What does Gaddafi's death mean for Africa?

Nelson Mandela and Muammar Gaddafi (archive shot)

A grandson of Nelson Mandela is named Gadaffi - a sign of how popular the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi once was in South Africa and many other African countries.

With his image of a revolutionary, Col Gaddafi inspired South Africans to fight for their liberation, funding and arming the anti-apartheid movement as it fought white minority rule.

However, he also backed notorious rebel groups in Liberia and Sierra Leone and his demise could serve as a warning to the continent's other "big-man" rulers.

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We saw him [Col Gaddafi] slap his foreign minister in our presence, which is something unexpected of any dignified and self-respecting head of state”

End Quote Moses Wetangula Kenya's foreign minister

After Mr Mandela became South Africa's first black president in 1994, he rejected pressure from Western leaders - including then-US President Bill Clinton - to sever ties with Col Gaddafi, who bankrolled his election campaign.

"Those who feel irritated by our friendship with President Gaddafi can go jump in the pool," he said.

Instead, Mr Mandela played a key role in ending Col Gaddafi's pariah status in the West by brokering a deal with the UK over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

It led to Col Gaddafi handing over Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi for trial in Scotland. He was convicted in 2001, before being released eight years later on compassionate grounds - a decision Mr Mandela welcomed.

Mr Mandela saw the Lockerbie deal as one of his biggest foreign policy achievements.

"No-one can deny that the friendship and trust between South Africa and Libya played a significant part in arriving at this solution... It vindicates our view that talking to one another and searching for peaceful solutions remain the surest way to resolve differences and advance peace and progress in the world," he said in 1999, as he approached the end of his presidency.

"It was pure expediency to call on democratic South Africa to turn its back on Libya and [Col] Gaddafi, who had assisted us in obtaining democracy."


Col Gaddafi's position in Africa was paradoxical. Just as he backed pro-democracy causes, he also fuelled rebellions in countries such as Liberia and Sierra Leone and supported Uganda's infamous dictator Idi Amin.

African leaders tended to overlook this.

"Muammar Gaddafi, whatever his faults, is a true nationalist. I prefer nationalists to puppets of foreign interests," Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said in February.

"Therefore, the independent-minded Gaddafi had some positive contribution to Libya, I believe, as well as Africa and the Third World.

Col Muammar Gaddafi with African traditional leaders (archive shot) Col Gaddafi was declared Africa's "king of kings"

"We should also remember, as part of that independent-mindedness, he expelled British and American military bases from Libya [after he took power]," Mr Museveni said.

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The AU will work better now without his [Gaddafi's] delaying it and with some members no longer feeling as intimidated by him as they did”

End Quote Jacob Zuma South African president

Col Gaddafi played a prominent role in the formation of the African Union (AU) - a body in which he wielded enormous influence because he was one of its major financiers.

At an AU summit in 2008, he got many African traditional leaders to declare him the continent's "king of kings".

A spokesman for one of those traditional leaders - Uganda's Tooro kingdom - says Col Gaddafi was a "visionary" and would be missed.

"We saw the human side of him - not Gaddafi the colonel or the proverbial terrorist as the Americans and Europeans described him," Philip Winyi said.

"In spite of what many see as his weaknesses, he has done quite a lot for Africa, contributing to the building of infrastructure."

Col Gaddafi pushed for a United States of Africa to rival the US and the European Union (EU).

"We want an African military to defend Africa. We want a single currency. We want one African passport," he said.

Africa's other leaders paid lip-service to achieving this vision but none seemed very serious about putting it into practice.

In a BBC interview after Col Gaddafi's death, Kenya's Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said the late Libyan leader sometimes showed a violent streak at AU meetings.

"He really suppressed Libyan people and vanquished them to the extent that in one of many AU meetings we saw him slap his foreign minister in our presence, which is something unexpected of any dignified and self-respecting head of state," Mr Wetangula told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

Mugabe and Gaddafi

An AU expert with the South African Institute for International Affairs, Kathryn Sturman, says Col Gaddafi's death will have a profound effect on the AU.

