemphasized while its destructive capacity has been growing beyond the imaginable.

For example, through advertizing (supposedly focused on creativity), consumers are led to believe that a given product (while in reality lethal for one’s health) is not only desirable, but also will enhance one’s health, and how one will feel, look, etc. Thus, while living under a socio-economic system that could be described as the most predatory in the history of humanity, humans seem to be unaware and/or unconcerned that, in the words of Aimé Césaire, “We have entered a tower of silence where we have become prey and vulture.” Indeed, one could convey the same idea by wondering whether capitalism has become the nicotine of humanity.

If it were to be analyzed in detail, this kind of power, rooted in how capitalism has imposed itself could lead one to conclude it has achieved the kind of dominance that Nazi leaders could never ever have dreamed of. Yet, it would be wrong to look at the end of WWII (i.e. how it came about, as a singular turning point. What is needed is a history of transitions (from slavery to colonization to apartheid to globalization) of capitalism, focused on where and how the concentration of economic, political, financial power was built.

One of the starting points has to be how the post-WWII has been presented by the powers that have been in control of that process: as a period that has brought greater progress, peace and security to everyone, under the twin aegis of capitalism and the United States. This narrative must be questioned in view of the crossroads in which humanity finds itself today. Asking for the narrative to be questioned does not mean that one has reached a conclusion with regard to how one should call the times under which we are living, but questioning at all times while maintaining fidelity to humanity can be the only way of maintaining fidelity to emancipatory politics.

Cabral’s famous warning about not claiming easy victory comes to mind. Yet, it could be argued that, in fact, systematically, at every transition there has been something akin to “claiming an easy victory”, or thinking that because some victories had been achieved, the rest, as Nkrumah so famously put it, will follow. In Frelimo’s publication during the struggle, an editorial was written, very critical of Nkrumah. Was Cabral thinking of Nkrumah when he issued his warning about not claiming easy victories?

As in any scientific endeavor, emancipatory processes, if they are going to be successful, can never end, if only because the temptations of one group seeking to take advantage of the rest is always going to be present. One of the difficulties, if not the principal one, is that the nature, form and appearance of the challenges will never be the same. Thus, Samora’s probing question “Who is the Enemy?” cannot ever have a prefabricated, or ready-made answer. It requires a constant battle whose shape, form, organization will never be the same. Sounds obvious, but is it? One of the reasons why there has been a tendency to claim easy victories (whether over slavery, colonization, Nazism or apartheid) comes from the imposition of historical narratives that see no connections (or very few) between these various phases when, in reality, the connections are structural, and should lead to constant re-examination.

For example, is it far fetched for an author like Claude Ribbe to look at Napoléon Bonaparte as a precursor of Hitler? Ribbe’s book focuses on how Napoleon ordered the restoration of slavery when he came to power. How that process was carried out may lead historians to other conclusions, but there is no doubt about how horrific it was (instructions coming from the highest levels were to make no prisoners, and asphyxiate them in massive numbers in the ship howls before throwing the dead bodies in the ocean). Moreover, Napoleon’s intentions were made clear: make the punishment as severe as possible so that the enslaved would think twice before engaging in overthrowing slavery. In other words, there are parts of the history of capitalism and/or nations that became powerful through its expansion that are considered sacred and untouchable. If impunity is going to be addressed seriously, then let it be done in a manner that does not flinch at investigating some of the most deeply embedded causes.

The enemy that allowed slavery to be abolished was actually working at modernizing slavery, i.e. getting rid of those shackles that were considered as obstacles on the growth of capital. The enemy that was later defeated in Indochina, Kenya, Algeria was in the process of modernizing its arsenal. This process has nothing to do with conspiracy theory; rather it has to do with the transition from colonization by European countries to US capital overtaking the latter. It has to do with the obvious: reconnecting histories that have continued to be treated as separate and unrelated to each other.

The history of the politics of emancipation as it has unfolded in Africa is one that should generate a process of rethinking à la Cabral. This would mean that emancipatory politics must understand the trajectories of colonization, apartheid, globalization, better than those who think that given that they always have won, there is no other lesson to learn from anyone, let alone from those who have been systematically slaughtered because their resistance was described as backward, barbarian, etc.

1. Power, violence and impunity

At the root of the long process of conquering Africa, one finds violence exercised with impunity. The end result, as can be seen today, is a practice of power that, implicitly and/or explicitly states that “power is only power if it is exercised with impunity”. In order to understand this, one has to look at the cumulative violence that has been unleashed for centuries, most of which went unrecorded in the annals or archives of the conquering forces.

It is not enough to note, as most observers do today, that there are two international justice systems, one at the service of the most powerful nations, corporations and one at the service of the weakest. For the latter, an arsenal of humanitarian, charitable organizations have been put in place since the days of the abolitionist movement in England, in particular, but not only.

Humanitarianism has a history longer than the birth of the United Nations and most charitable organizations. Humanitarianism can be looked at the manner in which the most powerful show their power to the weakest. Justice that is practiced out of charity is not justice. When adjectives begin to be added to justice, such as “social justice”, then one should be alerted to the fact that justice means different things to different groups of people.

For power to be exercised with impunity, the violence behind it must not be interpreted as questionable, or unjust. The most powerful nations and corporations are not interested in examining the reverberations/repercussions of how they exercise their power. It has reached levels of unaccountability that are usually associated with dictatorial rule.

For example, when it is decided in a given place that a group of people must be liquidated because one person has been identified as a threat to the well being of those controlling economic, political and financial power. Such a process makes a mockery of justice and reframes the parameters of international relations in a way that becomes impossible to challenge because impunity has become part and parcel of the definition of power as exercised by the most powerful.

2. Education, history

If one looks at the interest in history during the liberation struggles and the immediate aftermath, it is not difficult to notice that history was an important topic. Education was equally important. The reasons were obvious: if people were going to be mobilized to fight colonial rule, then it was important for them to understand its roots and how it worked, both physically and mentally.

The correlation between knowing the past, the present and the future was crucial in the success of the armed struggles for liberation. If one takes the example of Frelimo and the teaching of who the enemy is, during the armed struggle, it is not difficult to see how crucial education and history were as mobilizing weapons. When the colonized (or the enslaved) stand up and affirm themselves as not colonized, as free, they state that they count in a way that goes counter to how they had been treated by the enslavers and/or colonizers. However, that affirmation does require constant updating if the pitfall of National consciousness (or claiming easy victories) is going to be avoided.

Is it not interesting that preoccupation with history and/or education tends to occur at moments of crisis or in times when there is a sense that things cannot go on as they are? Although still in power, Frelimo has adopted the dominant manners and practices of its former enemy by relegating history, education and health to the bottom of the priorities. The presupposition (from the US to Mozambique, to DRC, to Brazil) is that these disciplines are sought by the less intellectually gifted. According to those in power (corporations and/or state) this is as it should be because the best brains are headed for science, Business and Law Schools.

Post Apartheid South Africa devotes 20% of its budget to education, and yet education continues to suffer from the apparent determination that it is not crucial for a society driven by a bottom line that has stated, for centuries now, that Africa and Africans should not get the best education possible for every single person. The bottom line continues to be dictated by the notion that those who have risen to the top have done so thanks to their own merit. The idea that maintaining fidelity to humanity is crucial not just for the tiny few at the top, but for every single one, is simply anathema to those who have most benefitted from the process of dispossession and dehumanization that has taken place under capitalism.

3. Capitalism: toward eradicating humanity and its history?

Over and above the typical features of capital related to the relationship between labor and capital, what takes place at the same time is a process of dispossession that goes far beyond what has been understood. How lethal capitalism has been in its process of destroying humanity has not been fully understood. The discussions about whether primitive accumulation or dispossession best capture how capitalism as an economic system operates can only lead to claiming easy victories, because capitalism has impacted humans in ways that go far beyond the realm of economics.

It is not sufficient to provide a critique of capitalism by just focusing on its economic features. Sometimes it may take the voice of poets to see better through capitalism. I will refer here to just two of them: Aimé Césaire and Ayi Kwei Armah. For the first I can only send readers to his Discourse on Colonialism. In it he articulates the interconnections between capitalism, Nazism and colonialism in a way that does not follow the usual script. He points out how the reconstruction of Europe went hand in hand with a continuation of Nazism (in the colonies). After all, it is not Hitler who proclaimed the following: “We do not aspire to equality, but to domination. The foreign race country must become again a land of serfs, daily farm or industrial workers. The issue is not to do away with inequalities among people, but to amplify them and turn it into a law”. Ernest Renan, the western humanist, the idealist philosopher is the author of this quote, written immediately following the end of WWII.

In a few more paragraphs, Césaire illustrates, with quotes, the ideological kinship between French thinkers and Hitler and his acolytes; between the barbarism that colonization leads to do, and where Nazism led. For Césaire, both colonialism and Nazism are the by-products of a sick civilization that, in his word “irresistibly, from consequence to consequence, from renunciation to renunciation, calls for its Hitler, I mean its punishment”.

From the perspective of Africa and its enslavement, Ayi Kwei Armah has written about the reality brought about by the white destroyers and the way to heal from the carnage. He has done it not only in his writings, but also in his practices as a writer, a thinker, as a sharer of his vision and understanding of the way away from the destroyers’ way. In chapter 7 of Two Thousand Seasons, readers will find reflections that are pertinent to not claiming easy victories, as in the following lines where he describes what a liberator is: “For he is no liberator whose skill lies in calling loudly to the bound, the trapped, the impotent enslaved, to rise upon their destroyers. The liberator is he who from a necessary silence, from a necessary secrecy strikes the destroyer. That, not loudness, is the necessary beginning.” (p. 314) Further down, he warns of more difficulties: “Dangers will be in the newness of this discovery, dangers like the headiness of too quick, abundant faith from those too long sold to despair; the pull of old habits from destruction’s empire; the sour possibility of people helping each other turning in times of difficulty into people using each other to create a selfish ease…(p.315)

4. Cabral and Guiné-Bissau

As observers and scholars look today at the African continent, the general impression that emerges is certainly not the one that prevailed around 1973, just before the assassination of Cabral. Even the assassination of Cabral could not dampen the feeling that victory against Portuguese colonial rule was within reach. By April 1974, thanks to the pressure brought by the armed struggles in the colonies, the Portuguese army seized power and put an end to the dictatorship. With the independence of Mozambique the (September 1975) the focus shifted from ending Portuguese colonial rule to facing and defeating Ian Smith and its allies in South Africa. With the defeat of the Americans in Vietnam in 1975, it appeared as if anything was possible, including the end of the apartheid regime. There came Soweto 1976, but soon after that (September 1977) came the assassination of Steve Bantu Biko. And it was around this time (April 1976) that the US (under Henry Kissinger), decided that the timing of the end of apartheid had to take place according to what would be decided in Washington, London, and not by Africans pursuing their search for complete and total emancipation from centuries of domination.

For the purposes of this essay and the current times, there is one question that is impossible to avoid: from the days of Nkrumah’s rise to power and the process of decolonization, what is it that, systematically, has not been dealt with as it should have been? Despite the volumes written on, around African unity, how come everything but unity prevails? What is it that prevented thinkers like Cheikh Anta Diop, Nkrumah, Cabral, Fanon, Nyerere, Mondlane, Ruben Um Nyobe, from joining their efforts? What is it that has led African political leaders to treat Cheikh Anta Diop’s individual work with the same disdain that, collectively speaking, Haiti’s overthrow of slavery has been treated? These questions will have to be answered sooner or later.

I mentioned earlier the fact that in the process of enslaving and colonizing the continent, the process of destruction did much more than what has been acknowledged, even by leaders like Cabral. It is one thing to call for African unity, it is another to articulate it in a way that any one on the continent would immediately understand the historical, cultural, linguistic, philosophical roots of that unity; provided such articulations were rooted in an understanding and conviction that, in fact, the unity that politicians talk about has in fact been in existence through the culture, the languages, the values that can be traced back to Egyptian civilization. Although Cabral himself pointed out that the history of Africa has deeper roots than alleged by the theoretical approach framed by the history of class struggle, there is no evidence that he or his close collaborators, like Mario de Andrade, for example, took the work of Cheikh Anta Diop seriously.

Today, what is the state of liberation (emancipatory politics) in countries that fought armed struggles? More broadly speaking what is the state of the continent compared to what it looked like it might become in 1973? Can one say that the leadership in charge today has carried on, with fidelity to humanity (as envisioned by Fanon in his conclusion to The Wretched of the Earth) from where Amilcar Cabral and others left?

Land grabbing in various countries is taking place as if cued by some sort of virtual replay of the Berlin Conference (more than a century later) aimed at dividing up the Continent according to the new configuration imposed by capitalism. If it is not land grabbing, laundering of the money made through drug trafficking is ensuring that capitalism does take root by any means necessary. The dispossessing or dehumanization of humanity has received a new lease of life on the continent thanks to a renewed process of aggression against the most precious treasure held by all human beings: conscience.

5. Conclusion

For emphasis, let it be said that the focus on African history and not on history has led to a failure to understand humanity and its history as a whole. By creating area studies for the sake of producing expert knowledge on areas like Africa, the US and its allies (mostly former colonizing countries) created a way of looking at African history that prepared the ground for the repeated stumbling that prevented a complete and total eradication of the consequences of enslavement and colonization. When looking at the history of Africa and Africans by only concentrating on the continent, one ends up distorting that history. In turn that distortion leads to a distortion of the history of humanity especially if, in the process, the humanity of Africans is systematically denied.

From within the emancipatory tradition, there are more voices of conscience than the ones referred to in this text. At the same time, what is not sufficiently appreciated is the degree to which capitalism has come to dominate humanity’s conception of itself, and its reliance on its conscience to keep coming back to its senses. Whether it was from Fanon, Ruben Um Nyobe, Biko, Sankara, Lumumba, Nehanda or Kimpa Vita, these voices expressed what humanity has in common: conscience. While it may have been eroded to the point of giving the impression that it has disappeared, I would suspect that it never will, but if it is going to succeed in reversing the current process, then there has to be a conviction that conscience is humanity’s most powerful weapon in resisting its ongoing liquidation.

If Césaire’s questioning of whether Nazism had ended (Discourse on colonialism) had been pursued systematically, one of the possible results could have led to an understanding of capitalism as a system that modernized Nazism so that it would automatically generate mechanisms (ways of thinking) aimed at getting rid of those members of humanity that are considered worthless: the poor, the Africans, the old people, the indigenous people, street children, the handicapped, the terminally ill, etc. In other words, what can be seen today (through so-called globalization, but not only) is a modernized form of Nazism in which there is no Hitler to point at as a scapegoat, but capitalism seeks the same lebensraum that Hitler was aiming at. The difference is that capitalism has been slowly transforming humanity into its opposite by occupying all of the spaces that were once considered sacred if fidelity to humanity was going to be maintained.

J. Depelchin (Hugh Le May Fellow at Rhodes University, July-December 2012—Visiting professor history department, Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana, Bahia Brazil)


Si tout le monde, semble-t-il, s’y attendait, pourquoi la paralysie ? Le capitalisme
serait-il devenu la nicotine de l’humanité ?

Pendant les siècles d’installation de la prédation comme méthode d’organiser
tous les rapports humains/eau/air/terre , ceux qui se sont trouvés aux postes
de décisions des destinées de l’humanité ont appris plusieurs leçons, parmi
lesquelles, semble-t-il, celle de ne penser l’humanité qu’à travers les objectifs de
la prédation, à savoir un mode de vivre réduit à la survie des plus puissants.

L’organisation de la prédation durant les siècles de sa mise en place a amené à
faire croire à la majorité du genre humain que la prédation lui était bénéfique.
Serait-ce possible que les organisateurs de ce système ne se soient pas rendus
compte qu’ils mettaient en place un système prédateur qui s’attaquerait à tout y
inclus les créateurs et leurs descendants ?

Pour certains Rio + 20 devrait être appelé (comme le suggèrent, entre autres,
Preethi Nallu, Elizabeth Mpofu) Rio moins 20 en raison des reculs par rapport
à ce qui avait été visualisé en 1992. En réalité la régression est difficilement
mesurable compte tenu de ce que l’humanité a appris non seulement depuis
1992, mais aussi depuis des millénaires.

Il est urgent de poser et de répondre aux questions qui dérangent non seulement
les responsables directs de cette situations, mais aussi de poser la question de
savoir comment le genre humain a été amené à être désensibilisé par un système
dont les capacités de séduction n’ont d’égal qu’une volonté toujours croissante
de destruction. C’est cette volonté de destruction de plus en plus difficile de
maquiller qui explique aussi le refus des responsables de s’atteler à l’histoire
de comment l’humanité est arrivée à ce point. Une telle histoire obligerait
d’aller le plus loin possible jusqu’aux racines les plus profondes du processus de
liquidation de l’humanité et de son environnement.

