Archive for the ‘African Union’ Category

Qaddafi Wants to Abolish Switzerland

September 8, 2009

Later this month, Libya will introduce a proposal at the UN calling for the abolition of Switzerland as a nation-state.  Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi wants the Central European country to be divided between France, Italy and Germany, with the French-speaking region going to France, the Italian speaking region going to Italy and the German-speaking region going to Germany.  Qaddafi’s proposal is believed to be an angry response to the actions of Swiss authorities, who arrested his son, Hannibal, last year and charged him with assault (Hannibal was later released on bail).

This is not the first time that Mr. Qaddafi has tried to redraw the political map.  At various times he has called for the political unification of all Arab nations and all African nations, and the creation of a confederacy of Islamic states.  In this vein, he has referred to himself as “dean of the Arab rulers”, “king of kings of Africa”, and the “imam of Muslims”.  He is now the chairman of the African Union, a position held by African leaders on a rotating basis, and in this capacity he reiterated his desire to create the “United States of Africa”.  Naturally, other countries have resisted Mr. Qaddafi’s attempts to subsume them under his leadership.

Libya and the West

August 27, 2009

Many in the West were outraged by the boisterous welcome that convicted terrorist Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi received when he returned to his native Libya, an event that received wide media coverage.  Megrahi is considered a hero by many Libyans who believe his conviction and imprisonment in Scotland constituted a miscarriage of justice. 

Some may be surprised that Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, who heads an authoritarian regime, would risk alienating the international community  by allowing such a celebration.  During the past decade, Libya has tried to reengage with the West after many years of being a pariah state.

Tensions between Libya and the West began shortly after Qaddafi came to power in 1969 following a military coup.  Qaddafi kicked Western oil workers out of his country, and he evoked further ire when he sponsored a terrorist attack on a Pan Am passenger jet in 1986.

But in recent years Qaddafi has apoligized for the Pan Am incident and financially compensated victims’ families.  He also abandoned Libya’s nuclear weapons program and opened up his country to Western businesses. 

Although Western officials criticized the public celebration of Megrahi’s release, it is unlikely that European governments will punish Libya by imposing significant economic sanctions because they want access to Libya’s oil and other sectors of its economy.  Some observers believe that Megrahi’s release was part of a financially-motivated deal between the British government and Qaddafi’s regime, and that belief is supported by Saif al Islam el-Qaddafi, the dictator’s son, who suggested that such a deal was made.

Qaddafi is therefore free to pander to a domestic audience and other African countries that have suffered from European colonialism.  He is a self-described revolutionary socialist who has tried to use his current position as head of the African Union to promote pan-Africanism as a means of increasing Africa’s influence in international affairs vis-a-vis the West.  In this light, it is understandable why Qaddafi allowed such an ostentatious celebreation of Megrahi’s release.

Continued Chaos in Somalia

May 15, 2009

Fighting continued this week between militiamen loyal to the Somali government and al Shabab, an Islamic insurgent group.  Mogadishu, the nation’s capital, has been subjected to mortar attacks and machine gun fire as militants try to overthrow President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed’s administration.  Al Shabab fighters also clashed with members of Ahlu Sunna, a rival Islamist group, in the central and southern regions of the country.

In addition to an insurgency led by Islamic extremists, Somalia is also plagued by criminal gangs, militias and other armed groups who engage in kidnapping, extortion, illicit trading and piracy.  Just a few weeks ago, US special operations forces killed three Somali pirates on the high seas during a successful hostage rescue effort.

Somalia has been chaotic since dictator Mohame Siad Barre was overthrown in 1991.  Since then, tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and more than a million have become refugees; millions of others survive on international food aid.  The nation is a classic example of a failed state where warlords, criminals and extremist groups thrive in the absence of a strong central government.  There is a danger that terrorist groups will establish bases in the lawlessless land where they could find safe haven.

The African Union is planning on increasing the number of peacekeepers deployed in Somalia to 6,000 sometime in the near future.  However, it is unlikely that such a small force will be able to establish order there, and it appears that the international community is unwilling to send thousands of troops to the impoverished country to quell the violence.  In the early 1990s, US forces were sent to Somalia to distribute food to the starving population and battle warlords, but the American military was withdrawn shortly after the notorious “Black Hawk Down” incident in which a dozen US troops were killed in an ambush, an event which might deter Western intervention.  However, there is a chance that US special operations forces and a relatively small number of military trainers will be sent there to help the weak government take on Islamic extremists and pirates who threaten American interests.