Col Gaddafi on Africa

2008: "We want an African military to defend Africa, we want a single African currency, we want one African passport to travel within Africa," after being declared king of kings by African traditional rulers in Libya.

2010: "We don't know what will happen, what will be the reaction of the white and Christian Europeans faced with this influx of starving and ignorant Africans," after discussing halting the flow of African migrants to Italy.

2007: "Libya is an African country. May Allah help the Arabs and keep them away from us. We don't want anything to do with them."

2009: "I am an international leader, the dean of the Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and the imam of Muslims, and my international status does not allow me to descend to a lower level," at an Arab League summit.

"It's the end of an era for the AU. Libya was one of the big five [along with South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Algeria] financial contributors of the organisation. It paid 15% [of its budget], and also the membership fees of countries in arrears, like Malawi," Ms Sturman said.

"The new government in Libya is not going to be well disposed to the AU [which opposed the Nato-led intervention in Libya]."

Ms Sturman said that while the AU financial woes may worsen, it may work more effectively in the post-Gaddafi era.

"He was very adamant about pursuing a United States of Africa - and was quite obstructive in attempts to bring about deeper regional integration."

Last week, South Africa's President Jacob Zuma - whose government initially backed Nato intervention, but then denounced it - echoed a similar view in a foreign policy speech.

"Colonel Gaddafi spent a lot of time discussing a unity government for Africa that was impossible to implement now. He was in a hurry for this, possibly because he wanted to head it up himself.

"I had arguments with him about it several times. The AU will work better now without his delaying it and with some members no longer feeling as intimidated by him as they did," the South African president said.

It is an open secret in political circles that some African leaders are also intimated by Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, who remained a staunch ally of Col Gaddafi until his death.

Having spearheaded Zimbabwe's independence struggle, Mr Mugabe - who has been in office since 1980 - portrays the opposition as "puppets" of the West as he tries to hang on to power.

But as Col Gaddafi's fate shows, such rhetoric no longer strikes a chord with most Africans - a point South Africa's Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu made when he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme:

"He [Gaddafi] had this wonderful dream about a United States of Africa - like [Ghana's post-independence leader] Kwame Nkrumah, but I think we are going to remember what happened in the latter days of his rule when he actually bombed his own people."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    I'm just sickened by the media coverage of this. All of the media should be ashamed of their coverage. What have we become? Tyrant yes, but should his death be viewed by millions? Do we want to fuel this type of blood-filled vengeance? It amazes me that people want to see it and that the media think its right to show it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    All eyes are now on the NTC. It must differentiate itself from 'dirty acts' that supposedly shaped old Libya - acts that were repeated during Gaddaffi's last hour. I hope that this will not shape the trend to come.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    "i thnk you need to learn your history and your facts. uk made a profit and continues to make a profit from the Iraq war. fact. profit. from genocide."

    Genocide is the systematic wiping out of a particular population of people. This never happened. Your interpretation of the 'facts' is, quite frankly, deluded.

  • Comment number 152.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    "one day soon China will help us kick all of you out of Africa"

    It's happening already the Africans just don't realise it yet! I think the word is neocolonialism and China has vast designs on Africa and is looting in a big way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    133. antidot

    "the myth that we 'stole' oil from Iraq "

    i thnk you need to learn your history and your facts. uk made a profit and continues to make a profit from the Iraq war. fact. profit. from genocide."


    1) You don't prove something by putting "fact".
    2) You need to learn the definition of "genocide".
    3) How much profit on that 3Tn cost that's so far been incurred is a "fact"?

