At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Malta last week, Nigeria’s President Buhari made a controversial statement about the late Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi. The statement suggested that Buhari was in support of the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi, but upon a closer look, it seems Buhari has a point.
“The rise of terrorism in Africa is as a result of the collapse of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya,”said Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari.
Muammar Gaddafi, the former dictator of Libya, ruled the North African country for 42 years before his death in 2011. He created relative peace in the Sahel region of Africa and kept Islamic extremism to a minimum. In the midst of all the conflicts that happened in that region during his time, Gaddafi was said to have brokered peace in about 90 percent of them according to Dr. Segun Bolarinwa, a senior researcher at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs. Bolarinwa says that this was possible because Gadaffi had an efficient army, “apart from training his own Libyan Soldiers in countries like Russia and North Korea, he also recruited men from tribes in the Sahel region, who knew the terrain. One these tribes- the Tuareg, are a minority group of social misfits mainly from the Northern part of Mali.”
The Tuaregs, also referred to as the “Kurds of Africa” did not join Gaddafi because of his ideologies, rather they joined because of Libya’s oil money. And when Gaddafi was killed by NATO-supported freedom fighters in 2011, the Tuaregs disbanded along with the rest of Gaddafi’s army, all armed with ammunition and money from Gaddafi’s reserves. While some of Gaddafi’s army followed his family, in particular his son Saad Gaddafi, to Niger seeking assylum, some of them followed the Tuareg soldiers to Mali. There they joined with the Tuareg rebels already there.
There in Mali, they found a new cause to fight for. “Gaddafi’s men helped aggravate the Tuareg conflict in Northern Mali. The Tuareg had been complaining of marginalization and wanted their own state, Azawad state. The state would be free from the control of the Malian Government in Bamako. The Libyan Soldiers, idle, loaded and on the prowl, hijacked the Tuareg cause, and made it theirs” Dr. Bolarinwa said. This new coalition, along with Al-Qaeda groups present in the area, fought with the Malian government in 2012, although they didn’t prevail. However, some of the members of the coalition, especially the Al-Qaeda associated groups started carrying out bombings and Guerrilla warfare in Mali, culminating in the attack on an hotel in Mali last week.
Boko Haram, has also met with some of the former soldier’s in Gaddafi’s army. According to Dr. Bolarinwa “some of these scattered soldiers also hid in Chad, where they met Shekau. They are the ones who supplied Shekau with ammunition for his insurgency in Nigeria.” In January BBC also reported that Boko Haram received most of their weapons from Gaddafi’s arm depots. Buhari is on the mark in terms of the rise of terrorism in Africa, especially in the Sahel region of Africa.
The promise of democracy after Gaddafi’s death has now been hijacked by jihadists militants and different armed militias. Libyans are living now under harsher conditions.
Dr. Bolarinwa supports President Buhari’s statement at the meeting and his call for support from the West in the fight against terrorism in Africa. “What he said was correct. Buhari is talking from experience as a soldier himself. The UN and the Commonwealth should combine powers and stop this trend, or else it could spread to other sub-Saharan countries” he said. Buhari’s statement also supports U.S. President Barack Obama’s hesitation to put soldiers on ground to combat The Islamic State. Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan show that you can’t destroy a country to rebuild without the support and desire of local stakeholders.