The fall of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Qadhafi put – and has kept – Niger in an awkward position. Qadhafi was an ally of Niger’s and an influential figure there. Niger’s leaders have tried to show loyalty to what remains of Qadhafi’s circle, even hosting one of the Colonel’s sons, Saadi. Yet Niger also wants good relations with the new government in Libya. Sometimes Niger has managed this balancing act well; at other times, such as this week, it has been a struggle.
Last week news broke that Niger had given Qadhafi’s former chief of staff a position in the government:
Bashir Saleh Bashir was one of Gaddafi’s top aides who also ran Libya’s investment fund for the ousted leader. He was given the passport in late December after being named a Niger presidential adviser, two top police officials told Reuters.
“A diplomatic passport was issued to Bashir Saleh Bashir, who was named adviser to the presidency,” one of the police officials said, asking not to be named.
Niger’s bi-weekly L’Evenement said the passport stated Saleh was born in Niger’s northern town of Agadez in 1946. A Niger government spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
That Bashir was born inside Niger underscores how close the ties between Niger and Libya can be.
Once the news broke, however, problems began. Niger, fearing the reaction from Libya, has reportedly revoked Bashir’s appointment and passport.
Qadhafi himself died nearly five months ago. But Niger and Libya will be re-negotiating their new relationship for some time to come. I don’t want to extrapolate too much from one man’s fate (Bashir’s), but in this case it looks as though new political realities have trumped old loyalties.