Who's spoiling Gaddafi's dream?

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Calm has returned to the streets of Tripoli after the recent violence against African immigrants. But the PR fallout from the distubances is bound to reverberate long after the physical injuries have healed.

Coming in the teeth of Col Gaddafi's drive for African unity, the violence was bad news not only for Gaddafi but for the whole African continent. No wonder, Gaddafi was quick to blame "foreign hostile hands" for fanning the flames.

"We regret the skirmishes that have taken place between the brothers because there are hidden hostile hands that took advantage of the circumstances and fomented them," Gaddafi said in an official message to the Ghanaian president, Jerry Rawlings, broadcast over Libyan radio on 10 October.

Rawlings had personally flown to Tripoli to evacuate 250 of the estimated 4,500 Ghanaians caught up in the violence. His gesture immediately earned him, in the Ghanaian media, the sobriquet, Moses -- after the Biblical Moses who led his people out of suffering in Egypt.

So far, two Libyan ministers, (including the justice minister) have lost their jobs over the violence as Gaddafi tries to uncover the "root cause".

His message to Rawlings hinted that the violence was meant to undermine his African unity plan. He has, therefore, urged his people not to "give the enemies the opportunity to block our union."

He told Rawlings: "An investigation is going on and will uncover for us the whole truth".

The Libyan official death toll is six dead, but returnees have claimed more than six people died.

Various versions have been given of what sparked the violence. None too difficult to believe. The truth, however, is that Libyans have long looked down upon the estimated 2.5 million immigrants in their midst. With increasing numbers, (the majority of them, illegal and providing cheap labour), the African immigrants now inhabit their own zones with in Libyan residential areas.

With its 5.4 million population, Libya is the second largest producer of oil in Africa, after Nigeria. Its output of 1.5m barrels of crude oil per day means it is an attractive spot for African migrants fleeing unemployment and civil wars in their home countries. But as the immigrant numbers increase, so are the concerns, if not xenophobia, of ordinary Libyans. The...

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