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Africans Shed Few Tears for Gadhafi

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi (R) prays during the celebration of the birth of the Prophet in Uganda's capital, Kampala, on March, 19, 2008 along with the Ugandan president and other African leaders.
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi (R) prays during the celebration of the birth of the Prophet in Uganda's capital, Kampala, on March, 19, 2008 along with the Ugandan president and other African leaders.

The reaction to the death of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has been mostly subdued across sub-Saharan Africa.

While Gadhafi's strongman governing style may not be missed, his economic contributions to the continent certainly will.

The death of a man who once declared himself the King of Kings of Africa, has been met with more relief than grief across the continent.

Lessons from Gadhafi's fall

On Twitter and Facebook, Africans are mostly cheering Gadhafi's demise, and wondering if other African strongmen will be next, with fingers pointed at Uganda's Yoweri Museveni and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe.

Gadhafi's death is an unfortunate example of African leaders wanting to stay in power forever, says Nigerian social worker Mary Ene.

"This is a lesson to our leaders in this part of the world to know that power belongs to God and that God can take power from anybody anytime. It is time for our leaders to look beyond trying to grab all the things that belong to the public for their own pockets, for their own families,” Ene said.

Praise and legacy

Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party offered some of the only words of sympathy for Gadhafi. The party's parliamentary whip told VOA's Studio 7 that his death was tragic and the African Union should have done more to prevent it.

Ugandan Government Spokesman Fred Opolot also had some praise for the man who invested so much in Africa.

“Gadhafi will be remembered in Uganda as a Pan-Africanist who contributed a lot to the workings of the African Union," Opolot said. "Also in individual countries he contributed a lot in foreign direct investment and let's not forget, he was a key proponent for African unity, so in that context, Gadhafi will be missed.”

Gadhafi's government enjoyed closer relations with Uganda, and had invested $375 million in various projects in the country through its investment wing.

Economic generosity

Signs of Gadhafi's economic influence are all over East Africa.

A Libyan-financed hotel towers over Sudan's capital, Khartoum, and has been nicknamed Gadhafi's egg because of its unique shape. Other Libyan luxury hotels stand tall in the capitals of Kenya and Rwanda.

The country also has been one of the biggest contributors to the African Development Bank.

Peter Pham, Director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington, told VOA in August that with the fall of his government, Gadhafi's legacy of investment will likely become unraveled.

“Libya now needs to spend its money at home, it needs resources both for reconstruction, not only from the damage from the war, but also from the lack of investment in Libya, the neglect during Gadhafi's almost 42 years in power," said Pham. "So I think a lot of money will have to come home, so there probably will be a liquidation of many of these assets.”

Pham adds that it is unlikely Libya's new leadership will be as invested in Africa.

“There's going to be a lot of resentment to Africa, both because of money that's been spent there and, secondly, because the African Union and many African leaders, with a few notable exceptions, stood by Gadhafi instead of with the Libyan people,” said Pham.

A promoter of African unity

Gadhafi was instrumental in the formation of the African Union, and the international body was slow to accept Libya's Transitional National Council as the rightful government of Libya.

Following news of Gadhafi's death, the AU lifted its suspension of Libya's membership, allowing the new government to take its seat.

The AU officially recognized Libya's new government in September, and raised the country's new flag last week.

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