Qadhafi and African unity

Category: World Affairs Topics: Government And Politics, Libya Views: 789

A specially convened summit meeting of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on September 7-9, hosted by Libya, has set forth one of the boldest visions ever presented at such a conference for an African renewal. The conference also reasserts Libyan President Muammar Qadhafi's emergence as an international leader in the wake of the lifting of seven years of UN sanctions, according to the BBC on September 8.

Qadhafi opened the conference with an impassioned plea for African unity, calling for the revision of the OAU charter and the creation of a new African nationalism centered on an idea called the United States of Africa. Qadhafi stressed that "we should have unity without which Africa cannot survive," as quoted by the Pan-African News Agency (PANA) on September 7.

Qadhafi's vision went beyond economic and political unity to include unity of military purpose similar in form to the transnational European Community, according to the PANA report. Heads of state attending the conference have also reiterated the commitment made earlier this summer at an OAU conference in Algeria to not recognize new governments that come to power through military coup.

While Qadhafi was once practically ignored as a result of international isolation, his recent emphasis on pan-African unity is no doubt made attractive by his recently adopted role as an African peace-maker and Libya's domestic achievements despite the years of the international embargo. The Libyan leader has been instrumental in progress achieved in conflicts in Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Great Lake region, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The OAU and the United Nations have recognized his efforts.

Although Qadhafi has been in power for 30 years and has received much international criticism for his human rights record, the Libyan people as a whole have reason to be proud of their country's achievements. According to a September 6 PANA report, Libya emerges from the UN sanctions and the continued US embargo with a zero percent unemployment rate and a 7.2 percent annual economic growth rate. The report says the US-led sanctions have cost Libya about $26.5 billion, enough to cripple many economies of the developing world.

Qadhafi's vision of African progress was also burgeoned by a September 6 military parade in commemoration of his 30th year of power. Libya displayed its military might, which reportedly was on par with such African powers as South Africa and Egypt, according to analysts speaking with PANA on September 7. The PANA report says foreign observers "were left awed by the open display of its military might." One journalist from Ghana was quoted as saying: "This is what Africa needs. Look at America. Economic might is not enough. It has to be backed by military might." A Libyan official directing the parade assured visitors that the force assembled before them was "part of the African force which is always ready to defend Africa," according to the PANA report.

But Qadhafi needs more than military might and impassioned speeches to convince fellow African leaders to rally behind his vision of an African renewal. BBC Libyan correspondent John Simpson, writing on September 7, said African leaders generally treated Qadhafi's ideas "politely, but with no great enthusiasm." A September 8 article in Algeria's El Watan says Qadhafi's attempts to revise the OAU charter are well intentioned but that the OAU has never lacked ideological commitment to African unity, but only has failed to apply its own principals.

Qadhafi himself still suffers from the image of isolation that the United States in particular has staunchly refused to lift. With US opinion figuring prominently in such essential internal lending institutions as the IMF and World Bank, and with America itself becoming increasingly involved on the continent, many African leaders no doubt view as risky too close a relationship with Qadhafi.

But as African countries are increasingly bankrupted by the lending policies of the US-backed international banks, Libya's success could increasingly become an example to the rest of Africa. According to a September 5 article in Kenya's The Nation, many Africans are starting to "see the strings of international lending as the infrastructure for the continuity of colonialism with the IMF and World Bank ably discharging the role the imperial army once played."

Qadhafi's vision of new African unity, which according to a September 8 BBC report was flaunted in the streets of Sirte with signs such as "Africa is for Africans" and "The West is responsible for Africa's backwardness," has served to underline the need for African leaders to choose a political destiny. Whether or not African countries decide to work towards Qadhafi's United States of Africa, his boldness forces the issue of tangible African unity onto the consciousness of African leaders.

  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Government And Politics, Libya
Views: 789

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