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Monday, 23 July, 2001, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Gaddafi: Africa's new sponsor
Muammar Gaddafi and Robert Mugabe
Libya is backing President Mugabe ahead of elections
By North Africa correspondent David Bamford

Concern is reported to be growing in the State Department in Washington and in many Western embassies in Africa about the degree to which the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, is sponsoring projects throughout the African continent.

Colonel Gaddafi has turned to Africa with a new zest after giving up on his plans for Arab unity.

Concern has been heightened by confirmation that he has pledged millions of dollars to Zimbabwe to help President Robert Mugabe as elections approach there.

As well as providing nearly $1m to the ruling party for its campaign, he has approved a $360m oil deal that will end Zimbabwe's current fuel crisis at a stroke.

Queue for paraffin
Fuel shortages affect all Zimbabweans
Colonel Gaddafi is also being hailed as the founding father of the new African Union this month.

If Libya's involvement in Africa was confined to grand gestures, the Americans - who continue to mistrust Libya - might have turned a blind eye.

But while saying very little so far in public, they are being forced to watch more closely.

Among moves in recent weeks, Libya has sent envoys to Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast. It has pledged to provide Ghana with enough fuel to resolve its shortfall.

Libya is also at the centre of a peace initiative with Egypt aimed at ending the civil war in Sudan. And Libyan oil wealth is bolstering the economies of countries in the African Sahara.

Cold War end

Not only that, but Colonel Gaddafi also thwarted a coup attempt in the Central African Republic by sending in Libyan troops to put down an army rebellion.

And last week, he personally delivered 1,000 tonnes of drought aid to Kenya and was feted when he visited Uganda for the second time in as many months.

This move comes after over two decades of Western humiliation during which Libya underwent US-led bombing raids in the 1980s and international isolation

The strategy adopted by Colonel Gaddafi has been helped by the end of the Cold War, which brought about the end of strategic alliances between many African states and either the US or former Soviet Union.

During the Cold War, African countries had received economic and military aid in exchange for treaties that allowed either superpower access to military bases in Africa.

Also in recent years, France has withdrawn much of its traditional economic and military support for former African colonies, forcing them to look elsewhere.

The Libyans have been ready new partners, with Colonel Gaddafi adopting Africa as he seeks to return to the world stage in the guise of an international conciliator.

This move comes after over two decades of Western humiliation during which Libya underwent US-led bombing raids in the 1980s and international isolation caused by UN sanctions over its alleged support for international terrorism.

See also:

08 Jun 01 | World
Analysis: The new bogeymen
13 Jul 01 | Africa
Gaddafi driven to support Mugabe
09 Jul 01 | Africa
Q&A: African Union
11 Dec 99 | Middle East
Libya seeks new beginning
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