Dans ce cas ne devrait-on pas parler de Rio moins 2.000? Ce que tout humain
peut observer aujourd’hui sur les comportements du monde de la finance
n’amène-t-il pas à se demander si celui-ci, sans se rendre compte, aurait pris le
relais d’organiser le crime suprême contre l’humanité ? Conduisant celle-ci à
garantir sa liquidation en bloquant tous les recours possibles à tous les niveaux.
Les exemples abondent : une justice internationale organisée par les plus
grandes puissances pour assurer leur survie, fondée sur la nécessité de ne pas
reconnaître les crimes contre l’humanité ; une économie mondiale gérée pour le
plus grand profit des plus puissants ; un système de santé axé prioritairement
sur la loi du profit des grandes compagnies pharmaceutiques et des alliés de la
filière santé ; des systèmes éducationnels prétendant servir tout le monde quand
ils fonctionnent pour mieux renforcer la main mise des plus nantis, pour réduire
l’accès au savoir. Un système d’information et de communication reproduisant
les dogmes formatés par les exigences de la propagande des plus puissants. La
justice fonctionne-t-elle encore comme justice pour l’humanité ? Un système qui
vit de la prédation peut-il être juste, peut-il faire la distinction entre le bien et le
mal, entre la justice et l’injustice?

Ce faisant, ce système prédateur, jusqu’à présent, est parvenu à imposer la
mémorisation d’une histoire dont la fonction principale est de véhiculer en
même temps la disparition de la mémoire de tout ce qui pourrait aider à rompre
avec cette même prédation comme mode de vie. Cette narration répète que,
somme toute, il faut être très content car ce monde, selon ces manipulateurs
des consciences et de la mémoire, aurait pu être pire. Et d’exhiber des tableaux
statistiques démontrant que, malgré l’accumulation des preuves du contraire,
nous vivons dans un monde où tout va bien et où le futur promet d’être encore
meilleur, sous leurs ordres.

Ils ont construit une histoire et un vocabulaire à la hauteur d’une stratégie de
guerre totale contre tout ce qui résiste à la soumission au système, et pour
l’acceptation de ce que la conscience de l’humanité, pas toujours ferme, continue
de rejeter. Malgré les résistances à la glorification de la prédation, l’art de la
manipulation des réalités pour faire dire le contraire de ce que la nature dit a
atteint un niveau qu’il est difficile de cerner tant cet art de la simulation s’est
développé. Les déboires de l’humanité essayant de survivre sont présentés
comme autant de victoires consacrant la gloire d’un système économique
devenu tellement inamovible que la plupart des gens préfèrent s’y soumettre.
Subliminal, le message nous dit systématiquement que le capitalisme est ce qu’il
y a de meilleur et que les problèmes proviennent des difficultés et, parfois, des
refus, d’adaptation à un système connu pour son efficacité dans le processus de
dévalorisation du principe de vie, de l’humanité, tout en prêchant, sans arrêt, la
valorisation de sa science de mettre fin à l’humanité.

Un vocabulaire qui cache la réalité

On pourrait rédiger des volumes sur cet art de la prédation de se présenter
comme l’apporteuse des bienfaits recherchés par l’humanité. Des mots
comme « émergents » sont censés reconnaître les pays qui sont sur la bonne
voie dans la réalisation du rêve collectif de l’humanité. Comment a-t-on pu
oublier si vite que les mêmes professeurs de la recherche des bienfaits de
l’humanité par l’économie de prédation nous faisaient accepter les pays « en
voie de développement » comme indicateurs de la bonne voie. En voie de
développement signalait aux candidats qu’ils étaient sur la bonne voie du
progrès. « Développement » comme « émergent » veulent encourager les gens
à continuer de se battre pour émuler les développés, les avancés, etc. Et cela
malgré l’évidence toujours croissante que ces mêmes pays, ne parviennent pas à
résoudre la crise qui menace le modèle qui a fait leur fortune et qui a tant coûté à

Il y aussi d’autres mots comme « développement durable » en anglais cela
donne « sustainability ». Il est parfois difficile de ne pas conclure que ces
apprentis sorciers de la prédation traitent l’humanité comme des rats de
laboratoire pour les diriger à moindre frais vers l’abattoir.

Chaque être humain, à des degrés divers, se sent floué. Et, ce qui est pire, est
qu’il ne semble exister aucune instance de recours pour redresser la situation. À
qui se plaindre ?

On a parfois l’impression en passant en revue l’histoire des derniers siècles
de l’humanité et des instruments mis en place pour la liquider que l’équation
« humanité ou capitalisme » n’a vraiment jamais changé et que le capital s’est
toujours organisé et réorganisé pour imposer ses règles…avec l’aide consciente
et/ou inconsciente de quelques segments de l’humanité.

Pour mieux comprendre le capital et ses règles : les fabricants de cigarettes ?

Dans son livre au titre annonçant la couleur [The Golden Holocaust :Origins of
the Cigarette Catastrophe And the Case for Abolition. University of California
Press. 2011], Robert N. Proctor conclut que compte tenu des objectifs mortifères
des fabricants de cigarettes, il faudra, tôt ou tard, exiger son abolition. Comme
beaucoup d’historiens avant lui, Proctor est convaincu que l’abolition de
l’esclavage par les pays qui en profitèrent le plus, fut une grande victoire de
l’humanité. Il est permis d’en douter. Vu ce qui a suivi cette abolition et, surtout,
le fait que les plus grands bénéficiaires de ce système, tant au niveau individuel
que collectif, ne furent jamais sanctionnés, ne faudrait-il pas se demander s’il y
a vraiment eu abolition. N’y a-t-il pas eu, comme il arriva souvent par la suite
(par exemple, de la colonisation, au nazisme, à l’apartheid, à la néo colonisation,
à la présente prédation globale), une fuite en avant, à savoir une abolition par
modernisation de l’esclavage et, surtout, de ses conséquences. Lorsqu’il y a
eu une véritable abolition comme ce fut le cas, par exemple, à Haïti, la France,
appuyée par ses alliés, imposa un paiement de compensation qui eut pour
résultat, entre autres, de punir les Haïtiens dont le seul crime avait été de mettre
fin à un crime contre l’humanité, allant, dans la foulée, plus loin que la Révolution
Française de 1789. Mais pour la France et ses partenaires dans la prédation,
les Africains ne faisaient pas partie de l’humanité. Il fallait empêcher, coûte que
coûte, la floraison d’une pensée et de pratiques émancipatrices.

À Rio en juin 2012, l’humanité faite des peuples de toute la planète a pu voir
que la mentalité discriminatrice de l’humanité, est déterminée à poursuivre sa
logique de prédation. Que faire ? C’est le titre du dernier chapitre du livre de
Robert N. Proctor. Sa réponse est-elle à la hauteur du crime ? L’impunité du
capital (quelle que soit l’industrie) malgré ce qui est connu des crimes avérés
contre l’humanité amène à penser que le capitalisme est devenu la nicotine de
l’humanité. Pour s’en débarrasser il faudra sans doute aller plus loin que les
propositions de Robert N. Proctor, tout en le remerciant infiniment pour un
livre qui nous encourage par une dédicace appelant à un monde sans tabac, une
science sans corruption, des corps libérés de la maladie.


Being a late happy birthday

At fifty plus eight on April 24, 2012. A “lifer”, Mumia Abu Jamal continues resisting a system determined to liquidate him, his humanity, his story, our history. If we (all who admire him) were to resist like him, the world would be pulsating in synchrony with humanity, not for its liquidation.

At 58
Too many years
Face to face
Staring death made visible inescapable
So far a conscience stronger
Has kept death away
A shining diamond conscience
Keeps shaming
An opaque, fraudulent, corrupt
Justice system that has accommodated
To injustice, to the tune dictated by wealth
Accumulated through land grabbing, slavery

A justice system craving for killing
One innocent person following his conscience
Standing up for
Hundreds of thousands craving for living life

Craving for living life as an art
Not martial, life as a pulse, a wave
Toward justice
Fidelity to humanity

Resisting for so many years of
Assaults aimed at getting rid
Of him for years that feel
Like an eternity

How could he be only 58?

Mumia larger than life
Older and younger
Could be a multiple of 58
Been around it seems headed
For infinity
Seems to have faced death forever
Still defeating injustices with
A conscience his only weapon

Living as an art
Mumia has given
Life, time, living, timing
Unfathomable dimensions way beyond
The shackles of an unjust system born out
Of a predatory will to liquidate
Humanity and its history

Living life as an art
To keep being born free
Could it be that he is free and we
Outside his prison walls, have been jailed?

How has he done this?
Mumia the trickster, more feared now
Because those who vowed to fry the nigger
Are still making vows that keep failing

Yes, Mumia teaching freedom from death row
Free inside in a way those outside
Are still trying to figure out
How to be

Is this fiction?
Some might have concluded
Mumia is such a rare gem he might be from another world
The jailers have been defeated
An unknown quantum physicist has suggested that
Mumia in living life as an art
To defeat injustices
has grown
A particle unknown
The ultimate particle that cannot be split
Cannot be smashed in the most powerful
Cyclotrons [linear accelerators] known to science

Another unknown person
Has suggested that the body of Mumia
Is the ultimate cyclotron
producing the rarest of particle
The Mumion (or Mumon)

the Mumion sits in all members of humanity
it keeps calling for fidelity
to truth,
to justice
fidelity to MÂÂT

Thank you Mumia for your art
Thank you for being who you keep growing to be
Thank you for building another world
Thank you for your generosity
Thank you for your humility and simplicity

Thank you for showing us that we could do better with our own conscience

Do take care, jd

Haïti, Afrique, Aristide : pour l’histoire d’une seule humanité

Depuis l’époque où les Africains, concentrés contre leur gré à Saint Domingue (Haïti), se sont révoltés pour mettre fin à l’esclavage (1791-1804), sans l’approbation des abolitionnistes, ces derniers et les alliés de ceux qui avaient perdu cette bataille-là s’organisèrent pour que l’émancipation de l’humanité soit faite selon leur volonté. Au vu de ce parcours, il n’est pas exagéré de conclure qu’il s’est toujours agi d’une volonté mortifère, vengeresse, prédatrice, plus intéressée dans la liquidation de l’humanité qu’à son émancipation, et donc, aussi à la liquidation de l’histoire de ces luttes pour l’émancipation.

Dans un contexte où règne une soumission mal déguisée à la prédation comme mode de vivre, il sera difficile, sinon impossible, d’avoir la curiosité de savoir ce qui alimente une volonté d’accumulation de puissance, sous toutes ses formes. Comment décrire la rencontre entre l’Europe et l’Afrique ? Elle a lieu dans la foulée de la découverte des Amériques et du début du génocide Américain (David E. Stannard, The American Holocaust). C’est à partir de là que s’est mis en route, un processus d’accumulation de puissance (militaire et financière) qui ne s’est plus jamais arrêté, et qui érigera en un principe, aujourd’hui de plus en plus évident, la réduction de la justice à l’imposition de la loi du plus fort.

Il vaut la peine de rappeler, pour mémoire, quelques étapes de ce parcours : von Trotha en Afrique du Sud Ouest (aujourd’hui Namibie) organisateur de la liquidation des Herrero et des Nama ; Léopold II et ses agents dans l’Etat Indépendant du Congo (Caoutchouc rouge) ; l’Arménie, Nankin, Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Gulag, Guantanamo, guerres ouvertes, guerres de basse intensité, guerres secrètes, dictatures coloniales et néocoloniales, crises économiques, financières toujours résolues au bénéfice des plus puissants, des plus riches, pour qui l’impunité va toujours de soi (mis à part les rares cas des boucs émissaires, pour donner l’impression de justice). Dans le subconscient de ces derniers, la mémoire d’un tel parcours pourrait se résumer par ces mots : « Nous sommes au-dessus de l’impunité, au pire seront nos crimes contre l’humanité, plus élevés seront nos gains. » En cas de doute, il suffit d’observer contre qui et pour qui fonctionne, par exemple la Cour Pénale Internationale (CPI), les institutions financières internationales (Banque Mondiale, Fonds Monétaire International). Il est vrai que, de temps à autre, surgissent des sursauts de conscience qui méritent d’être signalés comme, par exemple, Our Major Slave-Trading Family, In the “Deep North” Il y en a d’autres, souvent invisibles, mais, il est permis de se demander, compte tenu des verrouillages en place à tous les niveaux, si ces sursauts sont à la hauteur d’un crime contre l’humanité qui ne s’est jamais arrêté et qui semble déterminé à se perpétuer.

La révolution des Africains à Haïti, pour l’émancipation de l’humanité est allée plus loin que la Révolution Française de 1789. Ce sont les Africains qui ont aidé les Français de la Convention à abolir l’esclavage (1792-94). Cette brève inversion de l’histoire vue et contée par la France de Napoléon et ses successeurs ne sera jamais pardonnée aux Africains de Haïti. Une fois Napoléon au pouvoir, en France, les bénéficiaires de l’esclavage organisèrent leur revanche, en imposant au nouvel état indépendant de Haïti le paiement de compensations. Dans les mémoires des Haïtiens, cette compensation n’aurait jamais dû être payée. Pourquoi les Haïtiens se retrouvent tant esseulés malgré les liens avec l’Afrique, malgré une révolution qui fait honneur à l’histoire d’une humanité cherchant constamment à s’émanciper ?

L’arrivée d’Aristide au pouvoir a coïncidé avec une réactivation de la mémoire de fidélité à l’émancipation de l’humanité, les héritiers lointains des propriétaires d’esclaves et des plantations réagirent comme les puissants, les riches ont toujours réagi, quand ils sont pris en défaut de respect et de justice vis-à-vis de l’humanité. En 2004, Aristide et le peuple Haïtien célèbrent le bicentenaire d’une révolution qui devrait faire honneur à toute l’humanité. De tous les chefs d’états Africains invités, seul Thabo Mbeki, président de l’Afrique du Sud, sera présent ; alors qu’en 1989, au bicentenaire de la Révolution Française organisée par Mitterrand, pratiquement tous les Chefs d’États Africains étaient présents (

L’isolement, les insultes, la diabolisation des Haïtiens dans la lutte pour l’émancipation de l’humanité peut s’expliquer de diverses manières. Cependant, toutes convergent vers la réalisation d’un objectif cher aux accumulateurs de la puissance : d’une part se présenter comme les seuls représentants valables de l’humanité et d’autre part, faire disparaître l’humanité et/ou la réduire à son expression marchande : l’humanitarisme. Car au nom de celui-ci les liquidateurs réels de l’humanité cherchent à se présenter comme les sauveurs virtuels de l’espèce humaine, du principe de vie, de la nature, grâce à un monopole complet et total de toutes les voies d’émancipation.

Ainsi, pour se faire valoir, les dirigeants Africains continuent de tourner le dos à leur propre histoire tout en encensant celle de l’Occident. La Révolution Haïtienne disait non à la marchandisation de l’humanité. Plus de deux siècles plus tard, avec l’aide de dirigeants Africains, la marchandisation de l’humanité a tellement progressé qu’en lieu et place de parler de l’humanité, il est préférable de parler d’humanitarisme, un acte charitable qui cache difficilement la contradiction. D’une part venir en aide aux humains, d’autre part en finir avec l’humanité considérée comme dispensable puisqu’inutile dans un monde où ce ne sont plus les humains qui valorisent l’humanité, mais les valeurs boursières qui décident des interventions dites humanitaires.

Cet acte charitable doté de son sigle anglais R2P, fait d’une pierre 2 coups. Right to Protect est le droit d’intervention militaire que se sont autorisés les plus grandes puissances militaires de la Planète pour protéger leurs intérêts sous la couverture de protéger les violations des Droits de l’Homme. Dans la réalité, ces interventions dites humanitaires permettent la vente des armes, le maintien des industries de production des armes (aujourd’hui connues génériquement comme « sécurité », un concept émotionnellement manipulable de l’instinct individuel de conservation, mais qui fonctionne à merveille pour liquider collectivement l’humanité). Ces interventions militaires permettent, en même temps, la liquidation des membres de l’humanité considérés comme superflus. En plus, ces guerres sont essentielles pour entretenir, dans les esprits, l’idée que la vie n’est possible qu’en se soumettant au droit, à la justice des plus forts. Par contre, Haïti et les révoltés contre l’esclavage (plus tard la colonisation, la mondialisation) ont montré que le maintien de l’humanité est contraire à l’imposition de pratiques du droit, de la justice du plus fort. Cependant dans le cadre politique et idéologique imposé depuis la fin de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, les plus puissantes forces de la Planète se comportent comme si elles n’ont de compte à rendre à personne. Dans un tel contexte, il est toujours possible de se débarrasser de gens comme Jean Bertrand Aristide, président élu d’un pays souverain, dans un monde où la seule souveraineté reconnue est celle des marchés.

Comme ce fut le cas pour Toussaint l’Ouverture, Aristide fut envoyé en exil, en Afrique du Sud. Entre autres raisons : Aristide ravivait la trame d’une histoire enracinée dans les consciences révoltées depuis Kimpa Vita (brûlée vive le 2 juillet 1706 dans le royaume Kongo pour avoir dénoncé le roi et ses alliés, des missionnaires Capucins italiens, comme collaborationnistes des esclavagistes), Makandal, Boukman, Toussaint l’Ouverture, Dessalines, etc.. Au nom de ces consciences, entre autres, Aristide exigeait le remboursement de cette compensation (exigée par l’Etat Français en 1825) en précisant qu’il ne s’agissait nullement de réparations. Aristide n’était pas seul, il exprimait une volonté bi centenaire, une recherche de justice et de vérité s’organisant autour de, et par, Fanmi Lavalass, les héritiers lointains des consciences révoltées de Saint Domingue.

