Qadhafi’s Fall and the Sahel

Yesterday, Libyan rebels entered the capital Tripoli (follow live updates here). With the fall of Col. Moammar Qadhafi seeming nearly complete, many are wondering what comes next for Libya and for the Arab world. Something I’m going to be thinking about (and writing more about) in the coming weeks is the impact of Qadhafi’s fall on the Sahel. Some Sahelian leaders, such as Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade and Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, have been siding with the rebels and anticipating Qadhafi’s ouster for some time. Others, such as Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure, have endeavored to remain neutral. All of them, now, face a new political reality in the region. What will the absence of a once-powerful figure, who sometimes brokered peace and sometimes stoked conflict, mean for the countries that lie to Libya’s south?

In thinking about these questions, I’ve found two pieces particularly helpful. One is the Globe and Mail‘s map of Qadhafi’s influence in Africa, which highlights the breadth of his influence but also shows that some of his most significant interventions were in the Sahel, in places like Mali, Chad, and Sudan. The other is Howard French’s reflections on Qadhafi’s political legacy and the impact of his maneuvers to support revolutions and rebels in the Sahel and further south in Africa.

As I said, I plan to write in greater depth about Qadhafi and the Sahel in the weeks to come. In the meantime, I’d like to hear your thoughts. How will events in Libya affect Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Darfur, and other places in the Sahel? Let us know in the comments.

9 thoughts on “Qadhafi’s Fall and the Sahel

  1. That depends. With Qaddafi’s money and influence gone and leaving a vacuum perhaps it will become more peaceful.That he brokered peace in Tuareg rebellions can be countered with that he also funded them. Will there be people like Charles Taylor among the mercenaries returning to their home countries? Perhaps, but they will not have the colonel’s oil money backing them up.
    Mugabe, Chavez, Ortega and other petrofunded leaders will loose a powerful friend. The world can only become better with Qaddafi gone, especially in West Africa. Or?

  2. He was a hypocrite who denounced the west for interfering in African affairs, while he himself did exactly that.
    No more millions of warlords in Somalia. No future Charles Taylors and Sankohs.

    • Um, he’s African no? How does an African dealing with African affairs turn him into a hypocrite? Now, if you’re saying that he was bats*** crazy, well, there’s something we can agree on.

      Mr Thurston, excellent article. I hadn’t read the Howard French article until you gave the link. There were many good points but my eyes sort of glazed over when he started talking about Sankara. Thomas Sankara and Jerry Rawlings were Qadhafi’s main guys in West Africa. All I can say is that while Charles Taylor did indeed train in Libya, he was loosed on Sankara first by Campaore with Ivorian encouragement and it had everything to do with his nationalization of Burkina’s mineral wealth and refusal to keep servicing odious debt. French interests were pissed and Houphet wanted Doe dealt with for killing Tolbert whose Ivorian wife was family. Sankara hated Doe (and he was truly one of the most offensive people ever), but came to have reservations about Taylor. So, Taylor did the dirty work and then was free to use Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso to launch his war in Liberia.

      What happens now? Well, AU funding is going to be seriously lowered.I think the peacekeeping missions in Somalia etc will be funded but the grandiose plans for an African Monetary Fund and an African Central Bank etc. are probably kaput unless Algeria decides to look south and takes a bugger role (they’ve got about five times as much money as Libya to throw around don’t they?)

  3. I have to admit that I am not optimistic about Libya’s future. The anti-Qaddafi groups (and presumed new government) lack a united military command and have no established political party to center control around. It isn’t clear whether the military commanders in the west (especially former generals under Qaddafi) will accept the political leadership in the east. There aren’t many competent technocrats because Qaddafi essentially boiled governance down to his family and friends, which means that services and law enforcement will be lacking at best. There are a large number of armed young men across the nation with uncertain controls. Since no other nation has soldiers on the ground only the Libyan groups can really control the outcome. Lastly with large amounts of oil wealth it will be easy to tempt leaders into corruption.
    I wasn’t against trying to remove Qaddafi, but let’s not kid ourselves. We aren’t going to be seeing vibrant democracy and instant vitalization. At best we’re going to see unsteady growth and political uncertainty for decades.

  4. Pingback: Libya « zunguzungu

  5. Pingback: Nigeria and Post-Qadhafi Africa | Sahel Blog

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