Tag Archives: Gaddafi

Lernaean Hydra-cultivating the many Gaddafis

When Doundou Chefou first took up arms as a youth a decade ago, it was for the same reason as other ethnic Fulani herders along the Niger-Mali border: to protect his livestock.  He had nothing against the Republic of Niger, let alone the United States of America. His quarrel was with rival Tuareg cattle raiders.

Yet in October 2017 he led dozens of militants allied to Islamic State in a deadly assault against allied US-Niger forces, killing four soldiers from each nation and demonstrating how dangerous the West’s mission in the Sahel has become.

The transition of Chefou and men like him from vigilantes protecting their cows to jihadists capable of carrying out complex attacks is a story Western powers would do well to heed, as the pursuit of violent extremism in West Africa becomes ever more enmeshed in long-standing ethnic and clan conflicts.

For centuries Tuareg and Fulani lived as nomads herding animals and trading – Tuareg mostly across the dunes and oases of the Sahara and Fulani mostly in the Sahel, a vast band of semi-arid scrubland that stretches from Senegal to Sudan….Though they largely lived peacefully side-by-side, arguments occasionally flared, usually over scarce watering points. A steady increase in the availability of automatic weapons made the rivalry more deadly.

A turning point was the Western-backed ousting of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. With his demise, many Tuareg who fought as mercenaries for Gaddafi returned home, bringing with them the contents of Libya’s looted armouries.  Some returnees launched a rebellion in Mali to create a breakaway Tuareg state in the desert north, a movement hijacked by al Qaeda-linked jihadists who had been operating in Mali for years. In 2012, they swept across northern Mali, seizing key towns and prompting a French intervention that pushed them back in 2013.

Amid the violence and chaos, some Tuareg turned their guns on rivals from other ethnic groups like the Fulani, who then went to the Islamists for arms and training.

“The Tuareg were armed and were pillaging the Fulani’s cattle,” Niger Interior Minister Mohamed Bazoum told Reuters. “The Fulani felt obliged to arm themselves.”..

Tuareg in Mali and Niger dreamed of and sometimes fought for an independent state, Fulani generally been more pre-occupied by concerns over the security of their community and the herds they depend on. “For the Fulani, it was a sense of injustice, of exclusion, of discrimination and a need for self-defence,”  A militant who proved particularly good at tapping into this dissatisfaction was Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, an Arabic-speaking north African, several law enforcement sources said.  Al-Sahrawi recruited dozens of Fulani into the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), loosely allied to al Qaeda in the region and controlled Gao and the area to the Niger border in 2012.

Why pastoralists in Mali and Niger turned to jihad, Reuters, Nov. 13,  2017

Why Killing Gaddafi was Bad for Africa

Gaddafi Dead Body

[S]ays Professor Jean-Emmanuel Pondi from the Cameroon Institute for International Relations and author of a new book on Libya, Western nations were above all vexed with Gaddafi because he refused to ‘play the diplomatic game’ and sometimes embarrassed them in public. What made matters worse was that they had no control over him because Libya had no debt – not at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund or anywhere else. ‘Gaddafi was a problem for the world because he was economically independent and too outspoken,’ Pondi said during a seminar at the Institute for Security Studies on 21 November, 2013.  Pondi believes that even two years after Gaddafi’s death on 20 October 2011, it is important for Africans to reflect on the events that led up to the Nato intervention in Libya and the killing of Gaddafi. ‘We can’t let a long-time leader in Africa be killed on the street like a dog and not reflect on it,’ he says. To him, there is no doubt that Gaddafi was a dangerous human being and that the Gaddafi regime was a political dictatorship. ‘He even called his own people “rats”.’

Yet, at the same time, Libyans benefited from free health care and free education; fuel was almost free as well and housing was heavily subsidised. The country had one of the highest per capita incomes in the world and was second only to Mauritius on the Human Development Index for Africa – all things that were left unsaid during the campaign to topple his regime.

Pondi says it is clear that the aim of the Nato intervention, sanctioned by United Nations Resolution 1973, was primarily to get rid of Gaddafi and not to save the lives of civilians. ‘As soon as Gaddafi was dead, that was the end of the Nato intervention, even though violence was still ongoing. Civilians were still being killed,’ he says. Today, Libya is increasingly chaotic and violent, with more than 1 700 militias operating in various parts of the country – some better armed than the police and the army. Last month Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was kidnapped and held by gunmen for several hours before being released. Last week more than 40 people were killed and 400 wounded in clashes between rival militias…

In his 2011 book Au Coeur de la Libye de Khaddafi (In the heart of Gaddafi’s Libya), French specialist Patrick Haimzadeh explains the depth of the ‘mafia-like’ structure Gaddafi and his sons maintained and how it was kept going through pay-outs from Libya’s abundant oil revenues. Haimzadeh warns that any new regime that wants to replace Gaddafi will have to continue with such a system or face collapse. Would the Nato-led regime change be justified under such circumstances?

Clearly, the biggest loser after the death of Gaddafi is Africa, especially the region bordering Libya. The weapons that became freely available during the post-Gaddafi chaos have fallen into the hands of the al-Qaeda-linked groups that have been responsible for the occupation of northern Mali and for spectacular terror activities like the attack on the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria in January this year.

The African Union (AU) also lost a lot of credibility in some quarters because it was completely sidelined during the Libyan crisis. Pondi says it is unfair to say the AU had no plan to solve the stalemate between Gaddafi and the rebels controlling the eastern town of Benghazi at the time. ‘The road map was clear, firstly to put a ceasefire in place, secondly to organise a meeting between the protagonists and then to organise elections in Libya. The plan was there, but it wasn’t even given a minute at any of the meetings concerning Libya at the time.’…

Gaddafi’s demise has been tragic for Africa in other ways as well. Libya provided 15% of the budget of the AU (as did Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria and South Africa). Now both Libya and Egypt’s contributions have fallen away and the AU has to rely on European Union funds for much of its programme budget. At times Gaddafi also paid the AU contributions of smaller African states that were in arrears, as he did during the 1999 AU summit in Sirte, his hometown. During his time, Libya also invested heavily in tourism across the continent. Many hotels in the Sahel, but also as far away as South Africa, were built with Libyan funds. The Libyan airline Afriqiyah Airways also operated in several African countries until the 2011 war.

Excerpts from Liesl Louw-Vaudran, Did Nato intervene in Libya just to get rid of Gaddafi? ISS Africa, Nov. 2013