L’histoire de Haïti est à l’image de l’Afrique aujourd’hui : cherchant à se remettre debout, à se reconstituer, à se reconstruire, elle trébuche, hésite et parfois recule face aux menaces des chiens de garde qui cherchent à liquider l’humanité et la remplacé par un ersatz répondant au nom d’humanitaire. Dans la foulée de cette liquidation de l’humanité, ces fossoyeurs cherchent aussi à liquider l’histoire de l’humanité. On ne le répétera jamais assez : l’éradication de l’esclavage à Haïti n’intéresse pas seulement les Haïtiens et/ou les Africains. Comprendre ce qui s’est passé à Haïti en 1804 suivi de 200 ans d’impulsion vengeresse clamée par tous les moyens, y compris Hiroshima et Nagasaki qui restent un signal très fort de volonté liquidatrice de l’humanité.

Certains diront qu’il n’y a aucun rapport entre la violence de l’esclavage atlantique et celle qui fut manifestée à Hiroshima et Nagasaki. Dans l’un comme dans l’autre, l’objectif était l’humanité. Les responsables de la décision de larguer les bombes atomiques pourraient alléguer qu’ils ne s’en rendaient sans doute pas compte, mais la violence comme moyen de contrôler, de soumettre l’humanité à un système fondé sur le viol systématique de l’humanité est ce qui conduit de l’esclavage, de sa prétendue abolition à un esclavage encore plus violent, modernisé et expliqué par des arguties exculpatrices des bénéficiaires. L’arsenal des puissants inclus des avocats de tous bords, allant des philosophes aux juristes, des financiers aux aumôniers, des banquiers aux industrialistes, des linguistes aux anthropologues, des courtisans aux propagandistes, des militaires aux militaristes, des journalistes aux historiens.

Si Haïti, son histoire, son peuple et sa volonté de mener à bien la révolution de 1791-1804, ne faisaient pas peur à la plus grande puissance militaire de la planète, comment expliquer que, suite au tremblement de terre de janvier 2011 qui a dévasté Port-Au-Prince et tué des centaines de milliers de personnes, cette même puissance militaire aie recouru aux automatismes devenus typiques depuis Hiroshima et Nagasaki. À force de se considérer comme la seule capable de faire la distinction entre les ennemis et les bienfaiteurs de l’humanité, la plus grande puissance militaire de la planète ne peut se fier qu’aux expéditions humanitaires, militairement musclées pour s’assurer de la continuité de son contrôle par la violence sur l’humanité. Forcément, une humanité vivante, vibrante de toutes ses forces ne pourra dès lors être perçue que comme menaçante face à un pouvoir assis sur la volonté de monopoliser et dicter à toute l’humanité comment vivre la vie, la liberté, la paix.

Aristide n’est pas un chien

Combien de fois faudra-t-il rappeler aux chiens de garde d’un système qui ne cesse de torturer et de liquider l’humanité, que les pauvres de Haïti (et d’ailleurs) ne sont pas des chiens. Aristide n’est pas un chien. Ces chiens de garde auraient sans doute aimé qu’Aristide disparaisse comme il arrive aux chiens écrasés, sans que les journaux en parlent, sans sépulture, comme il est arrivé à des héros comme Patrice Emery Lumumba, Osende Afana, Ruben Um Nyobe, et tant d’autres dont les restent jonchent le fond de l’Océan Atlantique.

Maintenant qu’Aristide est de retour à Haïti, la propagande qui avait été utilisée pour le liquider est en train de se remettre en route. Les accusations sont les mêmes : corruption, trafic de drogues, etc. Des accusations qui ne sont pas différentes de celles qui sont lancées contre, par exemple, le chef d’Hezbollah, Sayyid Nasrallah. (

Du côté des accusateurs, la motivation continue d’être la même : maintenir en place le système qui avait fait de Saint Domingue la perle économique des colonies françaises, en recourant à l’esclavage. Et il y a des voix qui s’élèvent, de Haïti, pour sermonner les héritiers de celles et de ceux qui avaient mis fin à l’esclavage, avec l’argument suivant : « Regardez Haïti aujourd’hui, le pays le plus pauvre de l’hémisphère Occidental. » Cette pauvreté fait partie de la guerre organisée par les puissants, les riches, pour forcer tout membre de l’humanité qui rejette la modernisation de l’esclavage, à mendier pour survivre.

Un Haïtien de renom qui s’était joint à la propagande de diaboliser Aristide avait une fois déclaré que ce dernier n’était pas Mandela. Il lui fut répondu, à l’époque, certainement : il n’y a qu’un Mandela tout comme il n’y a qu’un Aristide, comme il n’y a eu qu’un Malcolm X, un Martin Luther King, une Kimpa Vita, une Harriet Tubman, etc.. La liste des gens qui ont singulièrement contribué à l’émancipation de l’humanité est infiniment longue, trop souvent inconnue, méconnue par ceux-là qui devraient être fidèles à ces figures.

Avec la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, un système personnifié par le mal s’est effondré sans rien perdre de ses structures financières, mémorielles et mentales . Tout comme avec l’abolition de l’esclavage, les bénéficiaires du nazisme ne furent pas touchés. Comme Alain Resnais le montre très bien dans son film (La Nuit et le Brouillard), les grands groupes industriels comme Krupp ont continué de prospérer. La leçon de la Deuxième Guerre Mondiale a été tellement bien apprise que les responsables de la poursuite de la liquidation de l’humanité et de son histoire se sont proclamés comme les seuls défenseurs de l’humanité en inventant l’humanitaire et le R2P (Right to Protect). Dans cette logique, l’impunité des Etats-Unis a été érigée en un principe non négociable par le gouvernement des États-Unis. (Voir le site :, accédé le 10/04/2012.)

Le film de Resnais a été tourné en 1955, en pleine guerre d’Algérie, avec l’espoir explicite du réalisateur qu’un film sur les camps amènerait les français à faire le lien entre ce qui s’était passé dans l’Allemagne Nazie et ce qui se passait en Algérie, et, donc, réagir. Nous sommes en 2012. Combien de personnes savent que le titre du film de Resnais, sans le savoir, reproduit le titre d’un décret du 7 décembre de 1941 (Nacht un Nebel Erlass) Décret « Nuit et Brouillard ». En lisant la teneur de ce décret, il est difficile de ne pas penser au contexte qui a conduit les Etats-Unis non seulement à se mettre hors d’atteinte de la Cour Pénale Internationale, mais aussi à mettre en place un système de contrôle policier à la hauteur de ses ambitions de puissance globale. (, accédé e 10/04/2012.

À la lumière du message qu’Alain Resnais cherchait à faire passer, il est permis de se demander, comme le faisaient Aimé Césaire dans son Discours sur le Colonialisme et Frantz Fanon dans Les Damnés de la terre, s’il n’y jamais eu une réelle prise de conscience de la dimension des crimes contre l’humanité, pendant, avant et après la 2ème Guerre Mondiale. À la lumière des comportements actuels de la plus grande puissance mondiale et de ses alliés, des questions continueront d’être posées, mais l’urgence de réponses à la hauteur des crimes contre l’humanité interpellent tous les membres de l’humanité, avec de plus en plus d’urgence.

L’humanité ne vaut que inclusive, non discriminatoire. L’humanité n’a pas à être réinventée sous forme de missions humanitaires ponctuelles visant des personnes qui sont ensuite emmenées à un tribunal pénal international qui semble surtout fonctionner comme un tribunal du droit du plus fort pour se débarrasser de ceux qui défient une telle situation. Pour qu’une justice fidèle à l’humanité puisse vraiment fonctionner il faudrait en finir avec les pratiques qui font du droit du plus fort un instrument d’une justice militarisée au service de la plus forte puissance militaire jamais inventée. Il faut en finir avec une justice du droit du plus fort qui se manifeste par le biais de medias complètement sous le contrôle des plus forts dans la hiérarchie de la mondialisation.

Aristide n’est que l’écho des Africains, des Haïtiens, des damnés de la terre qui veulent se guérir de la blessure dont souffre l’humanité, une blessure qui a mutilé les consciences, les volontés de fidélité à la justice et à la vérité. Il est aussi l’écho d’autres peuples dans d’autres régions du monde cherchant à se faire entendre au-delà de l’enfer des guerres punitives menées contre une humanité qui ne cherche qu’à vivre et non survivre en se soumettant aux missions de charité des puissants. Au plus la voix d’Aristide dérange leur conscience, au plus les puissants devraient lui prêter attention et ne pas l’accuser de crimes inventés.

À suivre. 19 avril 2012

COMMENT SOMMES-NOUS ARRIVÉS ICI ? Avant de poser la question suivante : Comment sortir d’ici ?

Il faudra du temps, mais avec patience et persistance rien ne résiste à la conscience, archive immuable de l’humanité pour son unité.

Une question que presque tout le monde se pose de vive voix, en silence, en groupe, individuellement. Si on veut sortir avec des chances de s’en sortir vraiment et non pour mieux rester sur place, il faudrait disséquer tous les mots de la phrase.

Sommes arrivés,
Ici ?

On pourrait commencer par comment, mais peut-être, pour éviter les risques de confusion, faudrait-il commencer par essayer de savoir si « nous » c’est ce que tout le monde entend par « nous » ou s’agit-il là d’un abus de langage qui ne trompe pas les émetteurs, mais trop souvent trompe les receveurs/capteurs.

Qui sommes-nous ? Pouvons-nous encore parler pour nous-mêmes, soi-même en tant que soi-même à partir de là où nous parlons, de là où nous vivons, de là où nous travaillons, de là où nous défendons un nous qui n’est pas celui des politiciens, des premiers ministres, des opérateurs financiers, des professionnels de la religion. En long comme en large, il y a le nous qui est nous qui est aussi le soi. Mais il y a aussi le nous imposeur d’un nous imposteur, avec lequel le soi ne se sent pas à l’aise. Ce nous-là s’est imposé par la force, par la violence, par la séduction. Ce nous-là nous a floué tant de fois qu’il est difficile de savoir exactement quand cela a commencé.

Il arrive, en cas de danger, que ce nous imposteur apparaisse comme sauveur, mais cela sera l’instant du danger. Une fois celui-ci passé, le nous imposteur, caméléon, retournera à ses habitudes.

« Nous » fait-il partie de la fameuse communauté internationale qui paraît être le pilote automatique des politiciens cherchant à être inclusifs même quand ils savent très bien qu’ils s’adressent à un petit groupe qui se reconnaît dans cette CI, une espèce d’anti chambre d’une autre communauté aux initiales apparentées, la CPI. Arme juridique de pays qui se font passés pour pacifiques alors que leurs pratiques en a fait les pays les plus belliqueux, les plus armés, les plus va-t-en guerre d’une planète de plus en plus plongée dans la détresse.

Il est possible de tracer la descendance de ce nous-là. Un « nous » qui a ses racines dans un crime qui passait pour une nécessité, une question de vie ou de mort pour une fraction du « nous » écrasant tout sur son passage, y compris les gens qui les avaient chaleureusement accueillis sur leurs terres. Conquérants d’un vaste territoire, cette fraction du « nous » avait besoin de gens pour cultiver ces terres, pour les « mettre en valeur » (une expression qui deviendra courante dans l’Afrique post Traite négrière).

Cette fraction du nous s’est toujours donnée des règles de conduite, des lois, des codes. L’objectif principal de cette fraction était de rappeler aux esclaves qu’ils ne faisaient pas partie de l’humanité. Le Code Noir lancé par Louis XIV (1685) les considéraient comme des biens meubles, moins donc que le bétail, mais, comme le bétail, frappé au fer rouge pour rappelé aux acheteurs que ce bien meuble avait été la propriété de la monarchie régnante française dont l’emblème était la fleur de lys.

Bien qu’on y trouve un article interdisant la torture, ce Code (formellement en vigueur jusqu’en 1848), contrairement à ce que pensent encore certaines personnes, n’avait pas été mis en place pour défendre les droits des esclaves. Il fallait éliminer dans la tête des esclavagistes toute possibilité de penser en solidarité en voyant ces personnes enchaînées, car les regards de ces personnes disaient : « comment pouvez-vous faire ce genre de choses à nous qui sommes comme vous, des êtres humains ? » À travers le Code, les esclavagistes tenaient à s’assurer qu’il n’y aurait pas d’hésitation ou de vacillation dans les rangs des civilisateurs.

Cette fraction discriminatrice du nous s’est construite une histoire qui a très peu de choses à voir avec le nous que cette histoire a broyé sans états d’âmes puisqu’il ne s’agissait pas d’êtres humains.

Comment ce broyage, cette réduction en poussière s’est-elle faite ? Ce nous qui a été broyé devait disparaître, ainsi que son histoire, pour qu’il ne reste que l’histoire de la fraction du nous. C’est comme si, il y a quelques siècles, une partie du « nous imposteur» avait décidé de construire une machine invisible, mais efficace dans la fission de l’humanité. C’est comme si cette partie de « nous » s’était mise à l’œuvre pour faire éclater l’humanité afin de savoir sa constitution.

Est-ce possible de penser que les esclavagistes furent les proto inventeurs du cyclotron de Genève. L’esclavage a fonctionné comme le cyclotron. Les particules lancées dans ce cyclotron imaginaire étaient tous les habitants d’un Continent. Le Cyclotron avant le cyclotron n’avait pas de limite. Tout le continent Africain y est passé non pas pour découvrir d’autres humains, mais pour extraire de la fission de ces atomes de l’humanité tout ce qu’il était possible d’extraire et, en même temps faire disparaître non seulement les traces du crime, mais aussi l’existence de ces humains traités comme des sous humains.

Nous faisons partie de la matière. On peut tracer les origines du nous à partir du Bib Bang. Le nous comme l’univers que certains disent est plus qu’un, parallèles, multiples. Il ya convergence pour admettre que depuis le Big Bang il y a eu expansion. Le « Nous » est toujours en expansion, toujours en train de naître, toujours en train de se libérer de l’état antérieur.

Il y a un « Nous », il y a une humanité, mais il y a eu, en cours de route depuis le Big Bang des uns du « Nous » qui ont voulu se séparer des autres. Comment cela s’est-il passé ? Ce genre de question n’a vraiment jamais intéressé les spécialistes de la fission de la matière. Durant son expansion, le « Nous » réduit à la matière a gagné une autre dimension. Ou plutôt le « Nous » a commencé à acquérir une conscience. Les spécialistes intéressés ont découvert qu’il y avait plus que la conscience. Une espèce de boîte noire où sont enregistrés tous les faits, tous les silences, toutes les pensées, les accidents, bref tout ce par quoi l’individu qui fait parti du « Nous » est passé. Un espace entre le id, le ego, le super ego, entre le cortex et le néo cortex. Un endroit où, semble-t-il, personne n’aime visiter car on y trouverait des nous reconnus comme criminels, côtoyant des nous respectables. Ces derniers sont supposés ne rien avoir de criminel.

Comment ?

Les temps où nous sommes arrivés, c’est un temps, mais c’est aussi un espace, une croisée des chemins où tous les différents « nous » se retrouvent face à face, certains visibles, d’autres invisibles, des petits, des géants, des minables, des paumés. S’y retrouvent dans cette croisée des chemins des nous à particule, d’autres sans particule, des misérables, des scélérats, des exécrables, des vauriens, des va-nu-pieds, des millionnaires, des super millionnaires. S’y retrouvent des « nous » qui n’auraient jamais pensé se retrouver en telle compagnie.

Et chacun de nous de se demander sans arrêt : comment ?

En chemin vers la croisée des chemins chacun des « nous » était devenu une particule de l’humanité détachée de l’humanité, et ne se posait pas (ou presque pas) de questions. Voyant de loin l’attroupement, chacun des « nous » a commencé à se poser des questions. Une ne cessait de revenir : comment ?

Avec les questions, apparaissaient aussi des nouvelles forces, une nouvelle énergie comme si la rencontre d’autres « nous » longtemps inconnus, renvoyait une image d’un « nous » plus grand, plus fort, plus accueillant, plus solidaire. Ce courant, une onde, une pulsion solidaire filait invisible entre des millionnaires en argent et des millionnaires en souffrance. Un autre monde est en train d’être découvert sans conquérants, sans conquis.

Un autre monde est possible
sans prédation
Toujours plus distant
de la compétition
Un monde plus solidaire cherchant,
Errant, visant
Justice et vérité
aussi loin que possible
de la compétitivité
des marchés
chien de garde planétaire
tel un dieu glorifié
sans foi ni loi sinon celle du profit
du mensonge, de l’impunité
accumulateur de puissance
effaceur de cette particule
incommensurable quelque soit le cyclotron
invisible, indestructible, joyau et archive de l’humanité :
conscience la protectrice de tous les nous,
barrière incorruptible

Au fond cela a commencé simplement : qui mentait le plus gagnait le plus. Gagnait quoi ? Peu importe la réponse car la clé était toujours la même : mentir, se mentir, faire mentir. Dire, faire, déclarer, penser « nous » comme s’il s’agissait de tous, d’une seule humanité, mais agir seulement pour soi. Et appeler cela la liberté, l’égalité, la fraternité. Mentir, petit à petit, est devenu un comportement des plus forts, écrasant les faibles. Dans des coins de la planète, des traités furent signés entre les conquérants et les conquis, mais quand les conquérants ont eu besoin de plus d’espace, ils se sont comportés comme si ces traités n’existaient pas. Une leçon que les violeurs n’ont jamais oublié, vu les dividendes qui n’arrêtent pas d’accumuler le confort des plus forts.

