Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Whence Gaddafi is Getting His Mercenaries: His Influence in Subsaharan Africa

The above infographic from The Globe and Mail accompanies the article copied below, Gadhafi's dying dream for African unity. Together they suggest from whence Gaddafi is drawing the "black African" mercenaries fighting the Libyan protesters, and the many favours upon which he can call. My Libyan students had remarked to me some time ago that the country's money was not going to the Libyan people, but rather to various African countries in one of Gaddafi's many bids for international importance.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi talks during a press conference in front of Africa map in Tripoli, Libya, Tuesday, Jan.29, 2008, as he wear a shirt showing African political figures leaders. (Abdel Magid Al Fergany/AP)

Based on various medical situations and the general living conditions they described, there is no doubt that even the middle classes in Libya are deprived in relation to the country's oil wealth. And that economic circumstance doesn't even begin to take account of the high level of government control over all activities, informers, government officers, government "revolutionary committees", restrictions on media, on travel, required learning of and adherence to the Green Book (his model of Islamic socialist revolution) and the White Paper (on his one state solution to the Palestinian question), and international pariah status.

While the Libyan Army has been described as comprised of "murderous thugs", it is a major employer. Also Gaddafi doesn't trust the army either, hence his 17 militias centred around Tripoli, and the use of mercenaries. This combination of employment rather than loyalty, and the independent-minded eastern region of Libya may explain the massive defections of soldiers and whole units in the east. It certainly helps explain that it his militias who are doing the most thuggery, especially in Tripoli, and especially after his call for a house to house cleansing of the "cockroaches", "rats" and "traitors" as he calls his people.

Gadhafi’s dying dream for African unity
JOHANNESBURG— From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 11:51PM EST
Last updated Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011 5:59PM EST

When he pronounced himself the “king of kings” on the African continent, Moammar Gadhafi was widely seen as a buffoon and a megalomaniac.

But behind the absurd titles, behind the crown and sceptre that were awarded to him by his hand-picked collection of African tribal monarchs, Col. Gadhafi had a profound impact on Africa. And for better or worse, he will leave a vacuum behind him on the African landscape if he is toppled from power in Libya.

Col. Gadhafi was the last major global leader who promoted the dream of pan-African unity. He had his own self-interested reasons for this quixotic campaign, of course, since his own ambition was to become the powerful ruler of a new United States of Africa. But his disappearance from the political stage would remove the last remaining enthusiast for a European-style political union in Africa.

“Without Gadhafi, the pan-African movement is dead,” said Laura Seay, a political scientist at Morehouse College in Atlanta who specializes in African politics.

“He was the only prominent voice driving that movement. He was keeping those ideas alive. There’s nobody else with the financial resources available.”

Under his grandiose ambitions, the United States of Africa would have its own common army, its own passport, and its own currency (to be named, he said solemnly, “the Afro”).

There was little chance that this scheme could succeed in a badly divided continent, and there was little practical support for his ideas at the African Union, even when he served as the AU chairman from 2009 to 2010. But by tirelessly marketing this idea, he kept alive the dream that Africa could overcome its differences and find some form of unity. After him, the dreams will be smaller.

Col. Gadhafi, one of the wealthiest leaders on the continent, did not hesitate to use Libya’s vast oil money to buy political influence across Africa. This money, in turn, helps to pay for peacekeeping missions, humanitarian aid, infrastructure projects, political organizations, and support for fragile states.

In his drive to transform the African Union into a single government under his personal dominance, he became one of the AU’s biggest benefactors. Libya provided 15 per cent of the AU’s membership dues. It also paid for the dues of many smaller and poorer countries. If his 42 years of authoritarian rule are ending, the AU will struggle to keep its financing intact.

“It would change the African Union’s dynamics completely,” Prof. Seay said. “The AU would become less effective. He’s been such a key player in the AU. What will it mean for peacekeeping in Somalia and Darfur? Those peacekeeping missions are already hanging by a thread – they’re already so under-equipped and under-staffed.”

The AU peacekeeping force in Somalia, with its 8,000 troops battling against the Islamic radicals who threaten to seize control of the war-torn country, could be weakened if the AU loses the money that Col. Gadhafi provided. A similar peacekeeping mission in Darfur, whose 20,000 troops are supported by the AU and the United Nations, could be similarly jeopardized if the AU loses its Libyan money.

