Gaddafi's Supporters in Africa

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Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Early in Muammar Gaddafi's dictatorship in the mid to late 1970s he offered his help to a fellow dictator on the African continent. Gaddafi sent Libyan troops to help prop up the regime of Idi Amin in Uganda. The military assistance however, did not stop Amin from getting ousted. Alex Jakana anchors the BBC program Africa Have Your Say. He joins us from London. Now, Alex, you interviewed the daughter of Idi Amin, Maymuna Amin, she was evacuated from her home in Uganda to Tripoli in 1979 when she was 11, after her father was overthrown. Colonel Gaddafi sheltered her and her family for three years. What did she tell you about Colonel Gaddafi, the man?

Alex Jakana: Well, when I spoke to her she had fond memories of Colonel Gaddafi. Like you said, she was a child, 11, when they moved over to Tripoli and were given refuge there by Colonel Gaddafi. She had very fond memories of the man and this is how she put it in her words:

Maymuna Amin: He was a wonderful man. He gave me the first doll, which talks, when you say, "Mommy," it says, "Mommy." I loved that doll so much and I've kept it. Let me tell the truth. When you're a head of state you're having homes like a devil or something, it's a different human being. That's like any other person.

Werman: That's Maymuna Amin, the daughter of Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin, speaking with the BBC's Alex Jakana, who's with us on the line. Alex, now, spreading things out a little bit, Maymuna Amin is not a lone in her positive assessment of Muammar Gaddafi. The African Union has continued to support Gaddafi. Why is there still so much support for him?

Jakana: The reason there is an absence of condemnation when it seems like the rest of the world is condemning this regime for what it's done or is accused of having done, it's mostly because of the influence that Gaddafi and his regime have had on the continent of Africa. Countless African countries have benefitted from his money. Gaddafi's Libya was an oil exporting country and there was no shortage of cash there. And he used that money to support and to prop up a number of governments and to invest in a number of countries. So there is a reluctance to be quick to condemn him and to distance themselves from him.

Werman: Right, I mean Gaddafi's arrival at African Union summit was notorious bringing suitcases of cash for various heads of state. What countries and which heads of state have received Gaddafi's help the most? I mean who will miss him the most?

Jakana: Well, it's hard to say who would miss him the most, but just to give you a sense, in Liberia, Libya provided over $60 million USD in investment projects. So this is one of Africa's most impoverished countries, so $60+ US dollars went a very long way. There are a number of countries for example, the Central African Republic, the government there would have been overthrown in 2001 if it weren't for the fact that Colonel Gaddafi sent paratroopers in and they defeated the rebel assault and the government there if not for him would have totally been overthrown. And so you've got countries like those just to give a sense, and then just right across the continent, several of countries where millions of dollars have gone in investment in different businesses, and a number of countries where the Islamic faith is very dominant. He's built a lot of mosques and won the hearts and minds of not just governments there, but many ordinary people, because when we speak to callers in Africa as you say, it's amazing the number of ordinary Africans, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa who have positive feelings and sentiments towards Muammar Gaddafi.

Werman: Alex, is it also an underlying concern for those leaders that external voices like NATO could actually intervene in their own countries just like they did in Libya? Would that be a potential problem for somebody like Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe?

Jakana: Some people I speak to say, loyalists tend to say there's nothing as dangerous as precedence because there's always a reference point. So, people, leaders, rulers, regimes that have been in power for a long time where people have been crying for change, where they have been continually accused by their citizens and other outside bodies of having poor human rights records or poor governance or high corruption, would be looking at this with concern and thinking well, if all it takes is for a vote in the UN and the UN Security Council then passes a resolution that gives an external body or a coalition of countries permission to intervene, then perhaps we should be careful, we should be thinking of another strategy on the global stage, the international stage.

Werman: Alex Jakana anchors the BBC program, Africa Have Your Say. Thanks very much, Alex.

Jakana: You're most welcome. It's been a pleasure speaking to you Marco.