Ils avaient alors déclaré : nous voulons vivre en paix avec vous. Le nous des conquérants écrase, broyé le nous des conquis, propage parmi les conquis la tentation de devenir prédateur. La compétition pour être le plus fort a lancé une guerre sans fin entre tous les membres de l’humanité. Les plus pacifiques ne savaient pas, ne pouvaient pas savoir d’où venait la guerre, car les pulsions prédatrices, essentielles pour survivre semblaient pour beaucoup de nous quelque chose d’un autre temps dépassé à jamais. La prédation ne semble appartenir à aucun temps. Sans corps, sans temps, toujours présent. Et donc non attribuable automatiquement à des nous « mauvais », car, on peut le voir, des nous qui se disent au-dessus de tout le monde, des donneurs de leçon en tout : la paix, la vérité, la démocratie sont les plus grands violeurs de ces trois principes de survie de l’humanité.

Aujourd’hui les mêmes conquérants d’alors n’ont pas changé de mentalité : le mensonge a toujours payé. Il n’est pas impossible que c’est de cette mentalité que nous vinrent des expressions telles que :

« mentez, mentez il en restera toujours quelque chose »,
« un mensonge répété des milliers de fois finira par être pris pour une vérité »

Ainsi la puissance la plus guerrière, la plus va-t’en-guerre, peut se déclarer la plus pacifique bien que ses troupes soient basées dans des centaines de camps militaires en dehors de ses frontières.

Est-ce étonnant que cette mentalité soit à la base du maintien des « guerres de pacification » dans des pays comme la RDC, le Soudan, la Somalie. Dans les Amériques l’entretien de ces guerres était appelé « guerres de basse intensité ». Leur point commun étant la liquidation de l’humanité

Évidemment, les menteurs ne se considèrent jamais comme menteurs. Pour eux, mentir, se mentir, faire mentir est devenu une habitude tellement bien ancrée qu’elle est devenue une vertu.

Ils font un inventaire annuel des violeurs des droits de l’homme et ainsi se font passer pour les plus grands protecteurs des droits humanitaires,
Donc des plus solidaires
Du reste de l’humanité
Mais en réalité des prédateurs invétérés

Ils se sont tellement mentis qu’ils n’aiment pas entendre parler de l’histoire. Dans un des États, une loi a été passé pour bannir des livres d’histoire parlant des nous qui furent des conquis par le passé. Motif du bannissement : ces livres propagent la haine. En d’autres termes, un nous qui a grandi en liquidant une partie de l’humanité se présente comme sa seule protectrice et, en même temps fait tout pour liquider l’histoire des nous qui veulent conter une histoire de tous les nous ancrée dans Mâât, justice et vérité.

(À suivre)
23 février 2012

Who said Gaddafi had to go?

So Gaddafi is dead and Nato has fought a war in North Africa for the first time since the FLN defeated France in 1962. The Arab world’s one and only State of the Masses, the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriyya, has ended badly. In contrast to the bloodless coup of 1 September 1969 that overthrew King Idris and brought Gaddafi and his colleagues to power, the combined rebellion/civil war/ Nato bombing campaign to protect civilians has occasioned several thousand (5000? 10,000? 25,000?) deaths, many thousands of injured and hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, as well as massive damage to infrastructure. What if anything has Libya got in exchange for all the death and destruction that have been visited on it over the past seven and a half months?


The overthrow of Gaddafi & Co was far from being a straightforward revolution against tyranny, but the West’s latest military intervention can’t be debunked as being simply about oil. Presented by the National Transitional Council (NTC) and cheered on by the Western media as an integral part of the Arab Spring, and thus supposedly of a kind with the upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt, the Libyan drama is rather an addition to the list of Western or Western-backed wars against hostile, ‘defiant’, insufficiently ‘compliant’, or ‘rogue’ regimes: Afghanistan I (v. the Communist regime, 1979-92), Iraq I (1990-91), the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (over Kosovo, 1999), Afghanistan II (v. the Taliban regime, 2001) and Iraq II (2003), to which we might, with qualifications, add the military interventions in Panama (1989-90), Sierra Leone (2000) and the Ivory Coast (2011). An older series of events we might bear in mind includes the Bay of Pigs (1961), the intervention by Western mercenaries in the Congo (1964), the British-assisted palace coup in Oman in 1970 and – last but not least – three abortive plots, farmed out to David Stirling and sundry other mercenaries under the initially benevolent eye of Western intelligence services, to overthrow the Gaddafi regime between 1971 and 1973 in an episode known as the Hilton Assignment.

At the same time, the story of Libya in 2011 gives rise to several different debates. The first of these, over the pros and cons of the military intervention, has tended to eclipse the others. But numerous states in Africa and Asia and no doubt Latin America as well (Cuba and Venezuela spring to mind) may wish to consider why the Jamahiriyya, despite mending its fences with Washington and London in 2003-4 and dealing reasonably with Paris and Rome, should have proved so vulnerable to their sudden hostility. And the Libyan war should also prompt us to examine what the actions of the Western powers in relation to Africa and Asia, and the Arab world in particular, are doing to democratic principles and the idea of the rule of law.

The Afghans who rebelled against the Communist regimes of Noor Mohammed Taraki, Hafizullah Amin and the Soviet-backed Babrak Karmal, and in 1992 overthrew Mohammed Najibullah before laying waste to Kabul in protracted factional warfare, called themselves mujahedin, ‘fighters for the faith’. They were conducting a jihad against godless Marxists and saw no need to be coy about it in view of the enthusiastic media coverage as well as logistical support the West was giving them. But the Libyans who took up arms against Gaddafi’s Jamahiriyya have sedulously avoided this label, at least when near Western microphones. Religion had little to do with the upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt: Islamists were almost entirely absent from the stage in Tunisia until the fall of Ben Ali; in Egypt the Muslim Brothers weren’t instigators of the protest movement (in which Coptic Christians also took part) and made sure their support remained discreet. And so the irrelevance of Islamism to the popular revolt against despotic regimes was part of the way the Arab Spring came to be read in the West. Libyan rebels and Gaddafi loyalists alike tacitly recognised this fact.

The Western media generally endorsed the rebels’ description of themselves as forward-looking liberal democrats, and dismissed Gaddafi’s exaggerated claim that al-Qaida was behind the revolt. But it has become impossible to ignore the fact that the rebellion has mobilised Islamists and acquired an Islamicist tinge. On his first visit to Tripoli, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the chairman of the NTC, then still based in Benghazi, declared that all legislation of the future Libyan state would be grounded in the Sharia, pre-empting any elected body on this cardinal point. And Abdul Hakim Belhadj (alias Abu Abdallah al-Sadiq), whom the NTC appointed to the newly created post of military commander of Tripoli, is a former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a movement which conducted a campaign of terrorism against the Libyan state in the 1990s and went on to provide recruits to al-Qaida. The democratic revolutionaries in Tunisia are now concerned that the re-emergence of the Islamist movement has diverted political debate from constitutional questions to toxic identity issues and may derail the country’s nascent democracy; in this light, the Islamist aspect of the Libyan rebellion should put us on our guard. It is among several reasons to ask whether what we have been witnessing is a revolution or a counter-revolution.

The rebels’ name has changed several times in the Western media’s lexicon: first they were peaceful demonstrators, democracy protesters, civilians; then (a belated admission) rebels; and, finally, revolutionaries. Revolutionaries – in Arabic, thuwwar (singular: tha’ir) – has been their preferred label at least since the fall of Tripoli. Tha’ir can simply mean ‘agitated’ or ‘excited’. The young men who spent much of the period between April and July careering up and down the coastal highway in Toyota pick-ups (and the whole of September running backwards and forwards around Bani Walid), while firing as much of their ammunition into the air as at the enemy, have certainly been excited. But how many veterans of revolutions elsewhere, as distinct from Western journalists, would recognise them as their counterparts?

The events in both Tunisia and Egypt have been revolutionary in intent, but the change that has occurred in Egypt falls well short of a genuine revolution: the army’s return to power means that the country’s politics has yet to transcend the logic of the Free Officers’ state established in 1952. But the way hundreds of thousands stood up against Mubarak last winter was a historic event Egyptians will never forget. The same is true of Tunisia, except that there a revolution has not only toppled Ben Ali but also ended the monopoly of the old ruling party. The Tunisians have entered the unknown. Whether they have the resources to cope with the Islamist movement may be their greatest test. The recent elections suggest they are coping pretty well.

Libya was part of the wider ‘Arab awakening’ in two respects. The unrest began on 15 February, three days after the fall of Mubarak: so there was a contagion effect. And clearly many of the Libyans who took to the streets over the next few days were animated by some of the same sentiments as their counterparts elsewhere. But the Libyan uprising diverged from the Tunisian and Egyptian templates in two ways: the rapidity with which it took on a violent aspect – the destruction of state buildings and xenophobic attacks on Egyptians, Serbs, Koreans and, above all, black Africans; and the extent to which, brandishing the old Libyan flag of the 1951-69 era, the protesters identified their cause with the monarchy Gaddafi & Co overthrew. This divergence owed a lot to external influences. But it also owed much to the character of Gaddafi’s state and regime.

Widely ridiculed as the bizarre creation of its eccentric if not lunatic ‘Guide’, the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriyya in fact shared many features with other Arab states. With the massive increase in oil revenues in the early 1970s, Libya became a ‘hydrocarbon society’ that resembled the states of the Gulf more than its North African neighbours. Libya’s oil revenues were distributed very widely, the new regime laying on a welfare state from which virtually all Libyans benefited, while also relying on oil wealth, as the Gulf States do, to buy in whatever it lacked in terms of technology and consumer goods, not to mention hundreds of thousands of foreign workers. For Gaddafi and his colleagues the state’s distributive role quickly became the central element in their strategy for governing the country.

The 1969 coup belonged to the series of upheavals that challenged the arrangements made by Britain and France to dominate the Arab world after the First World War and the destruction of the Ottoman Empire. These took on a new vigour in the wake of the defeats of the Second World War and the supersession of British by American hegemony in the Middle East. These arrangements entailed the sponsoring, safeguarding and manipulation of newly confected monarchies in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and the Gulf statelets, and in most cases the challenges were precipitated by catastrophic developments in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Just as the Free Officers who deposed King Farouq and seized power in Egypt in 1952 were outraged at the incompetent way Egypt’s armed forces were led in 1948, and the revolution in Iraq in 1958 owed much to increased hostility to the pro-British monarchy after Suez, so the Arab defeat in 1967, and crucially, frustration at Libya’s absence from the Arab struggle, prompted Gaddafi and his colleagues to attempt their coup against the Libyan monarchy. However, beyond closing the US base at Wheelus Field and nationalising the oil, they didn’t really know what to do next.

Unlike his Hashemite counterparts, who came from Mecca and were foreigners in Jordan and Iraq, King Idris was at least a Libyan. He also had legitimacy as the head of the Sanussiyya religious order, which in the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries had established itself the length and breadth of eastern Libya, and had distinguished itself in the resistance to the Italian conquest from 1911 onwards. But like the Hashemites Idris came to the throne as a protégé of the British, who fished him out of Cairo, where he had spent more than 20 years in exile, to make him king and thereby recast Libya as a monarchy in 1951 when the UN finally decided what to do with the former Italian colony.

The Sanussiyya, originally an Islamic revivalist order, was set up in north-eastern Libya, the province the Italians called Cyrenaica, by an immigrant divine from western Algeria, Sayyid Mohammed ben Ali al-Sanussi al-Idrisi, who founded his order in Mecca in 1837 but moved it to Libya in 1843. It took root throughout the eastern province in the interstices of Bedouin tribal society and spread south along the trade routes that crossed the Sahara into Sudan, Chad and Niger. It had less of a presence in western Libya: in Tripolitania in the north-west, which had its own religious and political traditions based on the Ottoman connection, and Fezzan in the south-west. The two western provinces have always been considered part of the Maghreb (the Arab west), linked primarily to Tunisia and Algeria, while eastern Libya has always been part of the Mashreq (the Arab east) and oriented to Egypt and the rest of the Arab Levant.

The new monarchy’s internal social basis was thus markedly uneven and Idris was badly placed to promote a genuine process of national integration, opting instead for a federal constitution that left Libyan society much as he found it while, out of deference to his Western sponsors as well as alarm at the rise of radical Arab nationalism and Nasserism in particular, he insulated the country from the rest of the Arab world. Gaddafi’s coup was a revolt against this state of affairs, and the otherwise baffling flamboyance of his foreign policy was evidence of his determination that Libya should no longer be a backwater.

The new regime’s inner circle was drawn from a small number of tribes, above all the Gadadfa in central Libya, the Magarha from the Fezzan in the south-west and the Warfalla from south-eastern Tripolitania. This background did not dispose Gaddafi and his associates to identify with the political and cultural traditions of the Tripoli elites or those of Benghazi and the other towns of coastal Cyrenaica. As the elites saw it, the 1969 coup had been carried out by ‘Bedouin’ – that is, country bumpkins. For Gaddafi & Co, the traditions of the urban elites offered no recipe for governing Libya: they would only perpetuate its disunity.

The Mediterranean and the Middle East are not short of examples of lands made painfully into states based, not on the cosmopolitan societies of the seaboards, but on the bleak and hard regions of the interior. It was the austere society and sombre towns of the Castilian plateau, not sophisticated Barcelona or sunny Valencia or Granada, that brought forth the kingdom which, once joined to Aragon, united the rest of Spain at the expense of the rich culture of Andalucia in particular. In the same way Ibn Saud, ruler of the unforgiving Nejd plateau in the centre of the Arabian peninsula, had united the Arabs under the sword while forcing the townsmen of the Hijaz, near the Red Sea coast, who were nourished on the traditions of all four madhahib (legal schools) of Sunni Islam and well acquainted with the various Shia traditions, to bend the knee to Wahhabi dogmatism. Ibn Saud had the militant religious tradition of the muwahiddun, the disciples of the Nejdi religious reformer Muhammad Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, behind him in his drive to unify Arabia by conquest. Even the revolutionaries of the FLN had religion going for them, not only because they were confronting a Christian colonial power but also as heirs to the al-Islah reform movement. But Gaddafi and his associates had no militant religious banner and organised Islam in Libya was minded to resist them.

Pre-empted in the religious sphere by both the Sanussiyya in the east and the pan-Islamic tradition of the Tripolitanian ’ulama, which dated from the Ottoman era, they were desperate to find a doctrinal source for the kind of ideological enthusiasm they needed to stir in order to reorder Libyan society. At the outset, they thought they had one in pan-Arabism, which, especially in its Nasserite version, had inspired enthusiasm across North Africa from 1952 onwards, putting the champions of Islam on the back foot. But Gaddafi & Co were latecomers to the Arab nationalist revolutionary ball and little more than a year after their seizure of power Nasser was dead. For some time Gaddafi persisted with the idea of a strategic relationship with Egypt, which would have helped to solve several of the new Libya’s problems, providing it with an ally and shoring up the regime’s efforts to deal with refractory currents in Cyrenaica. But Egypt under Sadat veered away from pan-Arabism and plans for an Egyptian-Libyan union, announced in August 1972, led nowhere. In late 1973 an anti-Egyptian campaign was launched in the Libyan press, and Libya’s embassy in Cairo was closed.

Gaddafi now tried to contract an alliance with his western neighbour, declaring a new ‘Arab-Islamic Republic’ with Tunisia’s Habib Bourguiba in January 1974. This too proved stillborn. Many wondered what on earth the worldly, Francophile, secular and moderate Bourguiba could have been thinking and Houari Boumediène, Algeria’s president, weighed in to remind Tunis that there could be no shift in the geopolitical balance of the Maghreb without Algeria’s agreement. Following this logic, Gaddafi secured an alliance with Algeria, and in 1975 Boumediène and Gaddafi signed a treaty of mutual friendship. It appeared that Libya had at last entered an alliance it could rely on. Two years later, after Sadat’s visit to Tel Aviv, Libya joined Algeria, Syria, South Yemen and the PLO in the Steadfastness Front, which was opposed to any rapprochement with Israel. But Boumediène died unexpectedly in late 1978. His successor, Chadli Bendjedid, emulating Sadat, abandoned Algeria’s revolutionary commitments and the protective alliance with Tripoli; Libya was alone again. Gaddafi’s desperation is evident in the short-lived treaty he signed with Morocco’s King Hassan in 1984. It was his last attempt to fit in with fellow North African and Arab states. Instead, he looked to sub-Saharan Africa, where the Jamahiriyya could play the benevolent patron.

All the states of North Africa have had African policies of a kind. And all but Tunisia have strategic hinterlands consisting of the countries to their south: for Egypt, the Sudan; for Algeria, the Sahel states (Niger, Mali and Mauritania); for Morocco, Mauritania, also a permanent bone of contention with Algeria. In pursuing their African policies, the North African states often compete with one another, but they have also been in competition with Western powers keen to preserve or, in the case of the US, to contract patron-client relations with these states. What distinguished Gaddafi’s Libya from its North African neighbours was the extent of its investment in this southern strategy, which became central to the regime’s conception of Libya’s mission in the world.

