Libya and Africa: The Reset

Libya Africa Kings

From J. Peter Pham, the New AtlanticistEven with the rebels’ victory all but assured and the TNC desperate for funds to meet basic needs and, perhaps more importantly, secure political support, especially in the western areas of the country where the Gaddafi regime had been well entrenched, some in the AU are still trying to keep the Libyan opposition at arm’s length. South Africa, whose deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe, suggested as late as this week that NATO commanders should be investigated for war crimes for their role in assisting the rebels, even used its rotating seat on the UN Security Council to try and block the release of just a fraction of Libya’s frozen assets on the grounds that giving it to the rebels implied their recognition. . . .

Nevertheless, the two sides will still need to work with each other. African governments will need to work with the new regime in Libya if they are to have any hope of controlling the proliferation of arms that the upheaval in the country has unleashed. To cite one example, just last month the UN Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea reported that “the number if man-portable air defense systems in circulation has increased since conflict erupted in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, where hundreds, if not thousands, of systems were pilfered from state stockpiles.” For its part, the TNC will need the cooperation of African governments if it is to get control of the billions of dollars in investments made in those countries by Libyan sovereign wealth funds under Gaddafi. Those investments in businesses and real property will probably need to be sold in order to raise the funds needed for reconstruction and development back home in Libya.

In short, while important areas for collaboration remain, it is likelier than not that, insofar as the new Libyan government will have much time for foreign affairs at all, it will emphasize its links to the Arab world, while relegating its relations with Africa to the back burner.
J. Peter Pham is director of the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center at the Atlantic Council. (photo credit: BBC)

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