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Despite Qaddafi's death, the landscape looks ominous in the Sahel

Muammar Qaddafi's death is unlikely to mark the end of the Sahel's Libya troubles, with a steady stream of migrants and Qaddafi loyalists returning home or fleeing.

By Alex ThurstonGuest blogger / October 24, 2011



The death of former Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Qadhafi in Sirte this Thursday will not put an end to Libya’s problems, and it will have complex effects throughout the Sahel region.

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For example, a new report from International Crisis Group focuses on Chad, which faces a potentially strained relationship with Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC) and the loss of remittances from Chadian workers in Libya. Hundreds of Chadians have been returning to the country in recent months, a stream that has continued to the present. The government will struggle to reintegrate these refugees.

Niger, meanwhile, continues to be a refuge for Qadhafi loyalists.

Niger said Friday the end of the Libyan conflict would allow it to lift restrictions on senior Kadhafi loyalists who sought refuge there, except for deceased leader Moamer Kadhafi’s son Saadi.

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In September 32 people close to the defeated Libyan regime fled to Niger where they were received “for humanitarian reasons.”

Among them were three of Kadhafi’s generals, and all have been kept under the watchful eye of Niger authorities since then, Niamey has said, without saying they were in detention.

There are also reports that say Saif al Islam Qadhafi, who is perhaps the Colonel’s most prominent son and a focal point of future resistance to the TNC, is heading toward Niger.

I think it would be alarmist to conclude that Qadhafi loyalists will immediately begin trying to use Niger as a base for an uprising against the TNC. But the presence of prominent Qadhafi supporters just across the border will remind the TNC that their revolution has left bitter memories in the region. With relations between the TNC and both Niger and Chad on an uncertain footing, the politics of the region could be testy for some time to come.

The incipient Tuareg uprising in Mali is also part of the fallout from Qadhafi’s fall, but it merits a separate post. I’ll try to write something up next week.

– Alex Thurston is a PhD student studying Islam in Africa at Northwestern University and blogs at Sahel Blog.

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