Strife is intensifying in Libya, where citizens of that North African nation inspired by pro-democracy protests in Egypt, Tunisia and other nearby countries are demanding the removal of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi. Unlike other discredited leaders, he is showing no sign acceding to the popular will, and in fact is conducting a brutal campaign to cling to power. Protestors have been beaten and shot in the capital Tripoli, and government troops have been sent to attack those organizing in other parts of the country to oppose him.
Amid the clashes, speculation has grown that Gadhafi has brought in foreign fighters to bolster his forces. With the eastern part of Libya now in the control of anti-government protestors, there are numerous reports that mercenaries from several sub-Saharan African countries are helping Gadhafi put up a stand in Tripoli and other areas in the west. Amnesty International and other independent groups have asked the African Union to look into the reports that fighters from member nations are being recruited to help put down the Libyan protests.
One nation that keeps coming up in the discussion is Zimbabwe. That country's long-time President Robert Mugabe also is under pressure for democratic change, and is sympathetic to Gadhafi's plight. When Zimbabwean Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa was asked in Parliament about reports that several hundred serving and retired soldiers and pilots from the Zimbabwean armed forces recently flew to Libya, he fueled the suspicions by dodging the question. It is not my job to investigate activities in another African country, he said.
The United Nations Security Council, alarmed by the violence raging in Libya, passed a resolution February 26th that makes it clear there will be accountability for the brutal treatment being suffered by the Libyan people. It also imposed an arms embargo that in addition to banning the sale or shipment of weapons there prohibits the transit of mercenaries. The responsibilities of other nations under the resolution are very clear, and the United States insists that countries like Zimbabwe respect them.