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Is Gaddafi too big to fail?

Analysis: Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has spent a lot of money in Africa, and now he is cashing in.

Over the decades Gaddafi has displayed a reliably scattergun approach to continental diplomacy, backing questionable leaders including Uganda’s brutal dictator Amin and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, and rebel groups like the Tuareg desert nomads in Mali and Niger.

It was in Libyan training camps that Charles Taylor honed his fighting skills before seizing power in Liberia, and it was in these same training camps that Taylor met Foday Sankoh, the leader of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in Sierra Leone. Taylor backed Sankoh's forces, which made hacking off hands and arms its signature savagery as it fought for control of diamond mines during that country’s civil war.

Gaddafi's dream of a United States of Africa with him at its head irritates other African leaders. So does his courting of their traditional leaders, 200 of whom crowned Gaddafi ‘King of Kings’ after he summoned them to a gathering in Benghazi in 2008.

African governments owe Gaddafi a debt which is why Libya’s rebels paid such short shrift to the AU delegation’s overtures this month, but the continent's leaders are not entirely in his pocket which might leave Gaddafi wondering whether his investments have paid off.

On March 17 Gabon, Nigeria and South Africa, the continent’s non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, all of which voted in favor of resolution 1973 imposing a no-fly zone and permitting “all necessary measures” to protect civilians. That resolution led to NATO’s airstrikes against Gaddafi's air force and heavy weapons, which was a considerable boost to the anti-Gaddafi rebels.

A month earlier all three voted with other Security Council members to refer Gaddafi’s regime to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for investigation, meaning Libya's "Great Leader" may one day find himself in court facing war crimes charges.