October 23, 2011


[Colonel Qaddafi came to power in 1969 as a 27-year old ideologue, who modeled himself on President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and focused his energy on leading a pan-Arab renaissance. But by the turn of the century, feeling spurned by his fellow Arabs, he turned his focus south toward sub-Saharan Africa. He used his own money, as well as state-owned investment firms, to build mosques, hotels and telecommunications companies.]

By Josh Kron

Moises Saman for The New York Times
In March, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi presided over the General 
People's Congress in Tripoli.
NAIROBI, Kenya — While Libya’s former rebels and many Western nations welcomed the end of the country’s long and brutal dictatorship, many sub-Saharan Africans are mourning the death of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, celebrated as much for his largesse as for his willingness to stand up to the West.
To them, his violent death was another sad chapter in a long-running narrative of Western powers meddling in Africa’s affairs.
“We are the 1 percent who are not celebrating,” said Salim Abdul, who helps run a major mosque in Uganda’s capital named for the former Libyan leader, who provided the money to build it.
“He loved Uganda,” said Mr. Abdul in an interview at the mosque, in Kampala. He noted that Colonel Qaddafi had committed to paying the salaries for the staff of 20 for the next 20 years. “His death means everything comes to an end,” Mr. Abdul said.
On Friday, approximately 30,000 people packed the mosque to pay tribute to the slain leader, according to local news media in Uganda.
The Daily Monitor, a prominent independent Ugandan newspaper, reported that Sheikh Amir Mutyaba, a former ambassador to Libya, wept as he told followers that Colonel Qaddafi had “died as a hero.” He added that while “Allah will bless him,” foreign “oil diggers will be punished,” likely alluding to a perception among some that the West intervened in Libya mainly because of its oil riches.
In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and about half Muslim, a senator told local news media that Colonel Qaddafi “was one of the finest African leaders we have.” And a former Nigerian militia leader, who said he was once financed by Colonel Qaddafi, told Agence France-Presse that the former Libyan leader’s death would be “avenged.”
The colonel “spilled his blood as a martyr to rekindle the fire of revolution all over the world,” said Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, the militia leader. “The people of the world will rise up against this.”
Colonel Qaddafi came to power in 1969 as a 27-year old ideologue, who modeled himself on President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and focused his energy on leading a pan-Arab renaissance. But by the turn of the century, feeling spurned by his fellow Arabs, he turned his focus south toward sub-Saharan Africa. He used his own money, as well as state-owned investment firms, to build mosques, hotels and telecommunications companies.
He also meddled in the politics of other African countries — at least a dozen coups or attempted coups on the continent were traced to his support.
One of the many grandiose titles he embraced for himself was “the king of kings of Africa.”
Over time, his efforts won him many African allies, and when the uprising against him began this year, the African Union took months to recognize a rebel council as the country’s governing authority.
There were many reports early in the revolution that Colonel Qaddafi had reached out to fighters in African states and had used them as mercenaries, but journalists saw little evidence of mercenaries during the revolt.
As Colonel Qaddafi’s enemies begin their efforts to rebuild their country, many on the continent remain angry that the transfer of power happened, in large part, because of the military support NATO provided to the former rebels.
In Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe led a liberation struggle against a white-minority regime that ended in 1980, a presidential spokesman said Colonel Qaddafi would be remembered there for his support of Zimbabwe’s independence fight and railed against foreign interference in Africa’s affairs.
“The government cannot accept drawing blood as a model for changing political systems on the continent,” said George Charamba, the spokesman. “Moreso when that blood is drawn at the instigation of foreign countries.”
Zimbabwe, of course, has had its own run-ins with West, facing intense criticism for a bloody, discredited presidential election in 2008. “As a matter of principle,” Mr. Charamba said, “Zimbabwe does not believe it is the duty of the West to tell us who our friends are and who our enemies are, who the beautiful ones are and who the ugly ones are.”
Even some Africans who said they did not necessarily support Colonel Qaddafi were stricken by the way he was killed and argued that he had left behind an important legacy.
“I had never been really a fan of Qaddafi, but now I am touched by how he died,” said Manny Ansar, the director of a popular annual music festival in Mali. “Love him or not, we must recognize that this is one of the greatest African leaders who influenced several generations, including mine, and found in the constancy and courage of his positions what we research in a hero. In a word: pride.”


BENGHAZI, Libya — Veterans of the decisive battle for Surt streamed into this eastern Libyan port city on Saturday to a raucous heroes’ welcome, firing round after round into the air and yelling greetings to a jubilant crowd that jammed the entry-point to a main boulevard into town.
Benghazi, proud of its role as the first headquarters of the rebellion against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, has assigned itself a central part in what people here call the new Libya. In the tumultuous, hours-long reception at the edge of the city on Saturday, children waved the country’s new flag, women wearing head scarves chanted hymns to fallen fighters, and the packed crowd chanted derisive slogans mocking the dead leader.
The procession came on the eve of a ceremony here at which leaders of the transitional government will officially announce the country’s liberation and confirm a timeline for national elections. Officials were congregating at a downtown hotel here on Saturday night, preparing for speeches the next day. And reinforcing the idea of a new phase for the country, the interim prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, held to an earlier promise by saying Saturday that he was resigning his post now that the last Qaddafi stronghold had been captured, Reuters reported.
Other regional factions in Libya, including fighters based in Tripoli, around the city of Misurata, and in the western Nafusah Mountains, have sometimes bristled at what they see as the Benghazi leadership’s self-importance. But military officers at Saturday’s event tried to play down any potential regional rivalries. Colonel Qaddafi, setting one region against another, benefited from the divisions, enhanced in some ways by the differing roles these widely spaced entities played in Libya’s revolution.
“What has happened is a disgrace,” the people at Saturday’s rally yelled, playing in Arabic on a contemptuous designation for Colonel Qaddafi.
Soldiers stood on the back of pickup trucks shooting into the air, or leaned down to shake the hands of beaming onlookers. On one truck, uniformed men swiveled round and round in the seats of an anti-aircraft gun. Men on horseback in traditional embroidered white robes accompanied the dusty motorcade, recalling the nomadic desert culture at the city’s doorstep.
Though transition officials have insisted they would not try to move the capital to Benghazi from Tripoli, some in the crowd of proud residents still suggested that their city’s political fortunes would improve after the passing of a dictator who, at best, neglected Benghazi.
Benghazi has played the biggest role in this revolution, since it started here,” said Salah Bunudelai, who described himself as a businessman. “It was the ignition of the revolution. It will have a very big role in the new Libya.”
The crowd’s noisy enthusiasm for the returning soldiers seemed to grow as the sunlit afternoon wore on, and car after car jammed the tree-lined road. A judge, Tudje Naima Gebril, who was on hand to greet the troops wearing a head scarf with the country’s new red, black and green colors — she said she was the first female judge in Libya, appointed in 1975 — called the moment a symbolic new beginning for her country.
“All the people are here for building the new Libya,” she said. As soldiers fired into the air, she added: “We don’t want to see any more guns in Libya. We want civil institutions in Libya.”