More than 30,000 overstock vuvuzelas have been sold to the Libyan government by South African companies and repurposed into weapons, several human rights groups have reported.
The vuvuzelas, which were symbols of celebration at the 2010 World Cup, are being embraced by Libyan police and pro-government security forces to subdue protesters.
"When rigged with some basic household chemicals and a handful of ball bearings, a single blast from a vuvuzela can disperse a crowd of 20 or 30, no problem," said Katherine Fillmore of the International Coalition Against War Criminals.
The vuvuzelas have also been used on the ends of high-power water cannons to deliver a sniper-like effect. One rebel leader, who wanted to be identified as Abdul for security reasons, has been on the receiving end of vuvuzela violence on several occasions.
"At first they were just blowing them really loud in our ears, which wears you out pretty quick. Then they realized they could fill the ends with cement and whack us in the back of the heads—actually, this was kind of better than having to hear them. And remember when they blacked out the Internet last week? Turns out vuvuzelas are great for smashing modems. Leave it to Africa to take a vestige of joy and cultural unity and turn it into a truncheon of oppression."
After a clash in Tripoli yielded more than 60 vuvuzela-related injuries Friday morning, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi released a public statement.
"Yes, we as a united government did purchase several thousand vuvuzelas from South Africa, as they were so heavily discounted that we pretty much just had to pay shipping. You can never have enough of the things! Any nonsense about them being used as weapons is an attack from the jealous Western media, who still can't figure out how to spell my name right. Is it Qaddafi or Gaddafi or Daffy Duck or what? Idiots."
While no other official comments have been made on the situation, critics are already comparing it to the 1989 anti-communist protests in Eastern Europe, where Soviet forces used thousands of flaming Cabbage Patch dolls to break up demonstrations in the region.