The Dutch and the attack on Libya
Like many Africans in Europe, I am completely baffled by the latest Western neo-colonial project in Africa. Here we are thinking that the Berlin Conference of 1884-5 was a long distant, almost forgotten memory, the likes of which will never happen again. We were rudely shocked that, despite all the agonies, massive despoliation, the wholesale massacres and the gnashing of teeth caused by the Europeans in our continent, very little, if anything, has changed. The mentalities of the inheritors of those immense crimes still retain the essential elements of their forebears. The more we look the less we understand. Among the questions that constantly baffle our minds is why Europeans extend so much energies and efforts in trying to export commodities that are sorely lacking in their own societies. Many of us grew up in Africa with European missionaries who drummed into our heads such lofty injunctions like, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us”; “Love your enemies”; “Turn the other cheek”. Of course, our civics classes were full of those nice definitions the Europeans put in our school syllabi like “democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people”. We received our first cultural jolt when saw the people who preached to us doing the opposite to what they preached to us. We see a total disconnect between rhetoric and deeds. It is as though in the West, people, especially leaders and scholars, don’t mean what they say. It appears that words function as mere rhetoric. We never had any European nation forgiving anyone who transgressed against it. And, in the West, loving your neighbor continues to exist in people’s imagination. And heaven forbid a European nation to turn any cheek – enemies; real or imagined, must be obliterated! We see the vast hypocrisy of the Western world in the elevation of Nelson Mandela to an iconic figure by a people that would consider him a wimp if he ruled their country. It says a lot about the duplicity of the West that they elevate Mandela to sainthood whilst they keep on electing war-mongers as rulers. The Dutch, like most Europeans, suffer from gross historical amnesia. That is the only reason we can adduce for a people that should bury their collective heads in shame, gallivanting around the world, self-promoting themselves as champions of freedom, human rights and democracy. More than any Europeans, the Dutch should be the last to even ever consider launching an attack on Africa under any pretense or circumstance. I write this with the authority of the knowledge of the depravity of the Belgians, the British, the Danes, the French, and not forgetting the Portuguese. Beginning with slavery, the Dutch led the way both in the quantity of their loot and the cruelty of their slavers. These are some of the things we read from history; “The Dutch share in the slave trade was large: in fact, in the 17th century, it was the largest. The Dutch West India Company had various settlements on the African coast, and millions of slaves were ferried from there, especially during the time of the Dutch occupation of Brazil. “In the 12 years (1637-48) they transported no less than 23 163 slaves from Elmina and Loanda, for an amount of 6 714 423 guilders and 60 cents (the Dutch were very precise!). “They bought slaves from the Congo for 40 to 50 guilders and sold them in Brazil for 200 to 800 guilders. Certainly a worthwhile business.” (JW Schulte Nordholt, “The People That Walk in Darkness”. Ballantine Books, New York). “The Dutch had established themselves in Berbice in 1624. During the years 1624-1763 they were the cruelest of slave masters. “The Dutch slave code was much harsher than the Spanish code (the savagery of the Dutch code is shown by one provision of calculated cruelty: the burning alive of mutinous slaves over a slow fire). “The Dutch had no institution comparable to the Spanish audiencia, a tribunal which included four judges. “The ruthlessness of the Dutch created the situation that came to a climax in the Berbice slave rebellion.” (“Marcus Garvey and the vision of Africa,” edited by John Henrik Clarke). The cruelty of the Dutch was again on display in the colonization of Africa. Is it any co-incidence that the Dutch possession in Africa, the Boer republic of South Africa was the cruelest, the most dogmatic and lasted the longest? And let it not be forgotten that the Dutch even pressed their god into service in their cruel enterprise in our continent. The Dutch Reformed Church consistently provided the apartheid regime with spiritual succor and with biblical support to the heinous crimes the Boers perpetrated against Africans. Many of those that came forward at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa cited the Church as the spiritual inspiration for their gruesome work in support of the former apartheid regime. It was not until 1992 that the Dutch Reformed Church finally acknowledged apartheid as a sin and confessed to great wrongs in the past, and said the Church was guilty of spiritual and structural injustices under apartheid. Of course, no mention was made of making