Yesterday I wrote about how Libya’s relationships with other African countries might affect both Libya and sub-Saharan Africa. As the protests continue in Libya, I want to highlight their political effects in two countries: Mauritania and North Sudan.
Kal analyzes how Libya’s protests might affect Mauritania:
If Qadhafi were to fall it could lead to an important realignment in Mauritania’s foreign policy with respect to Morocco and Algeria and its relations with its west African neighbors (with whom relations are relative poor on a leader-to-leader basis and which have been in some cases stabilized by Qadhafi’s intervention). Surely [Mauritanian President Mohamed] Ould Abdel Aziz’s very public relationship with Qadhafi is damaging to his own standing with an increasingly unsettled population and an opposition long bothered by his tendency to brush them off. Ould Abdel Aziz has been seen as as increasingly autocratic and opportunistic by his critics and recent events at Fassala and over scheduled youth protests (which the government has obstructed) have led to violent clashes between citizens and police and threats of sit-ins from students and youth groups.
If Ould Abdel Aziz loses Qadhafi, his important and rich patron, he may lose his ability to hold on to some of his allies in parliament and the political parties; he may also lose some steam in recruiting new allies if he no longer has the financial and political backing of Qadhafi. And if Qadhafi remains in power his brand, and perhaps by extension Ould Abdel Aziz’s brand, may be badly stained by the blood of the many Libyans that have been shot, dismembered, tortured and otherwise obliterated over the last several days as Mauritanians and the whole rest of the world watches. This will be relevant in upcoming municipal and parliamentary elections.
In North Sudan, meanwhile, we are seeing how Libya’s protests are shaping the politics surrounding the Darfur conflict. As rumors circulate that sub-Saharan African mercenaries are aiding in Qadhafi’s crackdown, North Sudan’s government has accused Darfur’s rebels of committing atrocities in Libya:
“There are elements from the Darfur rebels involved with the unfortunate events happening in Libya right now,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Khalid Musa told Reuters on Wednesday.
He added the ministry had proof the rebels were involved in the clashes but declined to give any more detail.
A spokesman for the rebel Justice and Equality Movement in Darfur denied the Foreign Ministry’s accusation.
Ahmed Hussein Adam described the accusation as malicious and a calculated attempt by the Khartoum government to, in his words, create anger among Libyan anti-government protesters to attack and eliminate “Darfuris” in Libya.
Regardless of who is telling the truth, Libya’s turmoil has created opportunities for governments in the region to attempt to discredit rebel movements. This tactic has spread beyond Sudan. At least one pro-government Moroccan media source has alleged that “many western sahara separatist fighters” have participated in killings in Benghazi and elsewhere in Libya (h/t Andrew Lebovich).
Before the dust has even settled in Libya, the protests there are making life difficult for individuals and groups perceived as close to Qadhafi, and are leading other actors to think about how they can benefit from the situation. I expect this trend to continue as events progress. As Kal says, the protests in Libya have changed the political calculus in several African countries already, even if Qadhafi does not ultimately fall.