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Gadhafi's death stirs little remorse across Africa

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, centre, leans on the shoulders of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, right, and Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh, left, as they laugh during a photocall before the second Afro-Arab Summit in Sirte in this October 10, 2010 file photo.

ASMAA WAGUIH/REUTERS

For years, many African leaders had enjoyed a slice of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi's oil wealth. They chose him to lead the African Union, they tolerated his claim to be the king of Africa's tribal chiefs, and they patiently listened to his noisy campaign for a "United States of Africa."

But there was only silence from most African governments after his death. The eccentric Libyan tyrant had long since worn out his African welcome, and he will not be mourned.

The African Union, which Col. Gadhafi had notoriously headed from 2009 to 2010 as he promoted his dream of continental unity, was conspicuously silent. The AU had remained loyal to the embattled dictator for most of this year, but it finally abandoned him last month, recognizing the Libyan rebels as the legitimate government.

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In South Africa, where Col. Gadhafi had cultivated powerful political friends for decades, there was no grief. The South African government issued a brief statement, saying merely that it "noted" the death of the "former Libyan leader." It said it hopes that the latest events will lead to a "cessation of hostilities and a restoration of peace."

Col. Gadhafi was a long-time financial supporter of South Africa's liberation movement, and was praised by former president Nelson Mandela. Yet when the United Nations Security Council voted on whether to allow military intervention in Libya this year, South Africa supported the resolution.

Even in Zimbabwe, where Col. Gadhafi was a long-time ally of autocratic President Robert Mugabe, there was little regret over his violent demise. One member of Mr. Mugabe's political party called it "a sad day for the people of Africa," according to a news report. But many other Zimbabweans said they were happy at the Libyan dictator's death, and some called it a lesson for Mr. Mugabe.

Col. Gadhafi had spent millions of dollars of Libya's oil riches to support African rulers and to finance the African Union. But in the end, it bought him no enduring loyalty.

On social media across the continent, ordinary Africans expressed little sorrow at the news. "You can't call those you rule 'rats and cockroaches' and expect to leave power honorably," Kenyan blogger Robert Alai wrote on Twitter.

A blogger in Uganda, Rosebell Kagumire, said the Libyan dictator had funded guerrilla wars that killed thousands of Africans. "He tried to manipulate the dream of a united Africa," she tweeted.

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About the Author
Africa Bureau Chief

Geoffrey York is The Globe and Mail's Africa correspondent.He has been a foreign correspondent for the newspaper since 1994, including seven years as the Moscow Bureau Chief and seven years as the Beijing Bureau Chief.He is a veteran war correspondent who has covered war zones since 1992 in places such as Somalia, Sudan, Chechnya, Iraq and Afghanistan. More

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