Gaddafi’s influence in the African Union (AU) has tainted it in the eyes of some Libyans, who perceive it to have been their enemy, or simply irrelevant to the revolution and future of Libya.
Libyan political and economic relationships are increasingly focused towards the Middle East, Europe, Russia and Turkey. Linkage to, and involvement with Africa is dropping.
Though the AU has little influence in Libya and the peace process, the implications of an unstable Libya are significant for African security and economies.
While Libya may be geographically rooted on the African continent, it is undeniable that the political and economic links that bind Libya to the wider world are decreasingly pan-African, and increasingly related to Europe, Turkey, Russia and the Middle East. Even Libya’s close North African neighbours such as Tunisia and Algeria have remained almost entirely on the sidelines in recent conflict.
Furthermore, of all the powers supporting either the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Libyan National Army (LNA), not even one is from the African continent: The two most important national sponsors of proxies are Russia and Turkey. All the while, the AU has stood impotently on the side-lines.
In 2002, Colonel Gaddafi enthusiastically sponsored what was then the latest iteration of the AU, supporting it not only politically and ideologically, but also financially. This financial aid did not come without strings attached– Libyan money paid for the arrears of certain African Union members that were indebted, and more likely to vote with Gaddafi on any issue within the AU. At the same time, Gaddafi wished for a “United States of Africa”, with all African nations ceding their sovereignty to a greater super-state.
The more cynical at the time perceived this to be Gaddafi’s ambition – to be president of the whole of Africa. Certainly, when Gaddafi was crowned as “King of kings” by 200 traditional kings and leaders of Africa in 2008, this did nothing to dissuade those suspicious of Gaddafi’s ambitions.
Regardless, when the Libyan revolution swept away Gaddafi and unleashed chaos in Libya, the AU and African nations were almost entirely impotent. As late as July 2011, the AU refused to support arrest and trial of Gaddafi by the International Criminal Court.
The AU’s lack of action in a nominally African country in complete crisis confirmed to many Libyans that the AU was an irrelevant, powerless and biased institution, uninterested in Libyan stability or justice. It is the US, Europe, Russia, Turkey and the nations of the Middle East, that are influencing the future of Libya.
Leading on from the lack of action by the AU, are the major economic links that bind Libya closer to Europe than Africa. As touched upon in a previous Grey Dynamics Intelligence Report, Italy is both the biggest Libyan export and import partner, closely followed by Germany and Spain. See figure 1 for Libya’s export partners of 2017. Figure 1 shows that economically, Libya is inextricably linked to Europe, and, that African nations are currently relatively unimportant as trading partners.
This side-lining of the African Union and Africa within Libya has consequences. With no military involvement, little political involvement and almost no economic involvement, the AU has been mostly ignored in the peace process and negotiations over Libya. The invitation of President Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo-Brazzaville (the AU representative on Libya) to the January 2020 Peace Summit was a last minute afterthought. While some in the AU such as the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, wish to have had more influence over the future of Libya, given that it is an African country, it seems that economic, political and military factors currently outweigh the geographical factors.
Image : Medium (link)
Figure 1: OEC (link)