The Libya conflict — a war of protection, a humanitarian intervention, an intrusion to save civilians’ lives — has created new humanitarian crises of its own, within and beyond Libya’s borders. Over 22,000 people are reported to have fled armed Malian “rebels” who are intent on reinvigorating a fight with the government. Aid groups are now warning of a humanitarian catastrophe.
The shade of Gaddafi looms over this conflict. Weapons wielded in his defense have migrated to a longstanding rebellion in Mali. Malian officials told the NYT that rebels were newly armed with the leftovers of Libya’s civil war: “Heavy weapons. Antitank weapons. Antiaircraft weapons . . . Robust, powerful machine guns. Mortars.” The rebels are even commanded by a former colonel in Gaddafi’s army. Many of them fought for Gaddafi in Libya’s civil war.
The trouble in Mali is not the only disturbance to ripple out of the Libya war. Considered by many Arab North Africans to be lesser citizens, black Africans have often borne persecution in North Africa, but in Gaddafi’s Libya they became privileged immigrants. Predictably, they have been accused by Libya’s new rulers of collaborating with Gaddafi. Just today gunmen from Misrata killed seven black Africans at a refugee camp outside Tripoli. The victims and many others at this refugee camp are originally from Tawergha, a town used by Gaddafi’s forces as a base to shell Misrata during the civil war. Tawergha, once home to 30,000 people, is now a ghost town, its buildings looted and surrounding farms destroyed by former Misrata rebels seeking revenge.
Many other African migrants chose to flee the threat of persecution in Libya. Their exodus means they can no longer send money to their families elsewhere in Africa. The BBC has been following that story.
Did President Obama’s advisers warn him the Libyan intervention would reverberate across North Africa? Did the crowd shouting about the “duty to protect” consider that Gaddafi’s mercenaries might inflame other fights elsewhere, or that the civilians we saved might turn on other civilians once the war had ended? Did they take even tiny steps to guard against this possibility? Have they lifted a finger for the new victims?
Apparently, the duty to protect has now lapsed; we can all go back to sleep.