Photo ©Simba Russeau 2011
The US and NATO's five month bombing campaign in Libya under the guise of protecting civilians has not only caused major disruptions to the lives of thousands of Libyan civilians but it has also taken its toll on countless numbers of refugees and asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa who took up refuge in Libya after fleeing violence and persecution in their own countries.
In a three part series I introduce three young people whose lives were turned upside down when the war hit but have managed to find positive ways to overcome their current state of living a life in limbo.
"I was in Libya for four good years before this crisis," says EzD. "Now I find myself a beggar in this refugee camp.”
Originally from the Delta State in Nigeria, thirty-year-old Daniel aka EzD was uprooted from his region after some 15,000 Nigerian soldiers entered and attacked his region killing his father, younger brother and sister.
“They scattered our house and brutalized everyone,” said EzD in an interview with Taste Culture. “My father was a fighter demanding an equal share of the oil wealth and compensation for the environmental damages to our land but on January 4, 1999 they killed him.”
Being the first son, EzD’s mother feared that the government would come looking for anyone that might still be a threat so she sent him away to find work in Libya.
“How can an African man be a refugee in Africa? Is it possible for the owner of the home to become a stranger in their home? And is it possible for the stranger to become the owner of my home?" he asks. "This is my continent but now I find myself in this situation. Talents and dreams are dying in Africa."
I spent several weeks at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) run Shousha camp hearing countless stories from refugees and asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa about their lives in Libya before the war hit, how they were uprooted from their native countries and their eventual escape from violence in war-torn Libya.
EzD, his musical name, is a self-proclaimed R&B singer and Hip Hop artist. When I entered the tent, I found him scribbling his notes and lyrics onto the one notebook that he managed to salvage during his abrupt displacement from Libya.
Situated in the middle of the desert along the main Libyan coastal highway leading to Tripoli just east of the southern Tunisian border crossing of Ras Ajdir, the UNHCR camp has become home to thousands of sub-Saharan Africans - mainly from Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali and Nigeria - since the outbreak of the Libyan war. At the nearby UAE camp a similar plight has become the reality for countless numbers of Iraqis and Palestinians.
While most struggle with bouts of depression - due to the substandard living conditions of the camp, the lengthy bureaucratic process of obtaining refugee or asylum status and failure by the US and EU NATO member states to open their borders to allow for their resettlement - EzD has managed to find some level of calm through his love of music.
"I have many things to share with the world and my music is the way in which I can share my life experiences, EzD said. "I started writing because I've experienced a lot of shit in this world and sometimes when I'm singing people start laughing because they think I'm crazy but I have to sing because according to Abraham Lincoln, whatever the mind of a man believes and conceives he will surely achieve."
Protecting civilians has never been the agenda in the West's crusade to secure its oil wealth in Libya. When you dig deep into the heart of the matter, you find that millions of lives have been turned upside down.
Developing economies that relied on remittances from those that they sent abroad in hopes of raising their standard of living have been shattered.
Of course, there are those who will make the argument that NATO was stopping Gaddafi from killing his people. But what happened to the tone by Western governments hailing Gaddafi for adopting a reformist stance and opening Libya to a more democratic future?
I've met many people working for the UN sporting fancy cars, living in penthouses in the countries they pretend to be doing humanitarian work in and for some of those people the job is just a nice way to travel and see the world with diplomatic status.
My point is that the UN is always appealing to the international community for aid to assist their efforts but last time I checked the UN was supposed to represent the international community.
Perhaps all that money they spend on salaries, like one British man I met in Beirut who was complaining that the UN shortchanged his wages by giving him a merely $600,000 a month, could be used to feed a massive amount of people.
The living conditions in the camps run by the UN both in Shousha and Tataouine could have been improved greatly to at least make the stay of these refugees and asylum seekers livable and cutting down on salaries might be one way of achieving this goal rather than constant press conferences and visits by celebrities and various staff members.
However in my opinion, these human beings are just rubbish in the eyes of the Western countries involved in the Libyan war in that they just leave them in the street and hope that on trash day someone else will come to collect them. As the sole provider for his mother and sister, who became cripple after the tragic events that swept through his region in Nigeria, EzD is now unable to continue keeping his family above water.
"I shed tears a lot because no one is talking about our future and our future matters. I'm an Englishman and an Englishman always says time is money and we're wasting time in this place," adds EzD. "If there was one thing that I could say to Mr. Ban Ki Moon is that we're not happy in this place, America we're not happy in this place and Europe we're not happy in this place."
To see more photos and hear some of EzD impromptu rhymes captured during my visit with him then you can check out my Taste Culture feature.