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Why the African Union road map for Libya is unlikely to go anywhere

In Libya, the African Union is seen as a tool of Qaddafi's ambitions, not as a potential honest broker in the uprising against his 41-year reign.

By Staff writer / April 11, 2011

An angry but peaceful crowd demonstrates outside the Tibesty Hotel where an African Union delegation was meeting with opposition leaders in Benghazi, Libya, on Monday, April 11. The African Union delegation took its cease-fire proposal to the rebels' eastern stronghold and was met with protests by crowds opposed to any peace until the country's longtime leader Muammar Qaddafi gives up power, while Libyan government forces battered the rebel-held city of Misrata with artillery fire.

Ben Curtis/AP

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Cairo, Egypt; and Benghazi, Libya

A group of envoys from the African Union headed to Tripoli yesterday and, they say, were given Muammar Qaddafi's approval for a "road map" to Libya peace that they are touting as a solution to the country's current stalemate.

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The trip has generated a flurry of press interest and speculation that an end to the Libyan conflict is in store. But any expectation that the AU proposal will prove acceptable to the rebels will almost certainly be proven wrong.

In eastern Libya, at least, the country's ties to the African Union are seen with suspicion. Qaddafi started describing himself as an African "king of kings" when his vision for a united Arab League, with him at the helm, didn't pan out. His decision to look south, rather than east, resulted in Qaddafi spending money on meddling in various African conflicts that many Libyans felt would have been better spent at home. In eastern Libya, the African Union is seen as a tool of Qaddafi's ambitions, not as a potential honest broker in the uprising against his 41-year reign.

IN PICTURES: Libya conflict

Adding to the AU's weakness as a possible intermediary is the staunchly held belief that mercenaries from Chad, Niger, and other African states have poured into the country to defend Qaddafi from his own people.

Over a week ago, Ahmed Bani, the spokesman for the rebel military, alleged that 3,600 members of the Chadian presidential guard under the command of Issa Taher were fighting for Qaddafi outside Ajdabiya, a rebel town near Benghazi that was besieged for weeks by Qaddafi's forces until British war planes destroyed his tanks and rocket launchers arrayed around the town. While that was never confirmed and the true extent of the role of African mercenaries fighting for Qaddafi is unknown, in Benghazi and other eastern towns there is a deeply held belief that Africa's leaders are determined to help Qaddafi hang on to power.

In the past two days, an offensive by Qaddafi's people saw thousands flee Ajdabiya, frightened they'd be subject to mortar and rocket fire once again.

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