On Sunday 15 February 2015, the Islamic State (IS) released a video showing the brutal beheading of 21 Egyptians in the Libyan town of Derna. That despicable action prompted the deployment of Egyptian Air Force jets in a dawn raid the following day against sites suspected to house terrorist fighters, their leadership and weapons.
In a recent news analysis, Gaskiya.net had warned of the threat the several militias in Libya, armed by western nations in the heydays of the struggle to remove Colonel Moammer Ghaddafi from power, pose to the rest of Africa. Titled “Cleaning up the mess in Libya,” we drew attention to the chaos that the country has become, identifying the origins of this mayhem as being rooted in the excesses of the lawless militias that we said “allegedly committed several atrocities against Black Africans and Libyan citizens perceived as not to have been sympathetic to their cause” during the uprising.
The world kept mute and should we have been taken aback much later, when “…those ‘brigades’ were allowed to do whatever they liked, make their own rules and enforce them as they pleased. Any surprise therefore when, after the regime (of Colonel Ghaddafi) had been uprooted and ‘normalcy’ restored, than we started seeing further breakdown of law and order, beginning first from Benghazi and then spreading gradually to other parts of the country. In fact, the militias in Benghazi, the very moment they drove out loyalist forces from their territory, had declared their area independent of Libya.”
The despicable slaughtering—for that was precisely what it was—of those innocent Egyptian citizens only confirmed Gaskiya.net’s worst fears in sustained acts of bestiality occurring regularly after Gaddhafi’s removal but left unreported. Indeed, we had argued that “…it is useful to observe that the international media that had vociferously supported the uprising and the various anti-Gaddhafi militias in the subsequent civil war refused to report the mess that Libya was becoming. The western nations that flooded that country with the weapons now being used to commit gross human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law also kept quiet...” It has now taken the emergence of IS inside Libya—again should this be surprising—for the world to wake up!
Libya, as we noted in that analysis, is a mess, for want of a better description. That mess was created by the United Nations Security Council (through Resolution 1973 passed on 19 March 2011) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) whose warplanes bombed the country and who flooded that African state with thousands of weapons. We affirmed that a “… direct fallout of the Libyan crisis is the subsequent outbreak of armed conflict in Mali and its implications for the stability of Mauritania, Algeria, Nigeria and Cameroon.” Today, we reiterate that the horrendous killing of those 21 Egyptians is also directly attributed to that fallout and if our warning had been heeded for the UN to intervene and correct its mistake, perhaps this tragedy could have been avoided. We hate to say it…but we warned the world!
Libya today has two parallel governments operating from Tripoli and Tobruk simultaneously, although none of them controls any territory. Anomie reigns supreme across the country and the security and governance vacuum obviously can be adduced as the reason for the emergence of IS affiliates there. President Abdelfattah Al Sisi of Egypt has rightfully taken strong measures in retaliation for the death of his country’s citizens. We make bold to say that it behoves other African states, especially Nigeria and Algeria, to equip their military forces sufficiently enough to be able to undertake strategic missions either in Libya or elsewhere in order to suppress a growing threat whose reach and impact remain yet unfathomable. The prospect of more African states becoming less able to impose sovereignty over every inch of their geo-political territory in the face of this expanding threat is worrisome, as is the likelihood that IS could spread from Libya to link up with its murderous counterparts in the vast Sahara desert, thereby fostering a reign of terror on most of the continent.