Sunday, August 31, 2008

$5billion for Libyan Colonization

Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has agreed to pay US$5 billion to Libya for three decades of colonial occupation.

The compensation will come via "construction projects, student grants, and pensions for Libyan soldiers who served with the Italians during the Second World War," according to an AP report.

When I first read the news about the deal in a BBC report I thought that $5 billion was a gross under estimation of what the real figure should be.

But as some of my more forgiving friends and colleagues will point out it is very hard to put a dollar amount on suffering.

In the US, before 9/11, there was a growing movement to demand reparations for Black slavery. Academic and other analyses struggled with the nature of reparation and its consequences.

In 2005 I read a paper of mine on Slavery Reparations at an academic conference held at a South African university and it drew not one comment or question.

I don't think that folks were uninterested. Reparation is not an easy issue to address in any forum, and in settler societies it is made even more treacherous.

There is some thinking about what Italy's move will mean for other African states. Will other colonial 'masters' follow Berlusconi's example?

I guess we will have to wait and see hey.

It is important to note that though Italy wants to acknowledge its colonial brutality it also wants Libya "to crack down on illegal migrants turning up on Italian shores."

$500 million will be put toward "electronic monitoring devices on the Libyan coastline."

I can't help but think that taking responsibility for colonialism is mostly about guarding Italy from the reach of Libyan migrants.

In these terms, and in the context of anti-immigrant angst that is so present in the West, the Libyan settlement does not sit well with me.

But then again, can any settlement of the kind sit well when the damage of colonialism is hardly in the past?


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