Gadhafi's Death Gets Mixed Reactions In Africa

Oct 23, 2011
Originally published on October 23, 2011 3:30 pm
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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In Africa, there's been a mixed reaction to the demise of Moammar Gadhafi. Many people for whom the Libyan leader was a hero are mourning. Plenty of others saying good riddance to the man who meddled in the continent's many conflicts and bankrolled rival rebel groups.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports on Gadhafi's relationship with Africa.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Africa's self-styled King of Kings and Brother Leader was flamboyant and mercurial. And when Moammar Gadhafi dropped the Arab world in favor of Africa, he championed the continent with a mixture of passion and chiding – all in broken English.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

MOAMMAR GADHAFI: Africa for Africans. The land of Africa is for Africans. Everywhere our land is our land. My brothers everywhere, you are the masters of your continent.

QUIST-ARCTON: That was Gadhafi's impassioned, impromptu intervention back in 2002, livening up the launch of the African Union in Durban, South Africa.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

QUIST-ARCTON: Performers had fallen asleep during the speeches, but they jumped to their feet and applauded enthusiastically as he told them a new day had dawned on the continent.

GADHAFI: It is a new sun, a new dawn, a new day of freedom for Africa.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

QUIST-ARCTON: This Gadhafi endeared himself to Africans who liked his message of independence from the hectoring West, including the U.S. Soon, Gadhafi was campaigning for continental support for his grand plan - the United States of Africa, with himself at the helm. His vision failed. Instead, he surrounded himself with minor traditional leaders, dressed sumptuously in toga-style robes and crowns and proclaimed himself the King of Kings.

And there was Gadhafi, the mischief maker.

ISSAKA SOUARE: Gadhafi played a role in destabilizing many African countries.

QUIST-ARCTON: Issaka Souare is a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria. He cites the examples of Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa, where Gadhafi sponsored devastating twin rebellions which ballooned into civil wars.

So what sort of relationship is shaping up between the new Libya and Africa? The incoming leaders warn it will not be business as usual, Gadhafi-style. The African Union stood by him and took weeks to recognize the Transitional National Council. The A.U. also opposed NATO's military intervention in Libya.

Faraj Najim is an advisor to the interim administration.

FARAJ NAJIM: We have a problem with the African Union. The African Union is populated by despotic leaders, despotic regimes. Gadhafi has been bribing them. How many democratic countries are there in that African Union? So we need to go back and revisit this. We need to start a new chapter with Africa. We need to redefine the relationship between each other.

QUIST-ARCTON: That sounds like Africa, be warned.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, Accra. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.