The Jamahiriyya’s African policy had a darker side. Gaddafi’s support for Idi Amin is the outstanding example, though even that seems less grotesque when weighed against the support of various Western governments for Mobutu Sese Seko. There was also Libya’s involvement in Chad’s civil war (and attempted annexation of the Aouzou Strip) and its sustained involvement in the Tuareg question in Niger and Mali. At the same time, it gave strong financial and practical support to the African Union, opposed the installation of the US military’s ‘Africom’ on the soil of any African country and funded a wide range of development projects in sub-Saharan countries. Gaddafi planned to exploit the immense water reserves under Libya’s Sahara, and to provide water to the Sahel countries, which could have transformed their economic prospects, but this possibility has now almost certainly been killed off by Nato’s intervention, since Western (and perhaps particularly French) water companies are lining up alongside Western oil firms for their slice of the Libyan action.

Gaddafi’s African policy gave Libya a firm geopolitical position and consolidated its strategic hinterland while also benefiting Africa. That many African countries appreciated Libya’s contribution to the continent’s affairs was made clear by the AU’s opposition to Nato’s intervention and its sustained efforts to broker a ceasefire and negotiations between the two sides of the civil war. These efforts were dismissed with scorn by Western governments and press, with African opposition to the military intervention cynically derided as Libya’s clients doing their duty to their patron, a self-serving judgment that was unfair to South Africa in particular. That the Arab League, whose support for a no-fly zone was invoked by London, Paris and Washington to claim Arab legitimation of Nato’s intervention, had a membership almost entirely confined to Western powers’ client states was never mentioned.

The situation was full of irony for Libya. Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam’s contemptuous comment on the Arab League’s resolution, ‘El-Arab? Toz fi el-Arab!’ (‘The Arabs? To hell with the Arabs!’), expressed the family’s bitter recognition that the pan-Arabism behind the 1969 revolution had long ago become obsolete as the majority of Arab states subsided into shamefaced submission to the Western powers. The problem for Gaddafi & Co was that the African perspective they had diligently pursued as a solution de rechange for defunct pan-Arabism consistent with their original anti-imperialist worldview meant little to the many Libyans who wanted Libya to approximate to Dubai, or, worse, stirred virulent resentment against the regime and black Africans alike. And so, in taking Libya into Africa while tending to remove it from Arab regional affairs, the Jamahiriyya’s foreign policy, like that of Idris’s monarchy, cut the Libyans off from other Arabs, especially the well-heeled Gulf Arabs whose lifestyle many middle-class Libyans aspired to. In this way, the regime’s foreign policy made it vulnerable to a revolt inspired by events elsewhere in the Arab world. But there was another reason for its vulnerability.

The authors of the 1969 coup initially took Nasser’s Egypt for their model, imitating its institutions and terminology – Free Officers, Revolutionary Command Council – and equipping themselves with a single ‘party’, the Arab Socialist Union (ASU), like Nasser’s prototype essentially a state apparatus providing a façade for the new regime. But within two years, Sadat’s de-Nasserisation purges were underway and he was mending fences with the Muslim Brothers, while the beginning of infitah – his policy of opening up the economy – announced the retreat from ‘Arab socialism’ and the rift with Moscow presaged the turn to America. Thus the Egyptian model evolved rapidly into an anti-model, while the experiment with the ASU proved an instructive failure. The idea of a single party seemed to make sense in Libya as it had originally made sense in Egypt and also Algeria. Leaders of military regimes needed to set up a civilian façade so that they could offer a degree of controlled representation and bring the politically ambitious into the new dispensation. But in Egypt and Algeria the architects of the new single party were dealing with comparatively politicised populations. Gaddafi & Co confronted a politically inert society, with little in the way of a state tradition, pulverised by a brutal colonial conquest and reduced to onlookers as the country became a battleground in World War Two, then liberated from colonial rule by external forces and finally tranquillised by the Sanussi monarchy. In trying to launch the ASU, the new regime found little to work with in terms of political talent or energy in the wider population; instead it was the old elites of Tripoli and Benghazi who invested in the party, which not only failed to mobilise popular enthusiasm but became a focus of resistance to the revolution Gaddafi had in mind.

Gaddafi accordingly began to develop an idea he voiced within weeks of seizing power in 1969: that representative democracy was unsuited to Libya. Other leaders in North Africa and the Middle East felt the same about their own countries. But in pretending to allow for representation they were acknowledging their vice in tacitly paying homage to virtue. In his Green Book, however, Gaddafi scandalised people by his refusal to be a hypocrite: he elevated his rejection of representation into an explicit constitutive principle which he called the State of the Masses. But the real problem was that his new course led Libya to a historic impasse.

He dispensed with the ASU and the idea of a single ruling party, promoting instead People’s Congresses and Revolutionary Committees as the key political institutions of the Jamahiriyya, which was proclaimed in 1977. The former were to assume responsibility for public administration and secure popular participation, the latter to keep the flame of the Revolution alive. The members of the People’s Congresses were elected, and these elections were taken seriously, at least at the local level and for a while. But voters were not, in theory, electing representatives, merely deciding who among the candidates on offer they wished to assume the mainly administrative responsibilities of the bodies in question. The system encouraged political and ideological unanimity, allowing no voice for dissident opinion except on trivial matters. It drew many ordinary Libyans into a sort of participation in public affairs, although this was waning by the mid-1990s, but it did not educate them in other aspects of politics, and did not work well on its own terms either.

Gaddafi’s State of the Masses drew on ideas developed elsewhere. The championing of direct over representative democracy was a prominent feature of the utopian outlook of young Western leftists in the 1960s. And the strategic decision to mobilise the ‘revolutionary’ energies of the young to outflank conservative party apparatuses was central to Mao’s Cultural Revolution and a feature of Boumediène’s ‘Révolution socialiste’. Where Gaddafi went further was in abolishing the ASU and outlawing parties altogether, but in this he could claim a doctrinal warrant: the notion that there should be no political parties in a Muslim country has long been advocated by some currents of Sunni Islamism, on the grounds that ‘party’ connotes fitna, or a division of the community of the faithful, the supreme danger. Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates allow no political parties to this day. (Gaddafi’s rule always had a more pronounced Islamic aspect than that of the regimes in Cairo and Algiers; his intolerance of Islamists owed a lot to the fact that he was intent on remaining the source of radicalism and unwilling to allow rivals.) Finally, the idea of direct popular participation in public administration could claim a local origin in the tradition of the Bedouin tribes known as hukumat ‘arabiyya (meaning here ‘people’s government’ not ‘Arab government’), in which every adult male can have his say.

The Jamahiriyya lasted 34 years (42 if backdated to 1969), a respectable innings. It did not work for foreign businessmen, diplomats and journalists, who found it more exasperating to deal with than the run of Arab and African states, and their views shaped the country’s image abroad. But the regime was not designed to work for foreigners and seems to have worked fairly well for many Libyans much of the time. It achieved more than a tripling of the total population (6.5 million today, up from 1.8 million in 1968), high standards of healthcare, high rates of schooling for girls as well as boys, a literacy rate of 88 per cent, a degree of social and occupational promotion for women that women in many other Arab countries might well envy and an annual per capita income of $12,000, the highest in Africa. But the point about these indices, routinely cited, naturally enough, by critics of the West’s intervention in reply to the propaganda that has relentlessly blackened the Gaddafi regime, is that they are in one crucial sense beside the point.

The socio-economic achievements of the regime can be attributed essentially to the distributive state: that is, the success of the hydrocarbons sector and of the mechanisms put in place early on to distribute petrodollars. But the central institutions of the Jamahiriyya, the tandem of People’s Congresses and Revolutionary Committees, did not make for effective government at all, in part because they involved a tension between two distinct notions and sources of legitimacy. The Congresses embodied the idea of the people as the source of legitimacy and the agent of legitimation. But the Committees embodied the very different idea of the Revolution as possessing a legitimacy that trumped all others. At the apex of the Revolution was Gaddafi himself, which is why it made sense for him to position himself outside the structure of Congresses and hence of the formal institutions of government, neither prime minister nor president but simply Murshid, Guide, Brother Leader. The position enabled him to mediate in free-wheeling fashion between the various components of the system and broader public opinion, criticising the government (and thereby articulating public restiveness) or deploring the ineffectiveness and correcting the mistakes of People’s Congresses and doing so always from the standpoint of the Revolution. The tradition of an Arab ruler making a virtue of siding with public opinion against his own ministers goes back to Haroun al-Rashid. But the way revolutionary legitimacy could override popular legitimacy in Gaddafi’s system also resembles Khomeini’s insistence that the interests of Iran’s revolution could override the precepts of the Sharia – i.e. that political considerations could trump Islamic dogma – and that he was the arbiter of when this was necessary. It is striking that Gaddafi considered that the interest of the Revolution required the hydrocarbons sector to be spared the ministrations of People’s Congresses and Revolutionary Committees alike.

Words such as ‘authoritarianism’, ‘tyranny’ (a favourite bugbear of the British) and ‘dictatorship’ have never really captured the particular character of this set-up but have instead relentlessly caricatured it. Gaddafi, unlike any other head of state, stood at the apex not of the pyramid of governing institutions but of the informal sector of the polity, which enjoyed a degree of hegemony over the formal sector that has no modern counterpart. It meant that the Jamahiriyya’s formal institutions were extremely weak, and that included the army, which Gaddafi mistrusted and marginalised.

One is tempted to say of Gaddafi, ‘L’état, c’était lui.’ But it was the more and more mystical idea of the Revolution, not heredity and divine right, that legitimated his power. And the intangible content of this Revolution, what Ruth First called its elusiveness, was closely connected to the fact that the Revolution was never over.

A distinction between revolutionary and constitutional government was made in 1793 by Robespierre, when he wrote: ‘The aim of constitutional government is to preserve the Republic; that of revolutionary government is to lay its foundation.’ The effective historical function of the revolutionary government in Libya was to ensure that, while the country was modernised in important respects, it did not and could not become a republic. The Libyan Revolution turned out to be permanent because its objects were imprecise, its architects had no form of law-bound, constitutional government in view as a final destination and no conception of a political role for themselves or anyone else after the Revolution. The State of the Masses, al-jamahiriyya, was presented as far superior to a mere republic – jumhuriyya – but in fact fell far short of one. And, in contrast to states that call themselves republics but fail to live up to the name, its pretensions signalled that there was never an intention to establish a real republic in which government would truly be the affair of the people. The State of the Masses was in reality little more than a game to occupy and contain ordinary Libyans while the grown-up business of politics was conducted behind the scenes, the affair of a mysterious and unaccountable elite.

The mobilisation of society in the French Revolution threw up several independent-minded leaders – Danton, Marat, Hébert et al as well as Robespierre – which made it psychologically possible for fellow Jacobins to rebel against Robespierre and set in train the tortuous process of superseding revolutionary by constitutional government. Something similar, up to a point, can be said of Algeria (where the independence struggle threw up a superabundance of strong-minded revolutionaries), although 49 years on, the winding road to the democratic republic still stretches far ahead, as it did in France. But the political inertia of Libyan society meant that its Revolution had one and only one leader. Gaddafi’s closest colleagues no doubt had personal influence but only one of them, Abdessalam Jalloud, had it in him to disagree openly with Gaddafi on major issues (and he finally quit on his own terms in 1995). And so Gaddafi’s rule can be seen as an extreme instance of what Rosa Luxemburg called ‘substitutionism’: the informal government that was the real government of Libya was a one-man show. Incarnating the nebulous Revolution, the imprecise interest of the nation and the inarticulate will of the people at the same time, Gaddafi clearly believed he needed to make the show interesting. His flamboyance had a political purpose. But how long can colourfulness command consent, let alone loyalty? A Pied Piper leading Libyans – mostly well fed, housed and schooled, but maintained in perpetual political infancy – to no destination in particular. The wonder of it is that the show had such a long run.

Gaddafi seems to have realised years ago what he had done – the quasi-utopian dead end he had got Libya and himself into – and tried to escape its implications. As early as 1987 he was experimenting with liberalisation: allowing private trading, reining in the Revolutionary Committees and reducing their powers, allowing Libyans to travel to neighbouring countries, returning confiscated passports, releasing hundreds of political prisoners, inviting exiles to return with assurances that they would not be persecuted, and even meeting opposition leaders to explore the possibility of reconciliation while acknowledging that serious abuses had occurred and that Libya lacked the rule of law. These reforms implied a shift towards constitutional government, the most notable elements being Gaddafi’s proposals for the codification of citizens’ rights and punishable crimes, which were meant to put an end to arbitrary arrests. This line of development was cut short by the imposition of international sanctions in 1992 in the wake of the Lockerbie bombing: a national emergency that reinforced the regime’s conservative wing and ruled out risky reform for more than a decade. It was only in 2003-4, after Tripoli had paid a massive sum in compensation to the bereaved families in 2002 (having already surrendered Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhima for trial in 1999), that sanctions were lifted, at which point a new reforming current headed by Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam emerged within the regime.

It was the fashion some years ago in circles close to the Blair government – in the media, principally, and among academics – to talk up Saif al-Islam’s commitment to reform and it is the fashion now to heap opprobrium on him as his awful father’s son. Neither judgment is accurate, both are self-serving. Saif al-Islam had begun to play a significant and constructive role in Libyan affairs of state, persuading the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group to end its terrorist campaign in return for the release of LIFG prisoners in 2008, promoting a range of practical reforms and broaching the idea that the regime should formally recognise the country’s Berbers. While it was always unrealistic to suppose that he could have remade Libya into a liberal democracy had he succeeded his father, he certainly recognised the problems of the Jamahiriyya and the need for substantial reform. The prospect of a reformist path under Saif was ruled out by this spring’s events. Is there a parallel with the way international sanctions in the wake of Lockerbie put paid to the earlier reform initiative?

Since February, it has been relentlessly asserted that the Libyan government was responsible both for the bombing of a Berlin disco on 5 April 1986 and the Lockerbie bombing on 21 December 1988. News of Gaddafi’s violent end was greeted with satisfaction by the families of the American victims of Lockerbie, understandably full of bitterness towards the man they have been assured by the US government and the press ordered the bombing of Pan Am 103. But many informed observers have long wondered about these two stories, especially Lockerbie. Jim Swire, the spokesman of UK Families Flight 103, whose daughter was killed in the bombing, has repeatedly expressed dissatisfaction with the official version. Hans Köchler, an Austrian jurist appointed by the UN as an independent observer at the trial, expressed concern about the way it was conducted (notably about the role of two US Justice Department officials who sat next to the Scottish prosecuting counsel throughout and appeared to be giving them instructions). Köchler described al-Megrahi’s conviction as ‘a spectacular miscarriage of justice’. Swire, who also sat through the trial, subsequently launched the Justice for Megrahi campaign. In a resumé of Gaddafi’s career shown on BBC World Service Television on the night of 20 October, John Simpson stopped well short of endorsing either charge, noting of the Berlin bombing that ‘it may or may not have been Colonel Gaddafi’s work,’ an honest formula that acknowledged the room for doubt. Of Lockerbie he remarked cautiously that Libya subsequently ‘got the full blame’, a statement that is quite true.

It is often claimed by British and American government personnel and the Western press that Libya admitted responsibility for Lockerbie in 2003-4. This is untrue. As part of the deal with Washington and London, which included Libya paying $2.7 billion to the 270 victims’ families, the Libyan government in a letter to the president of the UN Security Council stated that Libya ‘has facilitated the bringing to justice of the two suspects charged with the bombing of Pan Am 103, and accepts responsibility for the actions of its officials’. That this formula was agreed in negotiations between the Libyan and British (if not also American) governments was made clear when it was echoed word for word by Jack Straw in the House of Commons. The formula allowed the government to give the public the impression that Libya was indeed guilty, while also allowing Tripoli to say that it had admitted nothing of the kind. The statement does not even mention al-Megrahi by name, much less acknowledge his guilt or that of the Libyan government, and any self-respecting government would sign up to the general principle that it is responsible for the actions of its officials. Tripoli’s position was spelled out by the prime minister, Shukri Ghanem, on 24 February 2004 on the Today programme: he made it clear that the payment of compensation did not imply an admission of guilt and explained that the Libyan government had ‘bought peace’.

The standards of proof underpinning Western judgments of Gaddafi’s Libya have not been high. The doubt over the Lockerbie trial verdict has encouraged rival theories about who really ordered the bombing, which have predictably been dubbed ‘conspiracy theories’. But the prosecution case in the Lockerbie trial was itself a conspiracy theory. And the meagre evidence adduced would have warranted acquittal on grounds of reasonable doubt, or, at most, the ‘not proven’ verdict that Scottish law allows for, rather than the unequivocally ‘guilty’ verdict brought in, oddly, on one defendant but not the other. I do not claim to know the truth of the Lockerbie affair, but the British are slow to forgive the authors of atrocities committed against them and their friends. So I find it hard to believe that a British government would have fallen over itself as it did in 2003-5 to welcome Libya back into the fold had it really held Gaddafi responsible. And in view of the number of Scottish victims of the bombing, it is equally hard to believe that SNP politicians would have countenanced al-Megrahi’s release if they believed the guilty verdict had been sound. The hypothesis that Libya and Gaddafi and al-Megrahi were framed is to be taken very seriously indeed. And if it were the case, it would follow that the greatly diminished prospect of reform from 1989 onwards as the regime battened down the hatches to weather international sanctions, the material suffering of the Libyan people during this period, and the aggravation of internal conflict (notably the Islamist terrorist campaign waged by the LIFG between 1995 and 1998) can all in some measure be laid at the West’s door.

