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Analysis: And where is that convoy through Africa going? Gaddafi may be fleeing Libya to seek asylum.
BOSTON — Where is Gaddafi? Where is that convoy of more than 50 heavily armed vehicles going? And what is in it?
With his grip on Libya reduced to just four towns that are all under siege, deposed dictator Muammar Gaddafi has not been seen for weeks.
Gaddafi has vowed to fight until the bitter end in Libya, but he is certainly not leading from the frontlines.
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He is not in Tripoli which is now completely controled by the rebels of the National Transitional Council. Nor is Gaddafi reported to be in any of the towns still held by his forces: Bani Walid, Sabha, Jufra or his birthplace Sirte.
There is an odd silence as both sides wait to see what happens next.
Most likely, a deal is being brokered to get Gaddafi, 69, out of Libya in the interest of avoiding more bloodshed.
The fact that Gaddafi's wife, daughter and two sons left the country for Algeria is a strong indication that the family is moving out of Libya.
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A likely broker for a deal with Gaddafi is the African Union. Gaddafi was instrumental in founding the organization in 2001 and bankrolling it through several budget crises. Gaddafi was head of the African Union in 2009.
The African Union is now in a good position to negotiate with Gaddafi, as the organization has adamantly refused to recognize the Libyan rebels. South African president Jacob Zuma went to Tripoli recently to try to broker a resolution to the Libyan conflict but the rebels flatly rejected the AU plan.
Maybe this time the African Union can get Gaddafi out of Libya, which will likely result in a collapse of his loyalist forces and will speed Libya's return to peace and stability. That's what brings our attention to the convoy of more than 50 heavily armed military vehicles that crossed Libya's border with Niger earlier today.
The convoy points to the unlikelihood of Gaddafi fighting it out to the end in Libya. If the loyalist troops were really preparing for a decisive battle, they would not be sending 50 heavily armed vehicles off into the Saharan desert. Although Niger officials say Gaddafi is not in the convoy, if his departure from Libya is part of a deal brokered by the African Union, then Niger may be giving the deposed Libyan dictator safe passage.
Where will Gaddafi go?
Perhaps to a friendly African country. Burkina Faso has been frequently mentioned, but today the country denied that it has offered asylum to Gaddafi and top Burkinabe officials said they would honor their agreement with the International Criminal Court in The Hague to extradite anyone indicted for war crimes.
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Maybe Gaddafi's convoy is headed way down south to Zimbabwe.
Gaddafi has enjoyed a long friendship with Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe. In 2001 Gaddafi drove to Harare in a convoy of 80 vehicles including his own black limousine. I remember Gaddafi arriving in Zimbabwe's capital in an open-topped car, waving to the thousands of Mugabe's supporters who lined the entrance to Mugabe's residence.
Gaddafi had just been to the African Union summit in Lusaka, Zambia, and he said he wanted to drive overland to Zimbabwe to show solidarity with his African brothers and sisters. He also offered Zimbabwe, which was hit by a severe fuel shortage at that time, a shipment of oil.
The Zimbabwean press has been rife with speculation that Gaddafi is coming back to Harare and that his family has purchased choice properties. Zimbabwe has already given asylum to another fallen African dictator, Ethiopia's Mengistu Haile Mariam, who has been in exile in Zimbabwe since 1991. Zimbabwe has staunchly refused to extradite Mengistu back to Ethiopia, where he was found guilty in absentia of the murders of 2,000 people and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Zimbabwe's Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara said last week in parliament that Gaddafi would be welcome to seek asylum in Zimbabwe.
But if the African Union is brokering a deal to get Gaddafi out of Libya, it may be encouraging Gaddafi to go even further away so that he would be less likely to meddle in Libya's affairs.
Venezuela's president Hugo Chavez has publicly, and vigorously, declared his support for Gaddafi. He even received a letter from the Libyan leader recently. Perhaps that is where Gaddafi and the convoy are headed.
Libya's rebels accuse Gaddafi of trucking gold bars and foreign currency from Libya in order to fund a lavish lifestyle wherever he seeks asylum.
But no matter where Gaddafi goes and no matter how comfortable his villa, he will be forever on guard. Gaddafi and his son, Saif, have been indicted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Just a few years ago Liberia's Charles Taylor found a comfortable refuge in Nigeria. But within a couple of years the guards around his beach home disappeared, and he was arrested and sent to The Hague where he is currently standing trial for war crimes.
That could well be Gaddafi's fate no matter where he succeeds in finding a safe haven in the coming days.
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