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Downfall: The Aftermath of Qaddafi's Fall

The Libyan rebels have marched triumphantly into Tripoli this week, but they can’t expect much in the way of congratulations from the African Union, which has thus far refused to recognize the National Transitional Council. With the Great Loon little more than a fugitive, and with pro-Loon forces decimated to the point where only the Gaddafi tribe still holds out, it seems surprising that the AU would continue to place its stock in the Colonel. In an al-Jazeera interview, Prof. David Anderson of Oxford University explains.

Whatever new government takes shape in Libya, it is becoming alienated by the AU’s allegiance to its old paymaster. This could be a serious blow to the project of greater international cooperation on security issues — under Gaddafi Libya paid 15% of the AU’s operating budget. An oil-rich Libya freed from the grasp of Gaddafi could play a positive role in sub-Saharan Africa, but may turn towards the Arab League, with which it shares far greater cultural affinity, if spurned by its African neighbors.

The AU’s recalcitrance reflects Gaddafi’s little-understood role as a peddler of influence and patronage throughout Africa. Gaddafi used Libya’s vast oil wealth to buy friends, finance “liberation movements,” and promote Islamic institutions across the continent. He cultivated protégés among other brutal authoritarians and rebel leaders like Liberia’s Charles Taylor, Uganda’s Idi Amin (who converted to Islam at Gaddafi’s behest), and Sierra Leone’s Foday Sankoh, and sent advisors and mercenaries to fight in their wars. (Sadly, Nelson Mandela was also a fan.)  With almost $100 billion in actual or promised “investments” across Africa (out of a total African GDP of $1.7 trillion), Africa’s “King of Kings” as Gaddafi liked to call himself bought major support for himself and his pet loony tune project of creating a “United States of Africa” — with, of course, the King of Kings in charge. A significant number of African leaders, often despots or former rebel leaders swept into power by civil war and united by the powerful ideology of “liberation brotherhood,” are beholden to Gaddafi for his benevolence and are loath to abandon him.

And there is also the question of precedent.  If NATO can bring one insane, blood drenched dictator down after decades of diverting public funds to feed delusions of grandeur, then possibly some other African rulers might face problems.

Meanwhile, keep your eyes peeled for signs that other countries are muscling in to replace Qaddafi in the affections of various African leaders.  France hated Qaddafi in part because he was a rival in the not-totally-former French empire in Africa; China continues to nourish relations with resource rich countries; India would like to deepen economic relations in Africa and the Saudis will look to fill the vacuum in the world of Islamic patronage and leadership left by Qaddafi’s fall.

Correction: This piece had incorrectly attributed a quotation to Prof. David Anderson. The misattribution has been corrected.

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  • Luke Lea

    How long before they start shooting at each other?

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