Global Stories to Watch Today: Libya's rebels and the search for Qaddafi

It's so not all about Muammar Qaddafi, except it mostly is.

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  • Today’s big story will be the ongoing search for Muammar Qaddafi, whose regime toppled this week as Libyan rebels entered and took effective control of the city.

    Rebel fighters supporting the National Transitional Council are currently pressing toward the hometown of the former Libyan “Brother Leader” in Sirte, and have offered a $1.7 million reward for his capture. If captured, Qaddafi may face trial at home, Bloomberg reports, or could be sent off to face human rights charges at International Criminal Court at The Hague, Netherlands.

    The Guardian has maintained a nice live blog offering regular updates to news events on the ground, and there is a strong piece today showing that the fight for Libya, and even just for Tripoli itself, is not over. The New York Times reminds readers today of the difficulty of rebuilding a government in Libya, when the previous leader largely ruled by personal fiat.

    The Monitor's Robert Marquand writes that NATO's mission in Libya may be its last hurrah, because of fatigue by an alliance whose mission has crept from defense of Europe to wars much farther afield. From Benghazi, Monitor correspondent Kristen Chick reports from the rebel headquarters that the NTC would be just as happy to see Qaddafi leave Libya for exile, as long as he gives up his claim to power.

    But behind the kinetic TV-friendly story of rebel soldiers conducting a house-to-house manhunt (and then randomly shooting into the air in front of TV cameras) will be a more nuanced story of how this apparently successful internal rebellion (supported by the most powerful military alliance in the world, NATO) is affecting the fragile relations between the world’s richer and poorer nations. It will also affect like-minded rebellions in other authoritarian countries, from Bahrain to Yemen.

    In Johannesburg, South Africa’s deputy president Kgalema Mothlanthe told reporters that NATO should be investigated by the International Criminal Court because of its aerial bombing campaign against the Qaddafi war machinery. The so called no-fly zone, approved by the United Nations Security Council, was intended to protect civilian lives, at a time when Qaddafi’s security forces were targeting civilian protesters and pro-rebel towns. South Africa, as a temporary member of the UN Security Council, voted for the no-fly zone but later complained that NATO had altered the aerial bombing campaign to its own political purposes, namely the ouster of Qaddafi.

    "We note they (NATO) are attempting to create the impression that the rebels are acting on their own in their attacks in Tripoli but there are clear links and co-ordination at that level," Mr. Mothlanthe was quoted by Agence France Presse as saying on Wednesday. "The question is whether the (court) will have the wherewithal to unearth that information and bring those who are responsible to book, including the NATO commanders on the ground."

    South Africa is being pressured by Britain (one of the participants in the NATO air campaign) to release some of Libya’s assets to the Libyan rebels, but South Africa is refusing, the Guardian reports.

    If the fall of Qaddafi is unsettling to those worried about overweaning Western interference, it is a moral boost for citizens and activists in other countries, particularly in the Arab world, who see their own governments as repressive. Here is a strong piece from Foreign Policy, posted on Tuesday, about how Yemenis may take to the streets again after a stalemate in their own protests against the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

    Later today, African Union leaders will be meeting today on another urgent matter of regional concern, the ongoing drought and famine in the Horn of Africa. The worst drought in 60 years in the region has made some 12.5 million people at risk of starvation, according to the United Nations, and the AU has pledged to donate $300,000 for food relief to the main UN agency charged with handling refugees, the UNHCR.

    The AU currently maintains a peacekeeping force of some 8000 soldiers in Somalia to support the fragile transitional government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. President Ahmed’s government controls a small portion of Mogadishu, the Somalia capital – including the airport, the seaport, and the presidential palace – but it has been making headway on the battlefield against the better armed Islamist militia, Al Shabab, which has aligned itself with the radical agenda of Al Qaeda.

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