By my count, Mali recently became the last of the Sahelian countries to recognize or pledge cooperation with Libya’s new rulers. Following a four-day visit to Algeria, Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure joined Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in issuing a statement that
expressed their “readiness to co-operate with the new Libyan authorities” – whom they described as “brothers” – “in the mutual interest of their peoples and as a contribution to the strengthening of peace, security and stability in the whole region”…
The two heads of state “joined in their wishes for a rapid settlement of the crisis in this country, in line with the aspirations of the Libyan people, and respect for unity, integrity and sovereignty.”
Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC) now has at least tacit acceptance of its rule by Mali, Algeria, Mauritania, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and Sudan, as well as a host of other countries around the world.
Mali’s slowness to recognize the TNC points to the deep memories that remain of the country’s relations with fallen Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Qadhafi:
“Other heads of state just drive past here in their limousines. Gadhafi stopped, pushed away his bodyguards and shook our hands,” said Cherno Diallo, standing Monday beside hundreds of caged birds he sells near a Libyan-funded hotel. “Gadhafi’s death has touched every Malian, every single one of us. We’re all upset.”
While Western powers heralded Gadhafi’s demise, many Africans were gathering at mosques built with Gadhafi’s money to mourn the man they consider an anti-imperialist martyr and benefactor.
To be fair, the article from which this excerpt comes also notes the hostility many in Africa feel toward Qadhafi. But it still seems that in Libya’s immediate neighbors, support and sympathy for the Colonel continues to run high.
The manner in which President Toure’s statement appeared is also significant. Although in some senses no country in the region benefits from Libya’s civil war, especially if the TNC has a hard time bringing peace to Libya, in another sense Algeria is a potential “winner,” or at least a potentially stronger leader in the region. Mali and its neighbors, many of whom already look to Algerian leadership in counterterrorism operations, may begin to draw even closer to Algeria politically.