Future African Relations Among Uncertainty In Libya

Sep 4, 2011

Moammar Gadhafi bankrolled and championed the vision of a United States of Africa, with himself as the continental president. As Libya struggles to find its equilibrium on the cusp of what appears to be the post-Gadhafi era, one question is its future as part of Africa.

The African Union has not officially recognized the rebel leadership in Libya, saying "regime change" and outside intervention were wrong.

South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, says continuing clashes are the reason the African Union has not recognized the unelected rebel leaders in Libya. Zuma was the chief AU mediator during the rebellion and spoke after a recent African Union summit.

"There is still fighting going on in Libya. Those are the facts. If there is fighting, there is fighting," he said. "So we can't therefore stand and say this is a legitimate [government] now."

More than a dozen African countries have unilaterally recognized Libya's rebel leadership, though not some of the continent's heavyweights — or the African Union. This has prompted a furious response from the transitional administration.

"Gadhafi has always looked at the African Union as his own baby," says Guma El-Gamaty, the Libyan rebel representative in Britain.

El-Gamaty dismisses the African Union's position as pro-Gadhafi. He told Al Jazeera's Inside Story that African leaders are missing the point if they choose not to ditch Gadhafi.

"Gadhafi has squandered billions and billions of Libyans' money trying to bribe many of the corrupt dictators in Africa, and that is partly what discredits the AU," he says, "and if some African countries are feeling sorry for Gadhafi, that's their problem. That's their right."

Political analyst Miguna Miguna says Africa cannot simply sweep away history and forget the pivotal role Gadhafi has played on the continent.

"Gadhafi funded all the main liberation movements in Africa. It's a fact. We can't change history," Miguna says. "He chose to be a pan-Africanist — that we will never take away from Gadhafi."

Miguna warns that Libya's rebel leaders risk alienating the continent, not least because of the brutal treatment allegedly being meted out to black Africans, whom Gadhafi recruited into his fighting forces. However, many other African migrants — who are not hired guns — are also being targeted, Miguna says.

"Some of the statements I've heard from the transitional authority in Libya are worrying, in the sense that they sound very anti-African, anti-sub-Saharan African," Miguna says. "In other words, anti-black African, almost bordering racism, actually."

The African Union too has expressed deep concern about the plight of black Africans being mistaken for Gadhafi's fighters in Libya. Jean Ping heads the AU commission and says the Transitional National Council (TNC) must beware.

"TNC seems to confuse black people with mercenaries," Ping says. "If you do that, [it] means one-third of the population in Libya, which is black, is also mercenaries."

On future Libya-Africa relations, political commentator Miguna says the new leaders must be pragmatic and remember that, geographically, Libya is in Africa — even though geopolitically it may be allied to the Arab world. He acknowledges, though, the African Union may indeed find itself on the wrong side of history.

"The reality is, Gadhafi did not want to leave and the African Union did not have the fortitude to tell him to leave — and the U.N. did," Miguna says.

He has a warning for some of the continent's leaders.

"African dictators should be watching Libya, Egypt and Tunisia very keenly," Miguna says. "These dictators should be shaking in their boots because their time is up."

He says the Arab Spring is spreading.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.