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    If Gaddafi’s treatment in death as images continue to emerge is meant to show the difference between old Libya and now new Libya and also pave way for reconciliation and law and order, I am afraid we are missing a point or two somewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    @Sword of Truth: you're just another part and parcel of corporate-run propaganda machine, you and your kin only care about looting Africa.
    @The-Gambler: these corporations are currently in Iraq - BP and Eni SpA in Zubair Oil Field while Occidental Petroleum is part. Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell are in the West Qurna oil field ..... now go ahead and tell us all these are Iraq corporations

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    10.I G Okorji

    A great man who murdered thousands of his own people and would have butchered thousands more in Benghazi if he'd had the chance. A great man who siphoned off billions of dollars of the Libyan people's wealth for his own private needs. A great man who ordered the Lockerbie bombing.


  • rate this

    Comment number 146.

    It's always the same. Visionaries in some ways and nutters in others. Gadaffi wasn't the first and he won't be the last. A note in your report needs some thinking about by some of our masters. He knew he wasn't an Arab. He was an African. Some non-Arabs of the Muslim faith kowtow to Arabs and Western politicos perpetuate this. Next time you meet an Iranian call him an Arab. Then duck quickly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    I believe Gaddafi's death in combat is the best result: all that would have resulted from his capture would have been a vengeance-filled kangaroo court. He would never have been given a fair trial for the wrongs that he did commit. Time now to set the past aside and concentrate on building a democratic future for Libya in which all citizens can play a full part.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    UN intervention was provoked by Gaddafi's stated aim to 'cleanse Bengahzi of all it's rats.' Taken together with footage of one of his commanders standing beside a group of bound men lying on a road, saying, 'I will kill these rats ans then I will come and kill you'. Just what were the UN and NATO supposed to do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    Hitler actually initiated many good things, fact is, the bad ones far outweigh the good, most decent people recognise this.

    Gaddafi was relatively similar, he initiated some good things but most were attrocitys.

    If someone helps you while they torture & exterminate innocent people & you then support them, then you are as morally repugnant as they are & need a check up from the neck up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    I'm not sure about the impact on Africa but one person who must be over the moon abouth Gadaffi's death must surely be Tony Blair: who knows what murky secrets won't be coming out at the trial now?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    Andrew Lindop
    29 Minutes ago
    love your people and they will love you back - I think Gadaffi forgot this a while ago.

    A lot of his people did love him, which is why there was a civil war.
    Words are powerful things it was easy to feel sorry for the Civilians when his tanks were rolling.
    Harder to feel sorry for what the BBC called Gaddafi Hardliners when the Rebels tanks were rolling.

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    Whatever the circumstances of his death, he always said he would die rather than give up, so he got his wish! He treated his people badly for 40 odd years so he deserves absolutely no sympathy whatsoever. Of course the UN Human Rights people will ask for an enquiry, they are paid to do it. But in the real world we are all safer with one more Dictator removed. Good luck to the Libyan people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.


    "western colonialists...bbc parcel of corporate-run government tool.etc."

    Your ultra-left wing rhetoric is both laughable and exhausted. You have no right to label people voicing their opinion on here ignorant.

    This will be a wake up call for African leaders who hold their people in nothing but contempt and squalor so that they can enjoy unimaginable riches.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    If Nato attacked a convoy in which Gadhaffi and his supporters were fleeing from the battle area, how does this action helpt to enforce the no fly zone or protect civilians?

    And the killing which seems to have inspired our democratic politicians - the actions of a frenzied mob. Watch out, Lybia is heading for trouble.

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.


    1. Iraq has full control of its oil, and cancelled non-tendered contracts with Western firms.
    2. 1st NATO led operation was to help the ethnic Muslim Bosniak people from eradication by the Serbs and the Croats. Not oil.

    The only thing worse than the ignorance is the perverse British self-loathing culture - the one which gave you a life our 'victims' could only dream of.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    Cairo kid, Can you prove that all bad thing happening in Africa western has nothing to do with them. Other than Gadafi who else finance the Blood diomond in Zaire Kongo and other Regions. Where do rebels like Savimbi obtained the weapons, where are those Gold sold. Few of us know what your doing in Africa and rest of the world. Whoa re you to judge others .No respect to other authority.


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