For anyone following Libyan affairs, yesterday’s revelation about the Gaddafi family’s mistreatment of Shweyga Mullah, an Ethiopian nanny for the family of Gaddafi’s son Hannibal was hardly a revelation. Certainly the UN knew about this conduct — we told them about how it, but they didn’t want to listen.
In July 2008, a strikingly similar incident took place in Geneva. Hannibal and his wife Aline were arrested in their posh hotel room for torturing their servant and maid. After a brief detention, they were allowed out.
In response, a furious Col. Gaddafi declared jihad against Switzerland. Libya shuttered all Swiss businesses in the country, canceled oil exports, and pulled its billions in Swiss bank deposits. The regime took two Swiss citizens as hostages, confining them for two years until Switzerland offered a series repeatedly of humiliating apologies for offending the desert dictator and his clan, and paying “compensation.”
As it happens, while all this was happening, Libya saw no irony in submitting an official document to the UN’s Durban Review Conference, meant to fight racism and intolerance, which included the following:
Libya does not only do not practice racism but we combat the practice of regimes against the African people. It differentiates between racism and freedom of expression. It is facing a new form of racism related to house helpers (maids). [emphasis added] (doc A/CONF.211/PC/RPM/2/2)
In addition, numerous UN documents and news reports have documented Libya’s systematic racial discrimination against black Africans, particularly its racial persecution of two million black African migrant workers, and other migrant workers.
When UN Watch brought up the issue at the African prep meeting for Durban II in Abuja, Nigeria — stating in our speech that “Mr. Hannibal Qaddafi was arrested in Geneva for the crime of beating his African maid and African house-helper” — we were rudely interrupted by Sudan, supported by Morocco and Algeria. The other African delegates were silent.
Our speech ended with the following plea:
The eyes of the world are upon us. When history is written, let it be recorded that in Abuja, in August 2008, the struggle against racism was advanced, and not harmed; promoted, and not politicized. We owe its victims—in Africa and around the world—no less.
As we approach the UN’s Durban III racism summit in September, it’s time for African leaders to reflect on how they turned a blind eye to awful crimes committed by one of their own.