Wherever the blame lies, the Jamahiriyya survived up to 2011 fundamentally unchanged in its key political features: the absence of political parties, the absence of independent associations, newspapers and publishing houses and the corresponding weakness of civil society, the dysfunctional character of the formal institutions of government, the weakness of the armed forces and the indispensability of Gaddafi himself as the originator of the Revolution that constituted the state. After 42 years of Gaddafi’s rule, the people of Libya were, politically speaking, not much further forward than they were on 31 August 1969. And so the Jamahiriyya was vulnerable to internal challenge the moment Arab mass movements making an issue of human dignity and citizens’ rights got going. The tragic irony is that the features of the Jamahiriyya that made it vulnerable to the Arab Spring also, in their combination, completely ruled out any emulation of the Tunisian and Egyptian scenarios. The factors that enabled a fundamentally positive evolution to occur in both these countries once the mass protest movement started were absent from Libya. In both Tunisia and Egypt, the population’s greater experience of political action gave the protests a degree of sophistication, coherence and organisational flair. The fact that neither president had been a founding figure allowed for a distinction to be made between a protest against the president and his cronies and a rebellion against the state: the patriotism of the protesters was never put in question. And in both cases the role of the armed forces was crucial: being loyal to the state and the nation rather than to a particular leader, they were disposed to act as arbiters and facilitate a resolution without the existence of the state being put in jeopardy.

None of this applied to Libya. Gaddafi was the founder of the Jamahiriyya and the guarantor of its continued existence. The armed forces were incapable of playing an independent political role. The absence of any tradition of non-violent opposition and independent organisation ensured that the revolt at the popular level was a raw affair, incapable of formulating any demands that the regime might be able to negotiate. On the contrary, the revolt was a challenge to Gaddafi and to the Jamahiriyya as a whole (and thus to what existed in the way of a state).

The situation that developed over the weekend following the initial unrest on 15 February suggested three possible scenarios: a rapid collapse of the regime as the popular uprising spread; the crushing of the revolt as the regime got its act together; or – in the absence of an early resolution – the onset of civil war. Had the revolt been crushed straightaway, the implications for the Arab Spring would have been serious, but not necessarily more damaging than events in Bahrain, Yemen or Syria; Arab public opinion, long used to the idea that Libya was a place apart, was insulated against the exemplary effect of events there. Had the revolt rapidly brought about the collapse of the regime, Libya might have tumbled into anarchy. An oil-rich Somalistan on the Mediterranean would have had destabilising repercussions for all its neighbours and prejudiced the prospects for democratic development in Tunisia in particular. A long civil war, while costly in terms of human life, might have given the rebellion time to cohere as a rival centre of state formation and thus prepared it for the task of establishing a functional Libyan state in the event of victory. And, even if defeated, such a rebellion would have undermined the premises of the Jamahiriyya and ensured its demise. None of these scenarios took place. A military intervention by the Western powers under the cloak of Nato and the authority of the United Nations happened instead.

How should we evaluate this fourth scenario in terms of the democratic principles that have been invoked to justify the military intervention? There is no doubt that many Libyans consider Nato their saviour and that some of them genuinely aspire to a democratic future for their country. Even so I felt great alarm when intervention started to be suggested and remain opposed to it even now despite its apparent triumph, because I considered that the balance of democratic argument favoured an entirely different course of action.

The claim that the ‘international community’ had no choice but to intervene militarily and that the alternative was to do nothing is false. An active, practical, non-violent alternative was proposed, and deliberately rejected. The argument for a no-fly zone and then for a military intervention employing ‘all necessary measures’ was that only this could stop the regime’s repression and protect civilians. Yet many argued that the way to protect civilians was not to intensify the conflict by intervening on one side or the other, but to end it by securing a ceasefire followed by political negotiations. A number of proposals were put forward. The International Crisis Group, for instance, where I worked at the time, published a statement on 10 March arguing for a two-point initiative: (i) the formation of a contact group or committee drawn from Libya’s North African neighbours and other African states with a mandate to broker an immediate ceasefire; (ii) negotiations between the protagonists to be initiated by the contact group and aimed at replacing the current regime with a more accountable, representative and law-abiding government. This proposal was echoed by the African Union and was consistent with the views of many major non-African states – Russia, China, Brazil and India, not to mention Germany and Turkey. It was restated by the ICG in more detail (adding provision for the deployment under a UN mandate of an international peacekeeping force to secure the ceasefire) in an open letter to the UN Security Council on 16 March, the eve of the debate which concluded with the adoption of UNSC Resolution 1973. In short, before the Security Council voted to approve the military intervention, a worked-out proposal had been put forward which addressed the need to protect civilians by seeking a rapid end to the fighting, and set out the main elements of an orderly transition to a more legitimate form of government, one that would avoid the danger of an abrupt collapse into anarchy, with all it might mean for Tunisia’s revolution, the security of Libya’s other neighbours and the wider region. The imposition of a no-fly zone would be an act of war: as the US defense secretary, Robert Gates, told Congress on 2 March, it required the disabling of Libya’s air defences as an indispensable preliminary. In authorising this and ‘all necessary measures’, the Security Council was choosing war when no other policy had even been tried. Why?

Many critics of Nato’s intervention have complained that it departed from the terms of Resolution 1973 and was for that reason illegal; that the resolution authorised neither regime change nor the introduction of troops on the ground. This is a misreading. Article 4 ruled out the introduction of an occupying force. But Article 42 of the 1907 Hague Regulations states that ‘territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army,’ a definition conserved by the 1949 Geneva Conventions. What Resolution 1973 ruled out was the introduction of a force intended to take full political and legal responsibility for the place, but that was never the intention; ground forces were indeed eventually introduced, but they have at no point accepted political or legal responsibility for anything and so fall short of the conventional definition of an occupying force. It may be that this misreading of the resolution was connived at by the governments that drafted it in order to secure the best (or least bad) tally of votes in favour on 17 March; this would of course be only one instance of the sophistry to which the metteurs en scène of intervention have resorted. And regime change was tacitly covered by the phrase ‘all necessary measures’. That this was the right way to read the resolution had already been made clear by the stentorian rhetoric of Cameron and Hague, Sarkozy and Juppé, and Obama and Clinton in advance of the Security Council vote. Since the issue was defined from the outset as protecting civilians from Gaddafi’s murderous onslaught ‘on his own people’, it followed that effective protection required the elimination of the threat, which was Gaddafi himself for as long as he was in power (subsequently revised to ‘for as long as he is in Libya’ before finally becoming ‘for as long as he is alive’). From the attitudes struck by the Western powers in the run-up to the Security Council debate, it was evident that the cleverly drafted resolution tacitly authorised a war to effect regime change. Those who subsequently said that they did not know that regime change had been authorised either did not understand the logic of events or were pretending to misunderstand in order to excuse their failure to oppose it. By inserting ‘all necessary measures’ into the resolution, London, Paris and Washington licensed themselves, with Nato as their proxy, to do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted in the full knowledge that they would never be held to account, since as permanent veto-holding members of the Security Council they are above all laws.

In two respects the conduct of the Western powers and Nato did indeed appear explicitly to violate the terms of Security Council resolutions. The first instance was the repeated supply of arms to the rebellion by France, Qatar, Egypt (according to the Wall Street Journal) and no doubt various other members of the ‘coalition of the willing’ in what seemed a clear breach of the arms embargo imposed by the Security Council in Articles 9, 10 and 11 of Resolution 1970 passed on 26 February and reiterated in Articles 13, 14 and 15 of Resolution 1973. It was later explained that Resolution 1973 superseded 1970 in this respect and that the magic phrase ‘all necessary measures’ licensed the violation of the arms embargo; thus Article 4 of Resolution 1973 trumped Articles 13 to 15 of the same resolution. In this way it was arranged that any state might supply arms to the rebels while none might do so to the Libyan government, which by that time had been decreed illegitimate by London, Paris and Washington. Scarcely anyone has drawn attention to the second violation.

The efforts of the ICG and others seeking an alternative to war did not go entirely unnoticed. Apparently their proposals made some impression on the less gung-ho members of the Security Council, and so a left-handed homage was paid them by the drafters of Resolution 1973. In the final version – unlike any earlier ones – the idea of a peaceful solution was incorporated in the first two articles, which read:

[The Security Council …]

(1) Demands the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians; (2) Stresses the need to intensify efforts to find a solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people and notes the decisions of the secretary-general to send his special envoy to Libya and of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to send its ad hoc High Level Committee to Libya with the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution.

In this way Resolution 1973 seemed to be actively envisaging a peaceful alternative as its first preference, while authorising military intervention as a fallback if a ceasefire was refused. In reality, nothing could have been further from the truth.

Resolution 1973 was passed in New York late in the evening of 17 March. The next day, Gaddafi, whose forces were camped on the southern edge of Benghazi, announced a ceasefire in conformity with Article 1 and proposed a political dialogue in line with Article 2. What the Security Council demanded and suggested, he provided in a matter of hours. His ceasefire was immediately rejected on behalf of the NTC by a senior rebel commander, Khalifa Haftar, and dismissed by Western governments. ‘We will judge him by his actions not his words,’ David Cameron declared, implying that Gaddafi was expected to deliver a complete ceasefire by himself: that is, not only order his troops to cease fire but ensure this ceasefire was maintained indefinitely despite the fact that the NTC was refusing to reciprocate. Cameron’s comment also took no account of the fact that Article 1 of Resolution 1973 did not of course place the burden of a ceasefire exclusively on Gaddafi. No sooner had Cameron covered for the NTC’s unmistakable violation of Resolution 1973 than Obama weighed in, insisting that for Gaddafi’s ceasefire to count for anything he would (in addition to sustaining it indefinitely, single-handed, irrespective of the NTC) have to withdraw his forces not only from Benghazi but also from Misrata and from the most important towns his troops had retaken from the rebellion, Ajdabiya in the east and Zawiya in the west – in other words, he had to accept strategic defeat in advance. These conditions, which were impossible for Gaddafi to accept, were absent from Article 1.

Cameron and Obama had made clear that the last thing they wanted was a ceasefire, that the NTC could violate Article 1 of the resolution with impunity and that in doing so it would be acting with the agreement of its Security Council sponsors. Gaddafi’s first ceasefire offer came to nothing, as did his second offer of 20 March. A week later, Turkey, which had been working within the Nato framework to help organise the provision of humanitarian aid to Benghazi, announced that it had been talking to both sides and offered to broker a ceasefire. The offer was given what Ernest Bevin would have called ‘a complete ignoral’ and nothing came of it either, as nothing came of a later initiative, seeking a ceasefire and negotiations (to which Gaddafi explicitly agreed), undertaken by the African Union in April. It too was rejected out of hand by the NTC, which demanded Gaddafi’s resignation as a condition of any ceasefire. This demand went beyond even Obama’s earlier list of conditions, none of which had figured in Resolution 1973. More to the point, it was a demand that made a ceasefire impossible, since securing a ceasefire requires commanders with decisive authority over their armies, and removing Gaddafi would have meant that no one any longer had overall authority over the regime’s forces.

By incorporating the alternative non-violent policy proposals in its text, the Western war party had been pulling a confidence trick, stringing along a few undecided states to get them to vote for the resolution on 17 March: a war to the finish, violent regime change and the end of Gaddafi had been the policy from the outset. All subsequent offers of a ceasefire by Gaddafi – on 30 April, 26 May and 9 June – were treated with the same contempt.

Those who believe in ‘international law’ and are happy with wars they consider ‘legal’ may wish to make something of this. But the crucial point here has to do with the logic of events and the policy choices associated with them. In incorporating the ICG’s – or, more generally, the peace party’s – suggestions into the revised text of Resolution 1973, London, Paris and Washington deftly headed off a real debate in the Security Council, one that would have considered alternatives, at the price of making their own resolution incoherent.

London, Paris and Washington could not allow a ceasefire because it would have involved negotiations, first about peace lines, peacekeepers and so forth, and then about fundamental political differences. And all this would have subverted the possibility of the kind of regime change that interested the Western powers. The sight of representatives of the rebellion sitting down to talks with representatives of Gaddafi’s regime, Libyans talking to Libyans, would have called the demonisation of Gaddafi into question. The moment he became once more someone people talked to and negotiated with, he would in effect have been rehabilitated. And that would have ruled out violent – revolutionary? – regime change and so denied the Western powers their chance of a major intervention in North Africa’s Spring, and the whole interventionist scheme would have flopped. The logic of the demonisation of Gaddafi in late February, crowned by the referral of his alleged crimes against humanity to the International Criminal Court by Resolution 1970 and then by France’s decision on 10 March to recognise the NTC as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people, meant that Gaddafi was banished for ever from the realm of international political discourse, never to be negotiated with, not even about the surrender of Tripoli when in August he offered to talk terms to spare the city further destruction, an offer once more dismissed with contempt. And this logic was preserved from start to finish, as the death toll of civilians in Tripoli and above all Sirte proves. The mission was always regime change, a truth obscured by the hullabaloo over the supposedly imminent massacre at Benghazi.

The official version is that it was the prospect of a ‘second Srebrenica’ or even ‘another Rwanda’ in Benghazi were Gaddafi allowed to retake the city that forced the ‘international community’ (minus Russia, China, India, Brazil, Germany, Turkey et al) to act. What grounds were there for supposing that, once Gaddafi’s forces had retaken Benghazi, they would be ordered to embark on a general massacre?

Gaddafi dealt with many revolts over the years. He invariably quashed them by force and usually executed the ringleaders. The NTC and other rebel leaders had good reason to fear that once Benghazi had fallen to government troops they would be rounded up and made to pay the price. So it was natural that they should try to convince the ‘international community’ that it was not only their lives that were at stake, but those of thousands of ordinary civilians. But in retaking the towns that the uprising had briefly wrested from the government’s control, Gaddafi’s forces had committed no massacres at all; the fighting had been bitter and bloody, but there had been nothing remotely resembling the slaughter at Srebrenica, let alone in Rwanda. The only known massacre carried out during Gaddafi’s rule was the killing of some 1200 Islamist prisoners at Abu Salim prison in 1996. This was a very dark affair, and whether or not Gaddafi ordered it, it is fair to hold him responsible for it. It was therefore reasonable to be concerned about what the regime might do and how its forces would behave in Benghazi once they had retaken it, and to deter Gaddafi from ordering or allowing any excesses. But that is not what was decided. What was decided was to declare Gaddafi guilty in advance of a massacre of defenceless civilians and instigate the process of destroying his regime and him (and his family) by way of punishment of a crime he was yet to commit, and actually unlikely to commit, and to persist with this process despite his repeated offers to suspend military action.

There was no question of anything that could properly be described as ethnic cleansing or genocide in the Libyan context. All Libyans are Muslims, the majority of Arab-Berber descent, and while the small Berber-speaking minority had a grievance concerning recognition of its language and identity (its members are Ibadi, not Sunni, Muslims), this was not what the conflict was about. The conflict was not ethnic or racial but political, between defenders and opponents of the Gaddafi regime; whichever side won could be expected to deal roughly with its adversaries, but the premises for a large-scale massacre of civilians on grounds of their ethnic or racial identity were absent. All the talk about another Srebrenica or Rwanda was extreme hyperbole clearly intended to panic various governments into supporting the war party’s project of a military intervention in order to save the rebellion from imminent defeat.

Why did the panic factor work so well with international, or at any rate Western, public opinion and especially governments? It is reliably reported that Obama’s fear of being accused of allowing another Srebrenica tipped the scales in Washington when not only Robert Gates but also, initially, Hillary Clinton had resisted US involvement. I believe the answer is that Gaddafi had already been so thoroughly demonised that the wildest accusations about his likely (or, as many claimed, certain) future conduct would be believed whatever his actual behaviour. This demonisation took place on 21 February, the day all the important cards were dealt.

On 21 February the world was shocked by the news that the Gaddafi regime was using its airforce to slaughter peaceful demonstrators in Tripoli and other cities. The main purveyor of this story was al-Jazeera, but the story was quickly taken up by the Sky network, CNN, the BBC, ITN et al. Before the day was over the idea of imposing a no-fly zone on Libya was widely accepted, as was the idea of a Security Council resolution imposing sanctions and an arms embargo, freezing Libya’s assets and referring Gaddafi and his associates to the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity. Resolution 1970 was duly passed five days later and the no-fly zone proposal monopolised international discussion of the Libyan crisis from then on.

Many other things happened on 21 February. Zawiya was reported to be in chaos. The minister of justice, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, resigned. Fifty Serbian workers were attacked by looters. Canada condemned ‘the violent crackdowns on innocent demonstrators’. Two airforce pilots flew their fighters to Malta claiming they did so to avoid carrying out an order to bomb and strafe demonstrators. By late afternoon regime troops and snipers were reliably reported to be firing on crowds in Tripoli. Eighteen Korean workers were wounded when their place of work was attacked by a hundred armed men. The European Union condemned the repression, followed by Ban Ki-moon, Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi. Ten Egyptians were reported to have been killed by armed men in Tobruk. William Hague, who had condemned the repression the previous day (as had Hillary Clinton), announced at a press conference that he had information that Gaddafi had fled Libya and was en route to Venezuela. The Libyan ambassador to Poland stated that defections from the armed forces as well as the government could not be stopped and Gaddafi’s days were numbered. Numerous media outlets carried the story that Libya’s largest tribe, the Warfalla, had joined the rebellion. Libya’s ambassadors to Washington, India, Bangladesh and Indonesia all resigned, and its deputy ambassador to the UN, Ibrahim Dabbashi, rounded off the day by calling a news conference at Libya’s mission in New York and claimed that Gaddafi had ‘already started the genocide against the Libyan people’ and was flying in African mercenaries. It was Dabbashi more than anyone else who, having primed his audience in this way, launched the idea that the UN should impose a no-fly zone and the ICC should investigate Gaddafi’s ‘crimes against humanity and crimes of war’.