amends for past wrongdoings. Two figures that helped the most in the despoliation of Africa and the dehumanization of Africans happened to be born in the Netherlands. Both Jan van Riebeeck (the pirate that founded the Dutch colony in South Africa) and Henrik Frensch Verwoerd, apartheid’s chief theoretician, were Dutch citizens born in the Netherlands. It galls to no end to see that the Dutch become enthusiastic partners in the West’s re-colonization project in Libya. Like they did in Iraq, the Western alliance hid behind a UN resolution to effect their plan for regime change in Libya. The objective, as it is emerging, was a re-colonization enterprise that would put Libya’s vast oil reserves under the control of the West. The plan was, like the Iraq venture, to remove Gaddafi, install a puppet regime and start to suck the blood out of their newly-acquired territory. The Dutch wasted no time in joining the colonial assault just like they did in the Afghanistan misadventure. The allure of juicy contracts is just too much to ignore. As a long-time resident in the Netherlands, the idea of the Dutch going to fight for the rights of Africans seems particularly incongruous and baffling. Despite its reputation as a “tolerant” country, the Netherlands remains among the most racist of countries in Europe. Dutch politics regularly throw up rabidly racist politicians who never hide their desire to keep their nation as white as their snow – we can mention Jan Maat, Aad Kosto, Rita Verdonk, Geert Wilders. In the Netherlands, non-Europeans are simply totally marginalized with zero visibility in any aspect of national life. Despite Dutch politicians railing against being swamped by non-Europeans, there is not a single non-white person in any position of importance in the whole of the Netherlands. Football used to be one area where blacks used to dominate, but this has been effectively ended following an outcry. The people that gave the world apartheid have even managed to coin other words that firmly and succinctly expressed their racist mindsets – “Allochtone”, which refers to non-natives (read black) and “Autochtone” (read white). These administrative constructs were, like apartheid, designed to keep people apart and keep the blacks firmly in their place. Today, non-Europeans must produce a Certificate of Fluency in the Dutch language and culture before they get a renewal of their residence permits. These are the same people that exported their language to South Africa, and killed hundreds of Africans in an attempt to impose their language on Africans. • Dutch replies In order to help me organize my thoughts on the Dutch government intervention in Libya, I sent a list of questions to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague. The reply, pure asinine, reveals the depth of contempt to which the Dutch truly hold us as Africans. The spokesman, Mr Aad Meijer, even found it useful to deign to teach me some rules of basic journalism. I simply cannot imagine a European journalist receiving the same mindless answers to his enquiries. This is the exchange: “Dear Mr. Akomolafe See below for our answers to your questions. Please be so kind to quote them as ‘says a spokesman of the ministry of Foreign Affairs’. Kind regards, Aad Meijer Press Information” Q: What is the official Dutch government position on the situation in Libya? A: The Dutch government is very concerned about the situation in Libya. It condemns the use of force by Gaddafi against peaceful demonstrators, his own people. In doing so it considers Gaddafi to have lost his legitimacy. Gaddafi should step down and give space to a negotiated inclusive political solution by all of the Libyan people with respect for human rights, minorities and the rule of law. Q: One of the prerogatives of states is that they hold monopoly on the instruments of violence within their territory. No country will permit an armed-uprising; is a new precedent not being set by the Western powers in supporting an armed group in Libya? What is the Dutch government’s position on supporting armed rebellion in other countries? A: The NATO mission “Unified Protector” is mandated by UN Resolution 1973 to protect the Libyan population from attacks by the Libyan authorities. The Netherlands supports this goal and contributes to the protection of the Libyan population. Q: Although UNSC Resolution 1973, specifically, did not authorize action to violate the sovereignty of Libya in the name of human rights, nor action in support of the anti-government rebels, nor “regime-change” in Libya, today some Western governments (UK, France and the USA) are openly calling for “regime change,” and have announced plans to send “military advisors” to aid the Libyan “pro-democracy forces.” What is the position of the Dutch government on regime change in Libya? A: I refer to our answer (above). Q: There appears to be a stalemate in Libya, what exactly is the outcome envisioned by the Dutch government in Libya? A: I refer to our answer (above). Q: How feasible is the desire of the West to impose democracy and human rights by military violence and where should we draw the