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Will Africa miss Qaddafi?

Even with Muammar Qaddafi's deep financial ties across Africa, many of the continent's leaders are ambivalent about his departure.

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“For now, the immediate impact of Qaddafi’s departure, on the financial and political side, will be felt in Chad and Sudan,” says Comfort Ero, director of the Nairobi office of the International Crisis Group. “Qaddafi’s support of the AU is one of the reasons why the AU has been reticent on the Libyan crisis, and cagey about how to resolve it.”

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Stronger nations like Nigeria, Uganda, and South Africa may have qualms about the way in which NATO has changed the original humanitarian motivation of its United Nations-approved air campaign in Libya – from protection of Libyan civilians to outright regime change, Ms. Ero says. But those same nations have also had longstanding qualms about Qaddafi’s interference in the politics of its neighbors, and also his use of oil money to manipulate smaller and weaker African nations.

“Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan was among the first African leaders to urge Qaddafi to go, and that is in part because of Qaddafi’s past statements relating to divisions between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria’s north,” Ero says. Qaddafi has steadily been losing credibility at the AU with South Africa, as well, particularly in 2009, when Qaddafi urged fellow African leaders to start calling him “king of kings.”

Yet for some African intellectuals, and particularly those close to the anticolonial struggles of the later part of the 20th century, Qaddafi retains credibility.

Qaddafi’s initial qualms about a hybrid African Union and UN peacekeeping force in the Sudanese region of Darfur, expressed in 2006, resounded strongly among other Africans who may also share Qaddafi’s skepticism about the supposed humanitarian motives of Western powers on the African continent.

“The presence of international forces in Darfur would be a new return to colonialism,” Qaddafi said in Tripoli in 2006, quoted by Associated Press. “Since when were the colonialist powers concerned about us? In the past, they treated us like animals and took us as slaves in their ships. ... If there is a need for an army to occupy Darfur, the Sudanese army is better than international forces.”

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