Beyond the peacekeeping missions, a host of smaller African countries have become dependent on Col. Gadhafi as a source of aid money, infrastructure projects and military support. Fragile states such as Chad and the Central African Republic have needed Libya’s support when they were threatened with coups. Poorer countries such as Liberia, Mali and Niger have relied on Libya for financial support and investment. Libya has won praise for providing humanitarian aid to the Darfuri refugees in Chad, and for helping to forge a ceasefire between Chad and Sudan.

Most of his donations and loans, certainly, were intended to advance his personal ambitions. Earlier in his career, Col. Gadhafi had campaigned for pan-Arab unity, seeing himself as a “man of history.” But when Libya was isolated on the global stage as a result of the sanctions imposed on it for its support of international terrorism in the 1980s and 1990s, he became furious that the Arab nations seemed indifferent to him. He turned, instead, to Africa, where his support seemed greater.

“After moving on from his dream of pan-Arab leadership, Gadhafi funnelled billions of dollars into cultivating relationships in sub-Saharan Africa that would facilitate his leadership of the African Union,” the U.S. embassy in Tripoli reported in 2009 in a confidential cable obtained by WikiLeaks.

Col. Gadhafi opted to use “dinar diplomacy” – a reference to the Libyan currency – to create a “new and larger sphere of influence,” the embassy said in the cable.

It described how the Libyan dictator had ordered his personal designers to incorporate African maps and images into his vast collection of clothing, including a large green Africa-shaped brooch, a camouflage-style tunic with Africa-shaped patterns, and a jersey emblazoned with portraits of famous African leaders.

Most Libyans still saw themselves as Arabs, but Col. Gadhafi worked ceaselessly to portray his country as African, the cable said. “A domestic propaganda campaign designed to represent Libya as an African state was also undertaken: billboards and larger-than-life murals depict Gadhafi emerging, messiah-like, from a glowing green Libya into an embracing African continent.”

Despite the long-standing conflicts between Washington and Tripoli, the U.S. diplomats actually saw Col. Gadhafi as a constructive and useful player on some African issues. “When approached with appropriate deference, Libya can be an effective actor – leveraging support and connections on the continent to secure our foreign-policy interests, as it has done (to an extent) in Chad, Sudan and Somalia,” the embassy cable said.

If the Libyan strongman now disappears ignominiously from the stage, one of the biggest winners will be China. Until now, Libya was one of the few countries that could challenge Beijing’s mounting influence in Africa. Libya was one of the few powers with enough money and ambition to offer an alternative to China as a source of investment and financing for African nations.

If the long-ruling dictator is finally toppled, Libya’s ambitions are likely to become much smaller and more modest. In the aftermath, China could emerge as an even stronger power on the African continent.


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Lockerbie and Libya: Scapegoating? The Silence of the Arab League--Doha Debates Chez Chiara

See Also:
IN PICTURES: Gadhafi's four-decade grip on Libya [Slide show of 15 photos]

Middle East, 1969, Libyan leader Colonel Gadhafi (arms folded) is pictured during a trip to the Sudan. (Popperfoto/Getty Images)

This image broadcast on Libyan state television Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011, shows Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi as he addresses the nation in Tripoli, Libya. Libya's Gadhafi vowed to fight on against protesters demanding his ouster and die as martyr. (Libya State Television/AP)

Your comments, thoughts, impressions?


Susanne said...

Interesting post! Thanks for sharing!

Majed said...

Very informative post, you are right, he sure was so far filling a gap in Africa, though not very effectively but there was at least there was somebody to tell China I am here,but frankly we shouldn`t be worrying the least about China, they have so far proven to be very helpful there, they are not there converting people or spreading any sort of obnoxious ideologis they really are minding their own business give and take that is all.

But the main issue in Africa to which all are turning blind eyes to is Iran, iran `s influence is everywhere in africa Nigeria, Ghana,Mali,Sinigal etc and they are converting muslims,you can see Hizbullah members everywhere equipped with money and beautiful white chicks to pull the african bulls by their septum rings they are making big money in africa they almost are directly or indirectly controlling major business,the worse we will soon be seeing muslims fighting muslims there.

I hope this was not irrelevant too as usual.


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