line? A: The military actions undertaken by NATO and several countries in the region as mandated by the United Nations seek to uphold Security Council resolution 1973. As such the military actions should be limited to protecting the civilian population of Libya against the use of force by the Libyan authorities. Q: What is the response of the Dutch government to the charges by some African commentators that the attacks smacked of double-standards – given the fact that numerous resolutions of the United Nations remain unenforced by the Western powers? A: The implementation of Security Council resolutions is an obligation of all members of the United Nations. The Netherlands believes that first and foremost countries in the region share a responsibility to implement these decisions. Where possible the Netherlands seeks to support such efforts either bilaterally or through the European Union. Q: Given the fact that Libya is, at least, geographically in Africa, why did the Western powers decide to ignore the publicly-stated position of the African Union (AU) condemning any military solution to the crisis in Libya? A: The Netherlands believes that the crisis in Libya will not be solved through military means alone and calls for a political process. It welcomes all diplomatic efforts, including those of the African Union to broker a political solution and underlines the importance of international coordination of initiatives. In order for a political process to come to fruition, the Netherlands believes that a real cessation of hostilities and pull back from beleaguered cities is required. Q: Why is the West ever so eager to employ military force in non-Western nations, rather than use its considerable powers to compel antagonists to the conference table, like providing them with non-lethal (good offices) means to resolve their differences? A: The Netherlands believes that diplomatic efforts are essential to achieve a solution. Q: And what would be the response of the Dutch government to accusations that Africa is being re-colonized. This being derived from the fact that the Western powers continue to hold meetings in European capitals (London, Paris, Berlin) to decide the future of an African country, Libya, which brings back to memory the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884-5? A: The Netherlands believes that the future of Libya should only be decided upon by the Libyan people themselves. It stresses that the conferences on Libya do in no way purport to providing the Libyan people with an outside political solution. The conferences serve as an international focal and coordination point to ensure effective international support for the Libyan people. Q: How would the Dutch government react to accusations that the West is trying to counter China’s incursions to Africa. Cited as example is one of the leaks from the Wikileaks’ memos? A: The Dutch government does not comment on the content of documents released by Wikileaks. Q: What would be the response of the Dutch government to another concern of Africans, especially those who live in Europe, why do countries like France and the Netherlands which continue to treat them with impunity, would want to assume high moral ground on human rights and democracy in Africa? A: The Dutch government does not comment on the internal affairs of other states. All residents of the Netherlands enjoy equal rights and obligations under Dutch law. Q: It was a Dutch man Hugo Grotius who, in his seminal work, titled De Jure Belli ac Pacis Libri Tres (Of the Laws of War and Peace) published in 1623, who wrote: “Throughout the Christian world, I observed a lack of restraint in relation to war, such as even barbarous races should be ashamed of; I observed that men rush to arms for slight causes, or no cause at all, and that when arms have once been taken up there is no longer any respect for law, divine or human; it is as if, in accordance with a general decree, frenzy had openly been let loose for the committing of all crimes. Confronted with such utter ruthlessness many men, who are the very furthest from being bad men, have come to the point of forbidding all use of arms to the Christian, whose rule of conduct above everything else comprises the duty of loving all men.” Today, we look at Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and see that not much has changed since 1623. Can we look forward to a time that the West will, in the words of the Christian Bible, turn its sword into ploughshares and resolve conflicts through peaceful means rather than on wholesale military violence? A: The Dutch government seeks to end conflict by peaceful means. The promotion of international rule of law is part of its constitution. It is difficult for me to imagine what Mr Aad Meijer ate or drunk before he sent his reply. I expected a half-decent attempt to produce some bureaucratic smoke but certainly not these staid answers. That “All residents of the Netherlands enjoy equal rights and obligations under Dutch law,” is a tale I believe Mr Aad should tell to the Dutch marines when they return from their colonial killing enterprise in Libya.