At this point the total death toll since 15 February was 233, according to Human Rights Watch. The Fédération Internationale des Droits de l’Homme suggested between 300 and 400 (but it also announced the same day that Sirte had fallen to the rebels). We can compare these figures with the total death toll in Tunisia (300) and Egypt (at least 846). We can also compare both HRW’s and FIDH’s figures with the death toll, plausibly estimated at between 500 and 600, of the seven days of rioting in Algeria in October 1988, when the French government rigorously refrained from making any comment on events. But the figures were beside the point on 21 February; it was impressions that counted. The impression made by the story that Gaddafi’s airforce was slaughtering peaceful protesters was huge, and it was natural to take the resignations of Abdul Jalil and the ambassadors, the flight of the two pilots, and especially Dabbashi’s dramatic declaration about genocide as corroborating al-Jazeera’s story.

Goodies and baddies (to use Tony Blair’s categories) had been clearly identified, the Western media’s outraged attention totally engaged, the Security Council urgently seized of the matter, the ICC primed to stand by, and a fundamental shift towards intervention had been made – all in a matter of hours. And quite right too, many may say. Except that the al-Jazeera story was untrue, just as the story of the Warfalla’s siding with the rebellion was untrue and Hague’s story that Gaddafi was fleeing to Caracas was untrue. And, of course, Dabbashi’s ‘genocide’ claim was histrionic rubbish which none of the organisations with an interest in the use of the term was moved to challenge.

These considerations raise awkward questions. If the reason cited by these ambassadors and other regime personnel for defecting on 21 February was false, what really prompted them to defect and make the declarations they did? What was al-Jazeera up to? And what was Hague up to? A serious history of this affair when more evidence comes to light will seek answers to these questions. But I don’t find it hard to understand that Gaddafi and his son should suddenly have resorted to such fierce rhetoric. They clearly believed that, far from confronting merely ‘innocent demonstrators’ as the Canadians had it, they were being destabilised by forces acting to a plan with international ramifications. It is possible that they were mistaken and that everything was spontaneous and accidental and a chaotic muddle; I do not pretend to know for sure. But there had been plans to destabilise their regime before, and they had grounds for thinking that they were being destabilised again. The slanted coverage in the British media in particular, notably the insistence that the regime was faced only by peaceful demonstrators when, in addition to ordinary Libyans trying to make their voices heard non-violently, it was facing politically motivated as well as random violence (e.g. the lynching of 50 alleged mercenaries in al-Baida on 19 February), was consistent with the destabilisation theory. And on the evidence I have since been able to collect, I am inclined to think that destabilisation is exactly what was happening.

In the days that followed I made efforts to check the al-Jazeera story for myself. One source I consulted was the well-regarded blog Informed Comment, maintained and updated every day by Juan Cole, a Middle East specialist at the University of Michigan. This carried a post on 21 February entitled ‘Qaddafi’s bombardments recall Mussolini’s’, which made the point that ‘in 1933-40, Italo Balbo championed aerial warfare as the best means to deal with uppity colonial populations.’ The post began: ‘The strafing and bombardment in Tripoli of civilian demonstrators by Muammar Gaddafi’s fighter jets on Monday …’, with the underlined words linking to an article by Sarah El Deeb and Maggie Michael for Associated Press published at 9 p.m. on 21 February. This article provided no corroboration of Cole’s claim that Gaddafi’s fighter jets (or any other aircraft) had strafed or bombed anyone in Tripoli or anywhere else. The same is true of every source indicated in the other items on Libya relaying the aerial onslaught story which Cole posted that same day.

I was in Egypt for most of the time, but since many journalists visiting Libya were transiting through Cairo, I made a point of asking those I could get hold of what they had picked up in the field. None of them had found any corroboration of the story. I especially remember on 18 March asking the British North Africa expert Jon Marks, just back from an extended tour of Cyrenaica (taking in Ajdabiya, Benghazi, Brega, Derna and Ras Lanuf), what he had heard about the story. He told me that no one he had spoken to had mentioned it. Four days later, on 22 March, USA Today carried a striking article by Alan Kuperman, the author of The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention and coeditor of Gambling on Humanitarian Intervention. The article, ‘Five Things the US Should Consider in Libya’, provided a powerful critique of the Nato intervention as violating the conditions that needed to be observed for a humanitarian intervention to be justified or successful. But what interested me most was his statement that ‘despite ubiquitous cellphone cameras, there are no images of genocidal violence, a claim that smacks of rebel propaganda.’ So, four weeks on, I was not alone in finding no evidence for the aerial slaughter story. I subsequently discovered that the issue had come up more than a fortnight earlier, on 2 March, in hearings in the US Congress when Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were testifying. They told Congress that they had no confirmation of reports of aircraft controlled by Gaddafi firing on citizens.

The story was untrue, just as the story that went round the world in August 1990 that Iraqi troops were slaughtering Kuwaiti babies by turning off their incubators was untrue and the claims in the sexed-up dossier on Saddam’s WMD were untrue. But as Mohammed Khider, one of the founders of the FLN, once remarked, ‘when everyone takes up a falsehood, it becomes a reality.’ The rush to regime change by war was on and could not be stopped.

The intervention tarnished every one of the principles the war party invoked to justify it. It occasioned the deaths of thousands of civilians, debased the idea of democracy, debased the idea of law and passed off a counterfeit revolution as the real thing. Two assertions that were endlessly reiterated – they were fundamental to the Western powers’ case for war – were that Gaddafi was engaged in ‘killing his own people’ and that he had ‘lost all legitimacy’, the latter presented as the corollary of the former. Both assertions involved mystifications.

‘Killing his own people’ is a hand-me-down line from the previous regime change war against Saddam Hussein. In both cases it suggested two things: that the despot was a monster and that he represented nothing in the society he ruled. It is tendentious and dishonest to say simply that Gaddafi was ‘killing his own people’; he was killing those of his people who were rebelling. He was doing in this respect what every government in history has done when faced with a rebellion. We are all free to prefer the rebels to the government in any given case. But the relative merits of the two sides aren’t the issue in such situations: the issue is the right of a state to defend itself against violent subversion. That right, once taken for granted as the corollary of sovereignty, is now compromised. Theoretically, it is qualified by certain rules. But, as we have seen, the invocation of rules (e.g. no genocide) can go together with a cynical exaggeration and distortion of the facts by other states. There are in fact no reliable rules. A state may repress a revolt if the permanent veto-holding powers on the Security Council allow it to (e.g. Bahrain, but also Sri Lanka) and not otherwise. And if a state thinks it can take this informal authorisation to defend itself as read because it is on good terms with London, Paris and Washington and is honouring all its agreements with them, as Libya was, it had better beware. Terms can change without warning from one day to the next. The matter is now arbitrary, and arbitrariness is the opposite of law.

The idea that Gaddafi represented nothing in Libyan society, that he was taking on his entire people and his people were all against him was another distortion of the facts. As we now know from the length of the war, the huge pro-Gaddafi demonstration in Tripoli on 1 July, the fierce resistance Gaddafi’s forces put up, the month it took the rebels to get anywhere at all at Bani Walid and the further month at Sirte, Gaddafi’s regime enjoyed a substantial measure of support, as the NTC did. Libyan society was divided and political division was in itself a hopeful development since it signified the end of the old political unanimity enjoined and maintained by the Jamahiriyya. In this light, the Western governments’ portrayal of ‘the Libyan people’ as uniformly ranged against Gaddafi had a sinister implication, precisely because it insinuated a new Western-sponsored unanimity back into Libyan life. This profoundly undemocratic idea followed naturally from the equally undemocratic idea that, in the absence of electoral consultation or even an opinion poll to ascertain the Libyans’ actual views, the British, French and American governments had the right and authority to determine who was part of the Libyan people and who wasn’t. No one supporting the Gaddafi regime counted. Because they were not part of ‘the Libyan people’ they could not be among the civilians to be protected, even if they were civilians as a matter of mere fact. And they were not protected; they were killed by Nato air strikes as well as by uncontrolled rebel units. The number of such civilian victims on the wrong side of the war must be many times the total death toll as of 21 February. But they don’t count, any more than the thousands of young men in Gaddafi’s army who innocently imagined that they too were part of ‘the Libyan people’ and were only doing their duty to the state counted when they were incinerated by Nato’s planes or extra-judicially executed en masse after capture, as in Sirte.

The same contempt for democratic principle characterised the repeated declarations in the West that Gaddafi had ‘lost all legitimacy’. Every state needs international recognition and to that extent depends on external sources of legitimation. But the democratic idea gives priority to national over international legitimacy. With their claim of lost legitimacy the Western powers were not only pre-empting an eventual election in Libya which would ascertain the true balance of public opinion, they were mimicking the Gaddafi regime: in the Jamahiriyya the people were liable to be trumped by the Revolution as a source of superior legitimacy.

‘If you break it, you own it,’ Colin Powell famously remarked, in order to alert the Beltway to the risks of a renewed war against Iraq. The lesson of the mess in Iraq has been learned, at least to the extent that the Western powers and Nato have repeatedly insisted that the Libyan people – the NTC and the revolutionary militias – own their revolution. So, not owning Libya after the fall of Gaddafi, Nato and London and Paris and Washington cannot be accused of breaking it or be held responsible for the debris. The result is a shadow play. The NTC occupies centre stage in Libya, but since February every key decision has been made in the Western capitals in consultation with the other, especially Arab, members of the ‘contact group’ meeting in London or Paris or Doha. It is unlikely that the structure of power and the system of decision-making which have guided the ‘revolution’ since March are going to change radically. And so unless something happens to upset the calculations that have brought Nato and the NTC this far, what will probably emerge is a system of dual power in some ways analogous to that of the Jamahiriyya itself, and similarly inimical to democratic accountability. That is, a system of formal decision-making about secondary matters acting as a façade for a separate and independent, because offshore, system of decision-making about everything that really counts (oil, gas, water, finance, trade, security, geopolitics) behind the scenes. Libya’s formal government will be a junior partner of the new Libya’s Western sponsors. This will be more of a return to the old ways of the monarchy than to those of the Jamahiriyya.


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Fanon et l’histoire africaine : Est-ce possible d’humaniser une histoire déshumanisante ?

Pendant que je relisais Fanon en me demandant ce qui fait sortir sa trajectoire et ses écrits du lot des travailleurs de, et sur, l ‘émancipation, j’ai rencontré le livre de Marcus Rediker (MR) The Slaveship: A Human History.1 Le titre m’avait tout de suite perturbé. Est-il possible de narrer un processus de déshumanisation, tel que l’esclavage Atlantique, au cours duquel celle-ci s’est faite, entre autres endroits, dans les navires négriers, et l’appeler une histoire humaine ? MR, sans l’expliciter en clair, et, peut-être dans son subconscient, est persuadé que dans l’histoire de l’esclavage, il y a moyen d’en extraire les éléments qui sont les racines « civilisatrices » de ce qui adviendra, plus tard, avec le colonialisme, l’apartheid, la globalisation. Cette habitude d’embellir une histoire comme celle de l’esclavage (de la colonisation ou de la globalisation aujourd’hui) peut s’expliquer de plusieurs manières, comme, par exemple, par l’abolitionisme, qui, outre d’autres faits, vise à démontrer que le capitalisme est « essentiellement » bon, démocratique, humanitaire, et toujours prêt à corriger ses excès.2 L’humanitarisme véhiculé depuis l’abolition de l’esclavage, et renforcé depuis la fin de la 2ème Guerre Mondiale, fonctionne aujourd’hui comme fonctionnait jadis l’idéologie de la mission civilisatrice pendant la colonisation. Ainsi la Déclaration Universelle des Droits de l’Homme votée en 1948 à l’Assemblée Générale des Nations Unies a fini par être instrumentalisée afin de servir les intérêts des pays colonisateurs, des Etats-Unis d’Amérique, pour asseoir leur supériorité politique, économique, morale.3 En se présentant comme les défenseurs de l’humanité, ils se sont créés un masque qui voile les crimes contre l’humanité. La militance de Fanon pourrait être résumée comme visant constamment à faire tomber ces masques.

Il n’est pas possible, dans le présent espace, de passer en revue les réflexions survenues à la lecture du Navire Négrier –une histoire humaine. Ces réflexions, ces questions sont faites en écho à la militance de Fanon. Saura-t-on jamais à quel point l’usage du Navire Négrier (et toutes les pratiques, tous les préjugés qui l’ont entouré) a-t-il préparé le terrain de la mentalité nazie de la 2ème Guerre Mondiale ? N’est-il pas possible de voir des liens entre l’impact psychique des navires négriers sur tous les voyageurs durant plusieurs siècles et celui qui se répercutera dans la Shoah ? Le seul fait que la Shoah ait eu lieu au 20ème siècle pourrait-il être expliqué par le fait qu’un autre processus d’acceptation d’un crime contre l’humanité avait été mis en route plus tôt, sans objections et avec impunité. Nous l’avons déjà dit ailleurs, les génocides sont spécifiques et génériques.4 La question n’est pas de comparer les génocides non certifiés et ceux qui ne le sont toujours pas. La question est de comprendre comment la mentalisation du nègre « bien meuble » (comme présenté dans le Code Noir, par exemple)5 est devenue partie intégrante d’habitudes subconscientes de toujours penser « bien meuble » quand l’Afrique est mentionnée, jusqu’en ce 21ème siècle. Les défenseurs irréductibles du maintien de ces habitudes sont les bénéficiaires du système né sous l’esclavage, et maintenu jusqu’aujourd’hui, sous d’autres noms. Le résultat le plus durable de cette mentalisation est d’effacer le fait qu’il y a eu un crime contre l’humanité. Un crime dont la mesure, jusqu’aujourd’hui, n’a toujours pas été saisi. N’en déplaise aux historiens qui tiennent absolument à la compartimenter, l’histoire de l’humanité ne se découpe pas en tranches. L’objectif non avoué de cette division est de prétendre que l’histoire Européenne n’a pas été éclaboussée par les crimes contre l’humanité.

Cette histoire Européenne, comme vient de le sous-entendre, très récemment, Pierre Nora, doit restée pure.6 Cette logique découle en droite ligne de l’idéologie civilisatrice employée aux fins de colonisation, enrobée de bonnes intentions. Le sous-entendu de la colonisation civilisatrice était que tous les colonisés finiraient par vouloir faire partie du monde idéalisé du colonisateur. À quel point cette idéologie a réussi peut se vérifier non seulement en Afrique, mais aussi au Brésil où, pour beaucoup de noirs, il est préférable de se voir le plus proche possible du blanc et des caractéristiques qui définissent le blanc. Si on transfert ce désir de blanchiment de la peau au blanchiment de l’histoire, un constat semble s’imposer : il est préférable, par exemple, quand on parle d’Haïti (ou de l’Afrique), de se déclarer/ranger du côté de Napoléon (qui restaura l’esclavage) plutôt que du côté de Toussaint-L’Ouverture. Au niveau de l’universalité des révolutions, la fin de l’esclavage à Haïti (1791-1804) pèse peu dans les mémoires Africaines par rapport à la France de 1789.7
D’une manière générale, la pratique des historiens face à ce crime (l’esclavage) reste la même. Elle peut se résumer et s’imaginer de la manière suivante, au niveau du subconscient : « Nous avons tous bénéficié du capitalisme. Les abolitionnistes ont démontré que le système pouvait s’auto corriger. Notre travail (d’historien) est de démontrer que ce système n’était pas criminel »8 . Par contre, les pratiques (politiques, médicales, sociales, culturelles) de Fanon visaient à transformer les rapports hérités de l’esclavage/colonisation et vers la création d’un contexte libérateur de l’humain.

Pour Fanon, il fallait libérer l’homme. Même s’il parlait en psychiatre, sa pensée et ses pratiques avaient été façonnées par une conscience dont les racines seront toujours difficiles d’appréhender, sinon en admettant que les pulsions émancipatrices décrites à partir de la vie d’une personne peuvent être comprises comme touchant tous les être humains de différentes manières et à des degrés divers d’intensité.

Tout en acceptant que Fanon, sa pensée, sa vision, les motivations de sa militance resteront insaisissables, justement parce que toujours en mouvement, proposons un petit exercice de fiction car, comme Fanon, nous sommes confrontés, 50 ans après sa mort, à une situation identique : la nécessité de libérer l’humain. Cette nécessité se ressent de manière différente parmi les responsables de l’enfermement et les emprisonnés. Du point de la libération des humains, on peut avancer que des indépendances africaines (et de la fin de l’apartheid) sont sortis des feux de paille. Beaucoup d’entre nous admirent Fanon, mais la toute grande majorité préfère décrire, analyser, décortiquer ce qu’il a fait plutôt que de poursuivre sur les pistes qu’il avait ouvertes. D’admirateurs beaucoup sont devenus des gestionnaires de la pensée de Fanon. Alors que Fanon était tout, sauf un gestionnaire.

