In what may be his last chance to realize his ambition to become the first leader of a United States of Africa, Libya’s vainglorious dictator Muammar Gaddafi had himself declared “the King of Kings of Africa” by traditional African leaders in Tripoli earlier this month.
For the third year in a row, hundreds of African traditional rulers accepted Libyan funds to travel to Tripoli, Libya’s capital, to attend a Gaddafi-financed initiative called the “Forum of the Kings, Sultans, Princes, Sheiks and Mayors of Africa” that ran from September 7-9. Gaddafi sees the conferences as a way to keep his ambition alive of becoming Africa’s first leader after his attempt to renew his one-year chairmanship of the African Union (AU) was thwarted last February.
During his term as AU chairman, the Libyan colonel had advanced his agenda for a “quick shift” to a united Africa. But Gaddafi was rejected by the 53-member AU when he wanted a second 12-month stint, a rejection that earned his reproaches.
“The leader of the Libyan Jamahiriya was essentially raving that he had parted with a tidy sum, trying to put the AU house in order, only to be kicked in the mouth by ungrateful recipients of his largesse,” wrote one African columnist.
Angered by his rejection and upset with the “gradualist” African states, especially South Africa and Nigeria, that were only “lukewarm” toward his hurried unification plan, the Libyan strongman turned towards Africa’s mostly unelected traditional leaders. Among these Africans, Gaddafi’s lavish spending this time produced the desired results in the form of a statute declaring him Africa’s “King of Kings.” The document, it was reported, was already drawn up before the delegates’ arrival, needing only their signatures.
“Most of our traditional leaders here are very poor and as such they are just agreeing with everything without objection,” a delegate from Zambia’s Tonga tribe told an African newspaper.
Most African government leaders, both traditional and elected, see nothing wrong with the United States of Africa concept, similar to the European Union (EU), but want to approach this eventuality at a slower pace. They also commend Gaddafi for taking up the proposed vision of early, post-colonial African leaders, like Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, for a United States of Africa. Gadaffi had first started agitating for a united Africa, they noted, in the 1990s before it became “fashionable.”
Besides its unacceptable quick pace, African governments oppose Gaddafi’s plan because they harbor strong suspicions concerning the Libyan’s unlimited ambitions. The Tripoli conference’s statute confirmed the correctness of these reservations since it contains no time limit or provisions for a successor to his “King of Kings” position. Under the statute, it was noted, if Africa was to become a united country, Gaddafi would become its king and succession, like in other monarchies, would fall to one of his sons, creating a ruling dynasty.
“So the Gaddafi clan would, by virtue of the statue, be in control of the United States of Africa as its leaders,” wrote one African journalist.
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