Muammar Gaddafi and the Libyan Government’s Dream of a United States of Africa
When Muammar Gaddafi, the leader of the Libyan government for over 40 years, was deposed during The Arab Spring, many political commentators and leaders in the world rejoiced. Gaddafi was undeniably a leader who committed human rights abuses as well as helping to fund international terrorism. However, the circumstances surrounding his fall from power, as well as the questions over his death in 2011, raise important issues surrounding the subject of Neo-Colonialism and the Western agenda within Africa.
By the time of his death, Muammar Gaddafi had been an ally of the West for some time. After years of sanctions relating to the explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 - known as the Lockerbie Bombing - Gaddafi scrapped arms programs which led to the ending of sanctions in 2004 by George W. Bush. But over the next few years, relations soured once more. After protests were quashed by Gaddafi during the Arab Spring, the international community was warned that Gaddafi intended to massacre his own people as retaliation. NATO’s claims that Gaddafi employed systematic mass rape were used in part to justify bombing campaigns and questioned by Amnesty International who could find no evidence of this practice.
NATO forces were given permission to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya to protect the Libyan government and population. Muammar Gaddafi’s forces were heavily bombed, as well as important infrastructure such as the 'Great Man-Made River' – a vast irrigation system which supplied up to 70 percent of the population. This state-run project was helping to irrigate vast swathes of Libya and was being funded - interest-free - by Libya's state-owned bank. The project was worth over $33 billion, and due to internal funding was not part of a western-based foreign debt project. NATO bombers destroyed the pipelines for the project as well as factories which were capable of making replacement parts.
Muammar Gaddafi himself was killed after an airstrike by NATO allowed anti-Gaddafi troops to capture him. The exact circumstances around his death are not known. He was captured on video severely wounded but alive after being found hiding in a storm drain. Later footage showed him dead and there have been conflicting reports about the manner of his death. Amnesty International called for an investigation into whether his death should be considered a war crime and why he was killed rather than made to stand trial for his human rights abuses.
Libya has descended into chaos following the removal of Muammar Gaddafi from power, and even official inquiries such as the UK Parliament’s findings on the intervention has raised serious questions regarding the lack of support and planning in post-Gaddafi Libya. The UK government also found that the 2011 intervention was not supported by intelligence.
Could there have been reasons other than concern for the civilian population which led to Gaddafi’s removal from power?
According to a special report by the UK's Guardian newspaper, the Libyan government’s intervention was the first war 'commanded by Africom'. Africom is a US-led branch of the military which coordinates military activity in Africa, whose aims have developed since its inception to being explicitly about the "free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market." says Vice Admiral Robert Moeller.
During his last years of power, Gaddafi was known to support Pan-African interests; he was one of the driving forces of the creation of the African Union, and pushed for a 'United States of Africa.' He began plans to attempt to stop selling Libyan oil in US Dollars, and instead, introduce a system where Dinars were used. Dinars are a gold-based currency and Gadaffi’s regime had close to 150 tons of gold in its reserves. According to many analysts the potential transfer of currency, which Gadaffi was attempting to push out into the other African States, had the potential to inflict serious harm on global markets. French President Nicolas Sarkozy allegedly called Libya a threat to the financial security of the world. In 2015, leaked emails from Hilary Clinton’s private email server referenced Sarkozy's reasons for Libyan government intervention as money, power, and oil related, without referencing humanitarian concerns.
The desire to create a United States of Africa, where all states could unite under a common currency was deeply held by Gaddafi. He also invested over $150 billion in African infrastructure projects. The concept of a United States of Africa and a common currency is one which flies in the face of Neocolonialist interests – that is - "the practice of using capitalism, globalization, and cultural forces to control a country in lieu of direct military or political control."
This can include offering loans with stringent conditions attached, or Multi-National Corporations exerting political pressure so their interests are served in African countries. By backing the strengthening of the African Union and attempting to thwart Neo-Colonial influence some have argued that the removal of Gaddafi was related more to the security of global banking, money, and oil than to humanitarian concerns.
Muammar Gaddafi and the Libyan government was certainly guilty of humanitarian abuses against his own people and in the wider international community. However, he also played a role in envisaging an Africa which could look toward uniting and freeing itself from Western Neo-Colonial influences. While there is no justification for the abuse of power in regimes such as Gaddafi’s Libya, nor is there any for the potential manipulation of humanitarian issues to stymie attempts to bring Africa into greater world economic equality.