De la Martinique à l’Afrique, son parcours fait penser au Cahier d’un retour au pays natal de Césaire, une auto-analyse individuelle et collective, par la poésie. La singularité de la trajectoire adulte de Fanon (juste après la 2ème Guerre Mondiale-1961) est d’avoir toujours déranger les consciences qui, en principe, auraient du se féliciter et/ou se sentir encourager.9 Comme pour Césaire, Fanon s’était senti à l’étroit en Martinique. Cette même pulsion (énergie/flux de la conscience ?) le fit quitter Paris pour Lyon, pour se tenir à l’écart des autres Antillais concentrés à Paris. Pour sa thèse de psychiatrie, il avait pensé à PNMB, mais il dût se soumettre aux ordres de la Faculté (un parcours qui rappelle celui de Cheikh Anta Diop quand la Faculté rejeta son travail qui deviendra, plus tard, Unité Culturelle de l’Afrique Noire)10 . Nommé à la clinique de Blida-Joinville en Algérie, il s’y est senti à l’étroit et a pensé que les patients méritaient un traitement qui les libérerait du traitement imposé par les bien pensants de la faculté. Une fois qu’il avait rejoint le FLN, là aussi, sa conscience le poussait constamment non vers les « prétoriens », mais vers les plus démunis, avec un compagnon de route, Abane Ramdane, qui sera assassiné pour son insistance de la suprématie de la politique sur les militaires. (voir la note 6, ci-dessous)

La conscience de Fanon fonctionnait au-delà de son corps physique en ce sens qu’elle était alimentée des autres consciences (à la recherche de l’émancipation) qui l’entouraient, quel que soit l’endroit où il se trouvait. Quelques mois avant sa mort, Fanon dira à un ami qu’il avait deux morts sur la conscience, Abane Ramdane et Patrice Lumumba.11

Lumumba et la conscience politique congolaise

À quelques semaines (28 novembre 2011) d’une élection présidentielle en République Démocratique du Congo, les militances de Fanon, de Lumumba alimentent-elles encore les consciences à la recherche d’émancipation ? À quel degré, avec quelle intensité ? Conscient des ses propres limites, Fanon prédisait la continuation de la prise en charge du défi par une autre génération.

Sans aucun doute l’émancipation adviendra car l’humanité contrairement à l’humanitarisme aura toujours soif de liberté. L’humanitarisme, un sous-produit de l’abolitionisme vise à reproduire une fausse militance alimentée par un moralisme caritatif. Cet humanitarisme-là (de gestion de l’ordre établi) est celui qui se présente, sous formes d’ONG, pour combattre la pauvreté, sous-produit direct de l’expansion incontrôlée et incontrôlable du capitalisme, autrefois appelé colonialisme civilisateur. L’abolition de l’esclavage et les pratiques qui en ont découlé nous apparaissent aujourd’hui comme des processus de blanchiment de l’histoire africaine, de blanchiment d’un crime contre l’humanité.

Oui, l’héritage de Fanon est vivant, parfois il semble même vibrant. Mais, en même temps, il ne serait pas exagéré de reconnaître que cet héritage est loin en-deça de ce que les plus concernés, Les damnés de la terre, étaient en droit d’exiger. Au niveau de la production et reproduction de l’histoire Africaine, Fanon surgit au moment où (1957-1960), comme discipline universitaire reconnue, l’histoire Africaine prend son essor. Si Fanon avait été historien, il aurait pu prédire que l’écriture universitaire (« africaniste ») de cette histoire suivrait les traces des maîtres à penser européens convaincus que la seule histoire africaine possible ne pourrait être contée que derrière un masque. Le masque permettrait, d’une part, d’affirmer l’existence académique de la discipline tout en s’assurant, d’autre part, que la direction et la problématisation de cette même histoire ne sortent pas des sentiers battus, ou, pour être plus clair, que l’histoire Africaine ne soit pensée, écrite au-delà des horizons, des limites imposés par la colonisation. L’Afrique et son histoire ne pouvaient exister que par l’Europe et, donc, pas au-delà des cinq siècles durant lesquels l’esclavage a dominé avant d’ouvrir le chemin à la colonisation. Au niveau de l’histoire, quelle que soit cette histoire, la suprématie (dans tous les domaines) des colonisateurs a cherché à dicter comment aborder cette histoire.

Face à cette imposition, il y eut, du temps de Peau noire, masques blancs (PNMB) et des damnés de la terre, l’exceptionnel et retentissant refus de Cheikh Anta Diop de se soumettre à la masquarade proposée. Il serait oiseux de savoir, en ces temps où l’impression dominante est que la masquarade a triomphé, lequel des deux héritages, de Fanon ou de Diop, est le plus vibrant. Car les deux furent des pionniers de l’émancipation des consciences de l’humanité et non seulement des consciences des Africaines et des Africains. En ces temps formatés par l’héritage des Lumières, mais où l’humanité est en train de sombrer dans l’obscurantisme, il importe de rappeler que l’universalisme libérateur de l’humain de Cheikh Anta Diop et de Fanon allait loin au-delà des limites de l’universalisme colonisateur des philosophes du Siècle des Lumières.

Il s’agit d’attirer l’attention sur les limites d’un abordage de l’histoire « à partir du bas ». tel que proposé par MR, comparé à une histoire qui serait contée, en s’inspirant de Fanon, « de l’intérieur ». Par exemple, un historien (du génocide des Amérindiens) comme David E. Stannard (The American Holocaust. Oxford University Press. 1992) a démontré comment il est possible d’éclairer l’histoire de l’humanité en refusant d’humaniser une histoire qui devrait être appelée génocidaire. Cette négation des historiens (et d’autres spécialistes des sciences humaines) de questionner la nature génocidaire de l’histoire de l’esclavage (tant Atlantique qu’oriental) en Afrique ne peut que renforcer le refus de désapprendre (ou de se défaire des mentalités) la mentalisation produite par le Code Noir et d’autres codes non nommés mais qui opéraient/opèrent à partir des mêmes prémisses, et/ou des mêmes préjugés, visant à toujours déshumaniser les gens venant d’Afrique.

Fanon n’était pas un gestionnaire de l’ordre établi, mais au niveau de l’histoire Africaine, les pratiques de l’enseignement et la recherche sont dominées par un souci de gérer une narration qui maintienne une formatation imposée par la soumission consciente et/ou inconsciente à une obligation d’humaniser le capitalisme et son histoire. La recherche persistante d’humanisation d’un système construit sur la déshumanisation d’une partie de l’humanité ne vient pas seulement des historiens ou des experts dans les autres disciplines des sciences sociales, humaines, elle vient aussi d’un accommodement conscient, inconscient, subconscient à des préjugés dictant des comportements de soumission au lieu de la révolte des consciences prônée, mais oubliée par le préambule et le premier article de la Déclaration Universelle des Droits Humains.

Les rejets, en conscience et sans compromis, de tels accommodements, comme Discours sur le colonialisme (Aimé Césaire), sont rares et ne peuvent, dans le contexte actuel, concurrencer l’impact, au niveau du subconscient, le discours triomphant du capitalisme, martelé, sans arrêt, sur plusieurs siècles. Le contraire serait surprenant. En ces temps-ci (octobre 2011), ne faudrait-il pas voir dans l’impunité des rois, princes et autres dictateurs de la finance, une des séquelles les plus visibles de l’accommodement à l’humanisation d’un système connu pour sa déshumanisation des Amérindiens, des Africains et de toutes celles qui aujourd´hui sont traitées comme des membres dispensables de l’humanité: les chômeurs, les violées, les Intouchables, les Pygmées, les enfants de la rue, les enfants soldats, les sans terre, les pauvres. La colonisation combattue par Fanon en Algérie était née d’un système déshumanisant, non seulement à travers son impact direct, mais aussi dans ses séquelles secondaires encourageant l’acceptation de crimes contre l’humanité quand ces crimes étaient/sont perpétrés par les puissances qui ont le plus bénéficié de l’esclavage et de la colonisation de l’Afrique et d’autres territoires de la Planète.

Pour humaniser l’esclavage, MR recourt à une description aussi minutieuse que possible des résistances et des insurrections sur les navires négriers. Comme tous les historiens de conquête, une des préoccupations de l’auteur est de trouver dans l’esclavage « des aspects positifs » : l’apprentissage d’une nouvelle langue (anglais), d’une nouvelle solidarité, d’un nouveau langage de résistance ; comme si, avant l’expérience du Navire Négrier, les Africains n’avaient pas démontré des qualités d’êtres humains ayant soif de liberté. Des lecteurs pourraient se demander, à la lecture du texte de MR, si les Africaines et leurs compagnons n’ont gagné conscience de leur humanité que par la rencontre avec l’Europe. Loin de moi l’idée que MR puisse se trouver sur la même longueur d’onde que Bush père ou fils quand ils se présentent comme les grands valorisateurs/inventeurs de la liberté. Et pourtant, sans forcer, cette lecture biaisée de ce que les Africains ont appris sur les Navires Négriers est possible : la notion de liberté n’aurait pas existé avant ce contact annihilateur avec l’Europe. On retrouve ici le thème favori des apologistes de la colonisation qui préfèrent n’y voir que du positif, et alléguer que les violences étaient des exceptions.12

MR ne fait aucune mention des navires négriers français. Est-ce parce que son projet d’humanisation d’une histoire inhumanisable n’était possible qu’en se focalisant sur les archives des activistes de l’abolition, en Angleterre ? Comme Primo Levi et d’autres survivants des camps ont démontré, là où il y a des humains on trouvera matière à des histoires humaines, mais de là à faire de l’histoire des camps, de sa gestion quotidienne, une histoire humaine, il y a une marge qui ne se traverse pas à moins de faire partie des négationnistes.

MR s’étonne que les historiens de l’esclavage aient préféré aborder leur thème à partir des archives statistiques. Mais, sans s’en rendre compte, MR reproduit le même biais en refusant de sortir du schéma qui réduisait l’être humain à un objet meuble. L’auteur lui-même essaie de répondre, sans y parvenir vraiment, à la question centrale de savoir quel est le biais qui empêche ou a empêché les historiens de visiter le processus qui a préparé les mentalités Européennes à discriminer contre les Amérindiens et les Africains. Curieusement, MR ne cherche pas à pousser très (trop ?) loin son questionnement du manque d’intérêt des historiens vis-à-vis des navires négriers, et, surtout, de ce qui s’y passait à l’intérieur. Ce pas a déjà été fait au niveau de la fiction comme, par exemple, mais pas seulement, par l’écrivain Ghanéen Ayi Kwei Armah l’a fait dans son Two Thousand Seasons. D’autres l’ont fait. Est-il tellement difficile aux historiens de chercher à analyser l’impact d’une torture physiquement et psychiquement incommensurable sur des passagers qui se savaient et ne cessaient de se réclamer d’être humains ?
Tôt ou tard, des personnes (préparées comme Fanon) entreront de plain pied dans ces navires négriers et dans les consciences pour nous conter comment le bras-le-corps s’était passé, comment les conséquences se sont répercutées par-delà les siècles à travers les générations, dans les consciences et les subconsciences. Cette analyse-là exigera, comme celle de Fanon avec le colonialisme, ses impacts et ses séquelles, une confrontation sans compromissions, ancrée dans la conviction que l’humain doit être libre.

En conséquence, il faudra, une fois pour toutes, se défaire de cette notion qu’avant le contact avec l’Europe, l’Africain n’avait aucune notion de ce qu’était la liberté, les modes multiples de résistance contre l’oppression et l’exploitation de toutes sortes.

L’espoir est qu’à travers cette démarche, les historiens soient amenés à reconnaître, en conscience, que la conquête des Amériques, l’esclavage Atlantique constituent des crimes contre l’humanité, imprescriptibles au niveau des lois et de la conscience. Les personnes de conscience devront faire face à la guerre qui continue au niveau de la mentalisation des consciences pour que celles-ci se soumettent et acceptent d’être autres que ce que leurs consciences leur dictent. Le devoir de mémoire des personnes de conscience devra répondre affirmativement à Pierre Nora, et à d’autres qui en doutent, que la colonisation est coupable d’un crime dont la hauteur nous échappe encore. Cette profondeur du crime nous échappera tant qu’íl y aura refus de reconnaître que quand les Africains étaient terrorisés, ils murmuraient, pour eux-mêmes, et très probablement pour les visiteurs, « comment pouvez-vous faire ceci [ce crime contre l’humanité] à des être humains ? »

1. Dans l’édition que j’ai lue (Penguin Books, 2008) les accolades pleuvent, venant des plumes bien connues : Robin Blackburn, Alice Walker, etc. Un des élogieurs allant jusqu’à comparer Marcus Rediker à Herman Melville.
2. L’abolition de l’esclavage fut un grand pas dans la libération de l’humain, mais l’objectif politique était aussi de couper court à l’émancipation des esclaves par les esclaves. L’abolitionisme ressemble à l’humanitarisme dans la mesure où ce dernier cherche à imposer une défense de l’humanité telle que comprise par des pays qui avaient commis et, pour certains, continuent de commettre des crimes contre l’humanité.
3. Sauf que cette déclaration est laissée pour inexistante puisqu’en apparence, elle ne stimule plus les consciences à se révolter comme dans son préambule et son article premier.
4. Jacques Depelchin, Silences in African History : Between the Syndromes of Abolition and Discovery. Dar es Salaam : Mkuki na Nyota. 2005.
5. Sur cette question de la mentalisation de l’esclavage du côté de ceux qui en ont le plus beneficié, le meilleur ouvrage rencontré pour nous reste celui de Louis Sala-Molins, Le Code Noir, ou le calvaire de Canaan. PUF. Paris. Réimpression de la quatrième édition « Quadrige ». 2007.
6. C’est ainsi que je comprends le plus récent article de Pierre Nora : « La question coloniale : une histoire politisée » paru dans Le Monde du 15 octobre 2011. Accès le 16 octobre 2011 :
7. Pour se rendre compte du déséquilibre, il suffit de lire l’article de Serge Halimi, « Éloge des révolutions. » Le Monde Diplomatique (édition française et brésilienne) Mai 2009. Pas un mot n’est dit sur ce qui s’était passé de 1791 à 1804 à Haiti. Comme si l’abolition de l’esclavage, comme révolution, ne comptait qu’aux yeux des esclavagistes.
8. Comme Fanon lui-même l’a rappelé dans son essai « Médecine and Colonialism » tout n’était pas négatif, mais le contexte imposé exigeait soumission sans condition, d’une part, et autorité inquestionable d’autre part. Voir Frantz Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, New York : Grove Press. 1967. p. 121-145.
9. Alice Cherki, dans Frantz Fanon : portrait, fournit une description convaincante de cette singularité et de la manière dont Fanon confrontait les obstacles des gestionnaires de la pensée politique, médicale.
10. Répondant aux exigences de l’académie, Fanon rédigera Troubles mentaux et Syndromes psychiatriques dans l’hérédo-dégénérescence spinocérébelleuse : un cas de malade de Friedrich avec délire de possession, thèse de médecine, Lyon, 1951.
De son côté, Cheikh Anta Diop proposera une thèse de doctorat sous la direction de Gaston Bachelard qui sera enregistrée à la Sorbonne en 1951, mais devra être abandonnée faute de pouvoir réunir un jury. Ce travail sortira en décembre 1954 sous le titre Nations nègres et Culture – De l’antiquité nègre égyptienne aux problèmes culturels de l’Afrique noire d’aujourd’hui. Le 9 janvier 1960, Cheikh Anta Diop défendra finalement sa thèse (principale) Étude comparée de systèmes politiques et sociaux de l’Europe et de l’Afrique, de l’Antiquité à la formation des États modernes. Le titre de la thèse complémentaire Domaines du patriarcat et du matriarcat dans l’Antiquité classique fit dire à Marcel Griaule, qui fut le promoteur de la première thèse complémentaire , (Qu’étaient les Égyptiens prédynastiques ?) : « Le sujet que vous vous imposez n’est rien moins que planétaire et de nombreux spécialistes vous tomberont sur le dos comme la première fois. » Voir Cheikh M’Backé Diop, Cheikh Anta Diop, L’homme et l’œuvre. Paris : Présence Africaine. 2ème édition, 2003, pp. 32-6.
11. Belaïd Abane « Frantz Fanon and Abane Ramdane : Brief Encounter in the Algerian Revolution » p. 42 dans l’excellent ouvrage collectif édité par Nigel C. Gibson, Living Fanon : Global Perspectives. Palgrave Macmillan. New York. ISBN 978-0-230-11497-5 (pbk). 2011.
12. Il vaut la peine, à ce sujet, de lire autour de la levée de boucliers de l’establishment des historiens belges à la sortie du livre d’Adam Hochschild sur Les fantômes de Léopold II. Pour eux, comme pour les manuels d’histoire de l’école secondaire au Congo (alors colonie belge), « Léopold II avait sacrifié sa fortune pour donner une colonie à la Belgique ». À cela, on peut ajouter le titre, combien évocateur, du livre de Jean Stengers, Combien le Congo a-t-il coûté à la Belgique ? Académie Royale des Sciences Coloniales. Bruxelles, 1957, II, 1.