Yesterday, news that Burkina Faso had offered sanctuary to Libya’s Colonel Moammar Qadhafi got some attention. Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore has a long and close relationship with the Colonel, so the exile offer wasn’t a big surprise. Also unsurprising, but perhaps more significant, was the news that Burkina Faso and Chad have recognized the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) in Libya.
As recipients of Gaddafi’s largesse during his decades in power, the governments in Ouagadougou and N’Djamena had previously been hesitant about taking sides the conflict.
Libya’s rebels have often accused neighbouring Chad of backing Gaddafi by sending mercenaries to put down the uprising, a charge denied by N’Djamena.
But a council delegation was in Chad on Wednesday when Moussa Dago, secretary general for Chad’s foreign affairs ministry, recognised its authority and called on it to protect Chadian interests in the country.
Chad had been moving in that direction for months.
Burkina Faso and Chad join Sudan, which according to a few sources (English and Arabic) has also recognized the TNC. These shifts mean that most of the Sahel has decided to back the TNC either officially or unofficially. From what I can tell, Mali and Niger are still hesitating, a hesitation that becomes more conspicuous as the pool of TNC supporters grows. Barring a wild military reversal, I imagine that Mali and Niger will eventually recognize the TNC, but it is interesting to think about whether the order of who recognizes the TNC says anything about who is most nervous about a post-Qadhafi future. Perhaps Mali and Niger are now watching Burkina Faso and evaluating the success of Compaore’s attempt to preserve an old friendship, while still acknowledging a new reality.
I can’t see the process of formal recognition taking too long unless things completely fall apart in Libya. Even if they preferred Qaddafi or have doubts about the new leaders* they can’t argue against results on the ground for long and Libya simply can’t be ignored by its neighbors.
*Assuming they have enough authority over their forces to claim the title.