Magazine article New African

Libya: Italy Says Sorry for Colonialism-With a Road

Magazine article New African

Libya: Italy Says Sorry for Colonialism-With a Road

Article excerpt

It is not too often that former colonialists apologise for the wrongs they inflicted on Africa. But Italy has chosen not only to do it in words, but also in kind by building a billion dollar motorway across Libya as a sorry for its colonial occupation of the North African country. Lwimbo Malanda reports.

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It may not lead to a dominos effect, but the news that Italy is to build a motorway across Libya as part of a compensation deal to cleanse some of its colonial wrongs on Libya, is igniting calls and debate on whether or not it is about time other Western countries followed suit. Italy is the first former European colonial power to take the initiative to compensate Africa in kind for colonial plunder. According to the Libyan news agency (JANA), the Italian foreign minister, Massimo d'Alema, confirmed after meeting the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, in November, that Italy would build a coastal highway linking Ras Jdayr on the Tunisian border and Sallum on the Egyptian border.

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"The minister made a detailed presentation on cooperation prospects between the two countries and the big initiative project that Italy will present to the Libyan people, namely the construction of a highway from Ras Jdayr to Sallum that comes as part of compensation for the Italian colonial period and in order to turn that page," JANA reported.

D'Alema was also quoted by the Italian news agency, ANSA, as having said: "We have certain debts owed to Libya but we also have a fundamental interest in our links with this essential partner ... The moment has arrived to take a further step ... to close a sad chapter in history." According to d'Alema, the deal "is not yet completed" but "we have agreed on the principal and now we only have to finalise the details".

During another earlier visit to Libya in October, d'Alema was quoted by the local media to have said Italy and Libya were close to an agreement which would "close the painful chapter" of the colonial period. "We have debts to Libya, but we also have a fundamental interest in strengthening our links with an essential partner," he had said then. …

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